Chevelle: Album Review

Album – Niratias

Chevelle are an American rock band formed back in 1995 in Illinois. They are a hard band to categorise into any one subgenre as their sound spans quite a lot of different styles, from alternative rock and metal to post-hardcore, post-grunge and even some nu metal too. The band I have always compared them the closest to is Tool, and they are clearly a pretty heavy inspiration on the band, yet their music takes those ideas and heavy’s them up a little. They have done eight albums as of 2016, having taken a little break before coming back this year with their new album, Niratias. I have to admit that given how much this band should appeal to me, I really haven’t listened to a lot of them, merely not having the time to. This all changes today, though, so let’s get on with this review.

3/5 of Fantastic Friday, I’m doing okay so far…!

Verruckt immediately starts on a great riff, backed up by an awesome drum roll, and the Tool influences are present immediately. Said riff keeps building until it evolves into a newer variation of it… and then does it again. It was at this point that I realised this was to be an instrumental track, a ballsy move to open an album on but one that more than pays off. Every riff here is insane, and I especially love both the guitar and bassy tones, the odd little bits of wah here and there really sound incredible and the lead channel for the solos are great. It reminds me a lot of a combination between Mastadon and Metallica’s Suicide and Redemption. Opening on a showcase of the bands instrumental talents was a great choice as this was 3:30 minutes of solid sludgy awesomeness. A great start.

In contrast, So Long, Mother Earth opens straight into vocals; pretty high and sounding awesome over the quick guitar riff. The drums and bass soon come in over the back, twice as slow as the guitar which is a nice touch. It soon heads into what I think is the pre and the chorus and the guitar occasionally follows the vocal line, sounding great. The chorus itself has a great high vocal line that is still pretty catchy, even if it is lost in the mix ever so slightly. The band very much remind me of what I wish Deftones were, they have that same level of heaviness and instrumental prowess, but the songs are ACTUALLY GOOD AND CATCHY. Actually, the more I hear that chorus the more I fall in love with it, it’s fantastic. It drops down a little into a bridge out of the second chorus, the guitars sounding very reminiscent of Adam Jones. The vocals come back in to lead quickly back into the chorus again, this one ending with an incredible scream from Pete Loeffler before it enters into a short, heavy outro. I loved this, it was everything I could have wanted out of a band like this, huge sounds, heavy guitars, a catchy chorus and some of the best mixing around. Playlisted.

Mars Simula opens on another huge, heavy guitar riff, bridging the gap between the intro and verse with some awesome strumming. The verse is again very ‘heavier Tool’, the guitars and bass lower and palm muted behind the higher, quickly delivered vocals. However, this time it soon explodes into a HUGE, open chorus, the riff giving off more early 2000s industrial metal vibes to me, think Static X or Dope. Having very little vocals during the chorus was a great choice too, the insane riff does enough talking for itself. A short bridge builds up more, adding higher pitches and speeds before exploding, everything dropping out momentarily before the awesome riffs come back in. The drums and bass sound amazing here behind the lead guitar, and I really can’t emphasis enough just how good the mixing on this album is. We get a final, double chorus afterwards to finish stuff off, and this is yet another incredible song. Why haven’t I listened to these guys more sooner? Playlisted!

After a short interlude/instrumental track, Sleep The Deep, we reach the first and lead single on the album, Self Destructor. It again opens on vocals, this time Pete going at it alone as he sings over an awesome little guitar riff. It soon drops nicely though, the drums coming in and filling out the track perfectly. I actually had to stop writing after the first chorus during the first time I listened to this and just stop and really appreciate this for what it is; a fucking incredible song. It’s pretty basic compared to the previous few songs in terms of instrumentation, the first half of it definitely feeling like a more radio-friendly single. However, the vocals definitely get a little harsher after the second chorus during ALL OF THE BRIDGES AND STUFF, and the fact that it is nearly six minutes in length kind of un-qualifies it for the radio these days. But holy cow, this song blew my mind. From the opening notes from Pete to the beautifully contrasting piano outro, this was incredible from start to finish. It is easily playlisted and may very easily be my new favourite song on the album. This doesn’t even feel like a song made for musicians either, the type I usually gush over, this is just a damn good song. Check this out, please.

