Sound — 8
Chevelle has always been a band smart and talented enough to tweak their sound just a little bit each album, while loyally bringing their own consistent style to the rock genre. "Wonder What's Next", their Epic Records debut, featured Pete, Same and Joe Leoffer's chugging, palm-muted, and bass driven riffs coinciding with angst lyrics that made songs like "The Red", "Don't Fake This", and "Send The Pain Below" some of the most renowned by the band. On "This Type Of Thinking (Could Do Us In)", the trio decided to bring more melody to the table, all the while keeping the temper and heaviness plentiful. Pete continued to challenge all those who dared interpret his lyrics while straying away from personal subjects to slightly heavier subjects. From calling out American Idol and the medicine industry to discussing humanitarian aid, Chevelle began to display one of the most gifted lyricists in modern music. Of course some fans, like myself, discovered Chevelle in this era through one of their biggest hits - "The Clincher". In 2007, after a line-up change involving their bassist, the two brothers and brother-in-law released the ever more sarcastic, angry, and aggressive "Vena Sera". Songs like "Antisaint" and "The Fad" explode with bass riffs and Pete's bitter vocals, proving that change can only inspire them further. Arguably their heaviest album to date, screaming, distortion, and feedback are far from sparse, however "I Get It" and "Saferwaters" showed the sanity and uniqueness in Chevelle's all-out fury. The 2009 release "Sci-Fi Crimes" exhibited a loss of that bitterness and rage that they had harnessed over their career. Instead, "Sci-Fi Crimes" explored a lighter, almost comical array of subjects including sleep loss, a haunted house, and theft. To say that it wasn't heavy would be false, but it was no "Vena Sera" or "Wonder What's Next", but rather a subtle attempt at more radio friendly rock included in their natural progression of sound. Now taking into consideration this brief summary of Chevelle's career, one could not predict what they would put out next. Having grazed the thought of a completely acoustic album further deepens the mystery of the Leoffler/Bernardini thought process. But when "Face To The Floor" was debuted, anticipation lessened as the leading single off of "Hats Off To The Bull" provided a sweet reminiscence of both the radio friendliness of "Sci-Fi Crimes" and the gripping riff work of "Wonder What's Next". Just when we thought we were safe to expect a classic Chevelle album, "Same Old Trip" and the title track sent an unforeseen turn in the band's sound. The former is yet another classic Chevelle song, but ends up being the song rumored to feature bassist Dean Bernardini's wife on backing vocals. The title track has an unusually upbeat sound for a Chevelle song, but does bring back the bass that was lost on their previous release. Though I hate comparing them to Tool (besides Pete's vocal style), songs like "Ruse", "Envy", and "Revenge" have obvious influence while still being unique in their own way. Has always swept the edges of being a "mainstream" band, but they have their own creativity that allows them to avoid sharing the same reputation as other mainstream rock bands like Nickelback or Shinedown. The songs "Clones" and "Face To The Floor" have the formula of a typical mainstream rock song by continually repeating the same riff but Chevelle just knows how to do it right. Finally, anyone who bought the Best Buy version of the album could never ignore the bonus track "Glimpse Of The Con". Another acoustic track, the band comes dangerously close to writing a pop rock ballad, yet the beauty of it and the heaviness of Pete's vocals makes it Chevelle's own ballad.
Lyrics — 7
As always, the vocals are the highlight of any Chevelle song. Whether it's a heavy, aggressive song such as "The Meddler", or the Middle-Eastern style acoustic "Prima Donna", Pete Leoffler makes his presence known. His crescendo and half-whispered verses only build up to the forceful choruses that scream sincerity. Sarcasm and the patronizing attitude returns to each song, especially in "Hats Off To The Bull" and "The Meddler" while "Envy" casts a brooding feeling from Pete's harmonized, echoed voice. Of course the aggressiveness of wanting to shove Bernie Maddoff's face to the floor in "Face To The Floor" along with the cussing and subtly sexual references in "Piata" could only complete a Chevelle album. "Clones" gives me the impression of them exposing the fraud of other bands who are only making music for money - ("It's all chemicals, by and large it's not you or your excitement") - while stating that they are sincere - ("But this sadness you saw in us comes honestly from foreign worlds/There's too many muddy feet/It's far too easy counting"). Does anyone else feel a reference to "Panic Prone" there? Overall though, I feel that Pete's lyrics are lacking something in this album. The guy who wrote "I'll ask my curious side to follow you to a bed of angels/can't help this wandering eye/so lucky you/the Devil made you look" (from "Piata") was the same guy who wrote "Visit again white elephant, who sent you to the loom/shall we sever everything/ponder this while we ponder why/he's starting to follow crows/and climbing the ladder somewhere out to/really begin to scare/and plotting to comb the ground with a fine tooth comb" (from "Antisaint"). Pete uses more rhyming in his lyrics which something he's rarely ever done in the past, and to me that's why they stood out against other rock bands. The metaphorical and puzzling lyrics are still there, however, and lyrics in songs such as "The Meddler" ("I don't belong here/don't fit your style/felt your left foot/now meet my right") and "Arise" ("You either fail or you rise/and reach to all the world/right through the needle's eye/come take your first look inside") brag that Pete's still got things to talk about and ways to write about them.
Overall Impression — 8
Now that all the pros have been stated, here is where you get a glimpse of the cons. While other albums contained material that was mainly suited for three people, "Hats Off To The Bull" has layered guitars so songs on the album have solos and harmonization. Personally I think the sound would be fitting if it was for another band, but considering that this is a Chevelle album, having more than one guitar sounds slightly out of place. The bridge on "Hats Off To The Bull" features harmonizing guitars while in "Piata" the guitar solo is played while the rhythm section continues. It's not just the guitars that are layered; in "Revenge" parts of the chorus has three different Pete's singing at once. "Envy" and "Revenge" include an organ as well. All these extra effects sound good, but I feel like it would be hard to perform these songs with the full affect they have on the album. Chevelle songs in the past were generally kept with one guitar, one bass, and the drums, with few exceptions. Quite honestly, that's the only major problem I have with the album. It's a fitting addition to Chevelle's constantly evolving discography and any Chevelle fan should be able to enjoy it. And finally if it went missing I would have to buy the Best Buy version again to get "Glimpse Of The Con".