Sound — 7
Chicago alternative metal band's 4th album follows the formula "more of the same" rather than breaks new ground and tries to revolutionize their sound. Now is it a bad thing? It's a difficult question to answer. On one hand, if you enjoy their music you're certainly going to like this album. All that's good about the band is here in abundance: hard-hitting down-tuned riffs, Pete Loeffler's brilliant vocals, cryptic lyrics and this pure energy that Chevelle is all about. But, to be quite honest with you, I as a fan who discovered them way back in 1999 would have preferred to see the brothers' music somehow evolve. They've released a solid debut record with Point #1, established themselves as an important band with Wonder What's Next and finally solidified their previous efforts with This Type Of Thinking. Now why not try something different in Vena Sera? I guess they really like the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" formula. Or they simply enjoy the music they're making and see no need to "progress". Either way, it's a very solid effort, but the lack of any meaningful innovation (even with a new bassist) kind of spoils the picture. And the guitar work, though great, is somewhat monotonous, if I may.
Lyrics — 8
Pete's lyrics have always kind of made me wonder what the hell is it all about. In my opinion, he's not trying to convey a specific meaning or tell a mind-boggling story in his songs. Rather, the lyrics in conjunction with their heavy music creates a much-needed atmosphere, a sort of emotional aura around the songs. And goddammit, it works! Sometimes, though, the songs are a bit too meaningless, but most of the time the lyrics are just right. They don't exactly make you think, but they simply work as an instrument to create the energy and the emotion, which is certainly there. And Pete deserves credit for that. Together with his kind-of unique singing style it works wonders! Just don't try to read them as poems, listen to the songs themselves and you're going to understand what you're saying. Furthermore, his writing has somewhat evolved in comparison to This Type Of Thinking (I still hold Wonder What's Next as the pinnacle). There's a bit more consistency in Vena Sera's lyrics. Finally, how can you not like a song like Safewaters?! Who the hell cares what the actual lyrics are and how "together" (as opposed to a bunch of weird phrases drawn out of a hat and arranged in a particular order) they are. It just works, end of story. As a down point (because I can't honestly give the lyrics more than an 8), I would have liked to see at least a couple of maybe less energetic but more, well, meaningful and emotional (but in another kind of way) songs. Maybe a ballad, maybe a small story. But make no mistake, Chevelle's lyrics are much better than those of some of the similar bands because they lack a particular topic, and that's great! I would have hated to hear about parental trouble, US world dominance or whatever. Pete's singing is awesome, coupled with an occasional scream here or there which fits very well. He's actually reaching some high notes on this one.
Overall Impression — 8
It certainly is a strong album with an array of awesome hard-hitting emotional songs and, as usual, some less impressive tracks towards the end of the album. I can't imagine myself putting "Midnight To Midnight" or "Saturdays" on repeat, for example. They're there just to add to the number and showcase some good riffs. But the overall impression from some of the songs isn't good. Though the good stuff more than compensates for the occasional filler material. Songs like "Antisaint", a strong opener, "Safewaters", a brilliant very Chevelle-like track which somewhat resembles "Closure" and "Vitamin R", the single "Well Enough Alone", the action-packed "The Fad" and "Humanoid" (learn that intro riff, now! ). Another plus is that there's not a single acoustic ballad here. Sadly Chevelle have no talent in writing them because they end up a bit too cheesy. Vena Sera is heavy as hell throughout. But my philosophy is that an album is an album, not simply a collection of songs (so when you have enough, you release the album). So it should be viewed and treated as such. Remember, no two people are alike, so might simply love "Midnight To Midnight". Just listen to the whole album, maybe in halves if it's too long for you (it's not long though). Thus as an album it's definitely a solid effort. Maybe a bit on the safe side. It will certainly please the majority of the fans, but I am somewhat disappointed by the lack of any kind of innovation in Chevelle's music. Hey, it's their 4th album, isn't it about time to start thinking of maybe doing something a wee bit different? Oh well. So, the bottom line is, if you like Chevelle, you're gonna enjoy this album. It's a very solid polished effort packed with heavy riffs and distorted chords, awesome vocals and some tight rhythm work from Dean and Sam (though I was somewhat unimpressed with the latter's work on this album: no progress as well; I really liked his drum work on This Type Of Thinking). If you're new to this band, you might enjoy this album too, since it's very similar to their previous work. In fact, I doubt anyone will notice any kind of change if they create a playlist out of three of their last albums. It's good heavy music, alternative metal, post-grunge, whatever you call it. The band isn't trying to break any new ground, I guess. They just want to rock as hard as they can, which they do. Now surely no one can blame them for this? It's just that it doesn't leave this special mark, as some albums do. It's a "Hell yeah!" kind of music when you listen to it, but you'll forget most of it in 5 minutes. You know what I mean? So a solid 8 is what's it worth. Not less, but sadly not a 0.1 more.