Monday Motivation: Aiden (2003-2016)

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

For more than a decade the members of Aiden have been empowering outcast youth around the globe with anthems of life, death, love, every emotion in between. Their music, forever rooted in the more aggressive side of punk, has brought many back from the ledge and given a voice to thousands, if not millions who live each and every day feeling as if no one cares they exist. In a time when it seems every band is forcing silver linings into their music the men of Aiden have chosen to embrace the fact our planet is often a cold place. That honesty, coupled with the raw emotion bursting from every note of the art they create, has provided strength to the weak in ways no other form of nutrition could hope to offer.

Last night, 4785 miles from the city they call home, the members of Aiden took their final bow on stage in front of a packed venue somewhere in London, England. It was a moment captured immediately across various social media platforms and later further celebrated through numerous additional posts made by band members and fans alike, but still it feels under-appreciated. In fact, everything the band has accomplished up to this point feels surprisingly overlooked by the music industry at large. The reasons for this are likely far too numerous to name, I’m sure, but the band’s horror-tinged imagery and hard punk sound certainly haven’t helped to make them a household name. Then again, I don’t think they care about things like that, and that is precisely why I love everything they represent.

I first discovered Aiden when their debut album, Nightmare Anatomy, was being promoted through listening stations at Hot Topic stores across the country. A sticker on the packaging for the record claimed the band was for fans of AFI and My Chemical Romance, which was everything I needed to know to give the record a chance. While I still believe that comparison was legitimate, at least for that particular record, what I discovered when I first spun the actual recording was something far more special than just another so-called ‘dark’ alternative act. The immediacy in vocalist Will Francis’ voice pulled me in from the opening notes of “Knife Blood Nightmare” and did not let go until the closer, “See You In Hell,” was over. While that first play moved from track to track I found myself becoming immersed in a world of thoughts and ideas that mirrored my own vision of the world. For the first time in my life a band was saying what I thought and felt without sugar-coating harsh realities for those unwilling to accept the truth. It was everything I didn’t know I wanted, and by the time I was three songs deep I was begging my mother to buy the CD.

As time progressed so did Aiden, and by the time their Sophomore record was ready for release the band had moved away from the in your face sound of their debut. Some were turned off by the results, but I was not among them. That record, entitled Conviction, remains my favorite in the band’s catalog. I remember reading an interview ahead of the album’s release where Francis claimed writing the record had helped him to understand the true meaning of punk. He explained that the idea of being punk and making punk music was not limited to a single sound or style. Being punk, in his opinion, was a state of mind that could be applied to anything one chooses to spend their life doing. You could be a punk pianist playing for thousands at Carnegie Hall or the guy screaming until his throat bleeds in a dingy rock club five nights a week. Neither one is better than the other, so why should Aiden or anyone else limit themselves to being just one thing? Francis understood that he and his bandmate could do anything they wanted as long as they remained true to themselves, and that same idea has been the guiding force for my own journey in life ever since.

More albums came as the years carried on, and each offered listeners a different side of Aiden without ever sacrificing the punk ethos that lie at the heart of the group’s best material. Listeners came and went depending on how each evolution took form, but the members of the band never seemed to let the size of a crowd or the number of records sold impact what came next. After all, why should they? Aiden didn’t form to please the world at large. If anything, the entire reason the band exists would appear to be to serve as opposition to the norm. Be it rock, punk, alternative, pop, country, or even EDM, Aiden refused to fall in line with whatever was popular in the moment to further focus on better expressing themselves and their beliefs. Through doing so the band taught their fans to do the same, to shake off any pre-conceived notions of what life is supposed to look like or be like and to fully embrace the person they believe themselves to be. Without Aiden I would not have grown to be the man I am today, and with their time as a band now passed I don’t know if I will ever have a proper opportunity to thank them for that. What I can do, however, is tell others how much they did for me in hopes they too might find strength in the music the band made.

This week, whether you’re a longtime fan or first-time listener, put on the music of Aiden and allow yourself to break free of whatever it is in life that is holding you back from being the person you want to become. Embracing your true self is rarely an easy task, but it is an accomplishment that is entirely worth the effort required. 

James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.