Sound — 9
Chevelle formed in 1995 as a trio of brothers and while there has been a single lineup change since they formed, you still have 2 out of 3 of the brothers joined by their brother-in-law, Dean Bernardini, on bass guitar since 2005. I just realized that this marks more albums being released with the current lineup than with their original lineup with brother, Joe Loeffler, who left or was fired depending on who you ask and when you asked them. "La Gárgola" is being released on Epic, and contains 10 tracks with a total runtime of over 47 minutes; the shortest track on the album is just under 4 minutes. "Take Out the Gunman" was released as the first single from the album in early February 2014.
The opening track is "Ouija Board" which is carried by a groove-saturated riff. This track also has their bassist, Dean Bernardini, guesting on drums for this one track. "An Island" is next up, which does open up with a Tool-esque riff, which brings to mind Chevelle's tendency to sound like Tool, but later in the track they do pull back from that abyss. Next is their single from the album, "Take Out the Gunman," which has a really cool intro - when the drums first come in it had won me over and there was little the track could do wrong from there. "Jawbreaker" is an interesting track, with an almost NIN feel to it at places, but Chevelle has got a lot better at "owning" their music and putting their own stamp on it. "Hunter Eats Hunter" has a twisty little riff in the intro on guitar but when the drums come in and it gets heavy it goes back to the sweet spot of groove. "One Ocean" opens up with some serious reverb on the guitar and the bassline holding the track together. "One Ocean" has a lot more space in it than some of their material, and sounds like they took a little inspiration from The Cure to my ears. "Choking Game" is a faster track, which almost doesn't sound like it belongs as the rest of the album is much more mid-tempo or slower, but after a few listens it began to grow on me. "The Damned" has a driving bassline, an interesting little riff on guitar, and a very interesting passage in the middle that helps tie the track back into the general "vibe" of the rest of the album. "Under the Knife" has a fast groove driving the track forward with some of the most interesting lyrics from the album, to me, personally. The album closes out with the track "Twinge," which welcomes back the over-the-top guitar reverb with a strong groove underneath created by the drums and bass - the entire tapestry of sound creating an awesome ambience for the vocals to rest on. Awesome track for the album to close out on.
Lyrics — 9
Pete Loeffler has a distinct voice, but has a tendency to sing in a way that makes him sound reminiscent of Maynard James Keenan, but he does a lot less of this on "La Gárgola" and lets his own character shine through on the album. The lyrics are strong on the album - they evoke a lot of creepy imagery and have some actual depth to them. As a sample of the lyrics, from the single "Take Out the Gunman": "Awoke when the light/ hit me right in the temple/ felt something cold/ touch my toes as it passed/ might not be the face you'd expect/ but he's clearly insane/ got me pegged in the back/ just need a bit of luck/ get em up/ point the gun at the eyes/ or at the knees/ had to shoot, had to fight/ gonna take out the gunman/ eyes huge, so little left if something/ cracks and clues/ he's crazy as a straw/ why denied, does no one care or nothing/ how, you ask, I ever last so long/ cause I, I went blind, a blinding riot/ he's regretting every word/ those empty lies/ one more tonight, a blinding riot/ as I summon every nerve."
Overall Impression — 9
Honestly, this is one of the strongest efforts I've heard from Chevelle in a while, and it has me excited about their music again. Chevelle's strengths have always been great mid-tempo riffs, ambience and groove and they deliver all three in spades on "La Gárgola." I couldn't find a track I didn't like. If I had to pick one, I would say that at first "Choking Game" didn't seem like it fit with the rest of the album when I listened to it, but after a few more listens it is fitting in a lot better. My favorite tracks would probably be "Take Out the Gunman," "One Ocean," "Twinge" and "Under the Knife." This album was a pleasant surprise for me. I expected it to be good, but nothing special. Instead I found possibly my favorite Chevelle album to date.