Chiodos - Illuminaudio (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Illuminaudio (2010)

Equal Vision

Fans seemed dejected and detractors rejoiced when Chiodos parted ways with frontman Craig Owens. The enigmatic singer and his signature high pitch were a large part of the band's ambitious post-hardcore sound, replete with proggy guitars, orchestral tinges and an overall heavy sense of theater. With Owens moving on to scene supergroup D.R.U.G.S., it's probably for the better. The band's third full-length, Illuminaudio is an improvement over 2007's Bone Palace Ballet–albeit, it's also an album with its own share of flaws and faults.

Newcomer Brandon Bolmer comes from Yesterdays Rising, a band who began playing a safe bet of early 2000s screamo and eventually ran the formula dry despite pulling from more original influences. Bolmer's voice, once reminiscent of Brandon Boyd, is closer to modern emo/alt-rock territory here, not unlike ex-Saosin frontman Cove Reber. Musically, however, Chiodos pursue an occasionally heavier and often far more metallic, screamier and proggier sound, relentlessly bombastic and dipped with the electronics (and sometimes piano) present on Ballet, though a little less dramatic and theatrical than that album, thankfully; it's geared more towards the alt-metal opera flair of acts like the Dear Hunter or dredg, but with a crescent of metallic hardcore influence that doesn't extend far past The Opposite of December (if that far back, even) and only seems to force the dynamics here.

"Modern Wolf Hair" splices prettier vocals and flourishes of string arrangements amid a couple of screechy metalcore dirges that all sound the same (these come up every so often, adding pointlessly roared and screamed blasts to "Let Us Burn One", "Hey Zeus! The Dungeon", and the oddly appropriately titled "Stratovolcano Mouth"). It's a pitch-perfect example of how Chiodos manage to lay out a certainly sinister tone, but nothing that progresses sensibly from one end to the other. "Scaremonger" proceeds with plenty of cool tempo changes, wild guitar theatrics and Queen-like vocal harmonics, but there's little regard for cohesion; it just sounds too disparate, and it doesn't tie together tightly enough.

Sometimes the band manages workable terrain, though. Bolmer seems to hit some female alto range in the smooth/strained "Notes in Constellations", an admittedly passable, spacey cut that could be one of 30 Seconds to Mars' more well-conceived moments, with a needly, comparatively gripping hook. "Closed Eyes Still Look Forward" is a decent enough piano ballad to close the record.

Illuminaudio bears a wealth of interesting parts lacking sense in the way they're put together. This isn't as good as the unintentional parody the band's debut with Owens was, but it's also better than its overdone followup. With the first effort of this new collaboration off their backs, maybe they've ironed out the issues and can come up with something more stimulating next time around.

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