Sound — 8
Chevelle's latest CD Vena Sera is a milestone of sorts for the band, marking the first release since bassist Joe Loeffler was kicked out of the band by bandmates (and brothers) Pete and Sam Loeffler. Even though one-third of the Chevelle equation has been subtracted, the sound of Chevelle is not altered too much by Joe's absence and fans of hits like The Clincher should be satisfied by Vena Sera. In the opening track Antisaint, vocalist Pete Loeffler sounds eerily like Tool's Maynard James Keenan, from delivery to the slightly effects-muffled vocals (a la Stinkfist). For this reviewer, that is a compliment to Loeffler, who shows both range and passion in Antisaint. The guitar, bass, and drums never go into Tool timing by any means, but it's still a solid rock offering. The distorted, chugging guitar riff that carries the entire song is not necessarily the band's most original, but it still is memorable and a cool listen. Brainiac is one of the weaker tracks on Vena Sera, due in part to the repetitive aspects of both the vocal and guitar work. Although there is a clever little hook underneath the vocals during the verses, the song does take a huge turn in the chorus, with a grooving, slowed-down tempo. A few of the songs get stuck in the same type of repetition that Brainiac does, but the band still manages to add enough unique touches in other areas to keep listeners' interest. Humanoid shows off some of Chevelle's best work, from the introductory riff to how the song is broken up in several musical sections. The beginning riff has a grooving, up-and-down quality that is abruptly halted by the verse's entrance. Pete Loeffler's vocals are doubled by the guitar for much of the verse, and it adds some nice texture to the song. You might even want to listen through earphones to truly accentuate the vocal and guitar tracks. The chorus goes in another direction altogether, and by the end of the song you can sense the effort that was put into creating Humanoid.
Lyrics — 9
Loeffler's lyrics are particularly strong on the latest album, with no shortage of interesting imagery. Brainiac immediately displays some unusual lyrical content with Loeffler singing, Time holds us for the minute; It drives the risks like penicillin; Each of these men holds a pentagram; So recent all the surge. The metaphor for time is a fascinating one, and it adds a bit of a poetic quality to the first verse. The chorus takes a bit of a humorous turn with Loeffler singing how we miss one cell and should've combined to save brains. The term poetic might not fit with this portion, but it's actually still a bit more clever than the verse. The band definitely uses devices like similes and metaphors a lot more than the average band, and you never know what things Loeffler will make comparisons to in each song. In Saturdays, the comparison of choice is somewhat animalistic. He sings, We've lost the minds; We came to know; Like cattle out in the cold; We begged for months. There will be critics out there who think Loeffler might just be trying to be too deep, but at least he is putting some thought into what he lays on paper.
Overall Impression — 8
Pete Loeffler has always seemed to take charge of the songwriting process, so the absence of bassist Joe Loeffler has not dramatically changed Chevelle's sound. Pete shines in the moments when he takes more of a risk in terms of song formats, breaking up the songs into sections that you wouldn't necessarily expect to go together. It would be great to hear a few more risky songs on Vena Sera, but fans of the band's earlier material should find Chevelle's new material just as appealing. Vena Sera is not without its problems, but it is still generally an enjoyable rock album. Thanks to Pete Loeffler's intense delivery (the frontman doesn't even need to scream to convey the emotion behind the lyrics, either) and some inspired hooks, Chevelle will likely find it's songs finding a home once again on radio. While radio might be a horrible thing to a lot of people out there, in this case it just means that there are enough catchy rock songs to appeal to a large audience.