Sound — 8
Chevelle burst onto the music scene around the same time that nu-metal was making its waves on MTV and the radio, and is a band that's far too easy to lump in with their contemporaries like Korn and Limp Bizkit, simply for being in the right place at the right time. But listening to their music reveals that there's far less influence from those groups as there was from one of the pioneering bands in the alternative metal scene at the time: Tool. With muscular drop-tuned riffs, a very melodic Maynard James Keenan-esque vocal, pounding drums and groovy bass, the band seems to have been the most successful Tool clone out there, and very little has changed about the band since their debut, "Point #1."
Brothers Pete (vocals/guitar) and Sam (drums) Loeffler, along with Dean Bernardini (bass) crash through tracks like "Door to Door Cannibals" and "Enemies" with a lot of intensity and energy. "Joyride (Omen)" still packs a lot of intensity, but the band does find some breathing room and space for groove. These tracks, the three opening songs, set the tone for the rest of the record, with very little being heavier or softer than these.
The Tool comparison may get a little tired after a while, but it's very hard to deny the influence on Chevelle, even this far into their career, with many of the tracks sounding like they could have fit onto Tool's first two records with ease. But while Tool focused more on atmosphere and some semblance of musical complexity, Chevelle opts for a bit more of a song-oriented radio-friendly approach. That's not to say this album is full of big choruses and cheesy antics, with many of the songs lacking any real verse-chorus structure and still a lot of cool wah-inflected guitar "solos," which are really just single notes being tremolo picked, filling up the record (though there's a particularly good solo on "Young Wicked" that sounds more "traditional"). There's even a brief flirtation with weird meter in "Last Days" (the bass riff opens the song in 9/8 time). But the individual songs on this record are much easier to digest than any Tool record, with only album closer "Shot With a Cannon" exceeding the five-and-a-half minute mark.
There are a couple of breaks in the formula on the record, to keep things interesting. "Punchline" is a near-electronic piece with a sort of creepy atmosphere about it, perhaps a bit reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, but with Chevelle's trademark melodicisms all over it. "Got Burned" has a cool sort of major-key vocal line in the chorus that just sounds kind of cool and upbeat to me. "Shot From a Cannon" is an eight-minute behemoth of a track with a very sludgy, slow groove that plods along through the journey, and actually does give the album a slightly progressive flavour.
The production is clean and crisp, everything sounds right as it should, as would be expected from a band of Chevelle's tenure. The guitar tone is quite excellent on this record. The bass tone has some excellent moments as well, such as the album closer, and the intro of "Got Burned." No complaints there.
Lyrics — 7
There seem to be a lot of the same metal lyric cliches from album to album nowadays, and if you're hoping Chevelle has gone beyond those and presented us with fresh new lyrical content... I hate to disappoint you, but the lyrics on this record cover the usual topics: anti-religious sentiments ("Door to Door Cannibals"), the pitfalls of technology (mentioned in "Enemies"), personal demons ("Got Burned," "Shot From a Cannon"), and pretty much just word salad that doesn't seem to mean anything at first glance (pretty much the rest of the album). All in all, pretty standard metal lyrics in this day and age, and a far cry from the comparisons to other bands made in the previous section. Nothing wrong with any of the lyrics on the record, but they're nothing special, either.
Vocally, Pete Loeffler sounds as MJK-ish as possible much of the time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as he shows a great deal of vocal versatility as well, from gentle singing (such as on "Rivers") to full on screams (as in many of the songs on the record). He's got a great tone at both extremes of his vocal range, and that kind of consistency is hard to find in a lot of metal vocalists these days.
Overall Impression — 8
With Tool fans all over the world waiting for a new record and eating up every piece of news coming at them, there are plenty of bands carrying their torch that may go unnoticed, running the gamut from bands like Chevelle to more unknown groups like Soen, and Chevelle has managed to put out a good record that harks back to the early days of the whole movement that bands like Tool helped to create, and if you're looking for an album to whet your appetite for good alternative metal, this could be an album that satiates you. On its own merits, it's also a pretty good record, with lots of good meaty guitar riffs, attention-grabbing atmospheres, and solid grooves. If this is a band you've passed on for years because of their connection to the nu-metal scene, you might want to give this album a chance, and you might find yourself enjoying it.
It's a pretty good record, and definitely one of the best alternative metal albums released in 2016 so far. I'd easily recommend this album to anyone who's a fan of the genre.