Sound — 8
Chevelle's fifth studio effort takes something of a Point #1-type approach to the Vena Sera sound of Chevelle. The sound continues to become more polished, all while maintaining the signature Chevelle power, but this album seems to have allowed Chevelle to return to their roots and sound a bit more mortal. Perhaps a testament to Pete Loeffler's improving abilities, editing and touch-ups on this album seem less apparent and frequent than on previous albums. This becomes immediately apparent once the first chorus of "Sleep Apnea" hits. Cookie-cutter mainstream listeners probably will find the end result as unrefined or sloppy, which may hurt the album's overall appeal; loyal fans and more abstract listeners, on the other hand, will love it as much as any other album. The harmonies continue to be Pete's shining points in his writing; conversely, some of his vocal progressions and changes sometimes are a little too unexpected, particularly when paired with the accompanying guitar. Pete is not characteristic, though, for following the rules of songwriting; this is bona fide Chevelle sound and deserves the undivided attention of anyone, fan and skeptic alike.
Lyrics — 9
To say Chevelle is abstract is like saying China has just a few people living there. It's almost a little comical to listen to some fans complain about not being able to understand the more intellectually-driven lyrics. For Chevelle's bigger fans, this is just another palatable aspect of their songs; they really can't be fully enjoyed unless you consider the meaning. For example, depending on who you talk to, "Get Some" (off their third album) is either about the absurd "American Idol" hype or whiskey. Brainiac, according to the band, is an ironic shot at an old family friend, whose slow wit garnered the nickname "One [brain] Cell." This CD has some recurring themes (animals, particularly cats, as well as some unknown "man" who receives nods in several songs), but it really takes a close look and a lot of listens to ascertain any sort of meaning behind the songs. Pete writes almost entirely in metaphor, which means you aren't going to pick up one of their albums and say "Oh, that song must've been about a bad relationship" as you can with bands like Nickelback or Lifehouse. This, in a way, forces the listener to pay attention to the lyrics more, which adds a deeper dimension past the aesthetics of the music. The lyrics take some time to marinate and show their worth (not unlike the album itself, which will be explained shortly), but they run akin to the works of Deftones and Tool in the way they further contribute to the quality of the music.
Overall Impression — 9
Even though Chevelle is unquestionably my favorite band, it took a few run-throughs to get the full effect of the album. Suffice to say, it grows on you. It isn't their best album, granted, but this effort is comparable to Tiger Woods winning by four or five strokes; it's fairly expected, unexciting at times, but winning is still winning. In this case, good music is still good music, and Sci-Fi Crimes can still stand far above a lot of the best albums of countless other bands with ten times the credit Chevelle receives. It shows maturity and an unwillingness to compromise in exchange for superficial fanbases, a quality rarely seen in modern rock bands; and at the expense of otherwise good music, no less. Expect at least three singles from this CD, including "Sleep Apnea" and "Shameful Metaphors" -- the latter of which being arguably one of their best songs yet. "Highland's Apparition" is an underrated acoustic song of similar caliber, while "Letter From a Thief" (originally the working title of the album) and "Roswell's Spell" are in-your-face also-rans with catchy choruses. "Fell Into Your Shoes" and "A New Momentum" are the only weak songs in the lineup, although they still garner the occasional listen. Not to be forgotten, "Jars" is a respectable opening single as well. A solid effort from the band and, if nothing else, a sign of even better things to come.