Piistol Star (Gravity Heals) feels a little slower and calmer than the previous songs so far, but that by no means means it’s bad. The riff is slow and sludgy and when it gets some wah added to it building into the chorus it sounds somehow even better. The chorus is another very catchy one and the verse is a similar sort of deal to the previous song’s ones. This is another incredible song, but after the sheer amount of gushing about the last few songs I’m gonna say that this is ever so slightly worse (we’re talking like 1% worse). And I’mma be honest, it’s mainly because I cannot possibly put 4 songs in a row on the playlist, it feels too much like favouritism. Still, this is damn good too.

VVurmhole is another very short interlude before we head into another single, Peach. They do that thing I love where they blend the end of the one song into the start of the next too, just an added little bonus that make albums better than constant singles, and given the concepty/spacey themes they are going for, it works perfectly. Peaches fades in with an awesome guitar riff, soon adding a drumroll over the top before the riff opens out, the drums being slow and pretty basic but they make it massively heavily. The drums drop back out for the verse, the guitar being palm muted and the vocals little more than a distorted whisper, adding some great dynamics to the song. They slowly get built back in when the vocals get a little higher before a MASSIVE distorted guitar riff explodes in to break up the riffs. This one is reminding me more of A Perfect Circle than Tool, not that that is in any way an issue. The heavy, catchy chorus again is incredible, a simple vocal line over a fairly simple guitar riff but it all works so damn well together, being heavy and melodic and emotional all at once. The little guitar solo in this was also great, and lead to an awesome little verse with some incredible vocal harmonies. This is another song I could gush over forever it feels so I’m just going to cut this short and say the obvious… playlisted!

While Test Test… Enough does have vocals in it, it very much still feels like an interlude, just being Pete singing over his guitar for a couple of minutes. It’s beautiful though, and the little runs he goes on in the middle when he’s not singing sound insanely good. It leads perfectly into Endlessly too; said song opening quietly with a low bass and some simple guitar notes and high vocals over the top. the song stays slow too, the drums coming in light and quietly over the top, this being the token slow ballad of the album. It’s such a perfect showcase of Pete’s vocals, it being beautiful and haunting and so much like Maynard James Keenan’s in the best possible ways. It keeps building up and leaving notes hanging, making me constantly be expecting a drop. However, the fact that it never actually does makes the song even better; it is a true emotional ballad. Between the powerful lyrics, double layered vocals for the final chorus and even the subtle edition of the bells on each big drum hit, all of this was excellent. Wow.

We finally reach the final single, Remember When. It opens on a now typically great guitar riff before stripping back into down a little into the verse and exploding into another huge, heavy chorus. It’s a little formulaic of this album at this point, but it is still done so well and at such a high quality, especially for just two band members, that it is hard to complain about the similar structure at all. I have also realised that at times they also sound like heavier Alien Ant Farm, another fantastic, criminally underrated band. This was damn good but arguably the weakest of the singles, yet it is still a great song.

It again fades straight into the next song, Ghost and Razor, and has maybe the best riff on the whole album open it up. Pete’s distant vocals sound great over the start of it too, and when the drums come in too it somehow ends up sounding even better! It’s a heavy, slow, sludgy song in all of the best ways. I’m honestly running out of ways to praise and gush over this band, but every single riff in this song is incredible and fits perfectly with Pete’s vocals over the top of them. It’s another one that easily made the playlist. I do have to give special credit to the dropout to just bass in the middle, building up more and more until Pete does his best Maynard scream over the top of a sick solo guitar riff. It gave me such good Know Your Enemy vibes, I loved it.

Finally, we reach the final track Lost in Digital Woods. This one just decides to push the boat out and be completely different to everything else, and I for one am all for it. It’s essentially just Pete playing a piano while reading out some poetry all Lou Reed style, weird timings and everything. There is some still silence afterwards before some strange guitar sounds take us out. This feels INCREDIBLY Tool, finishing on a weird note, and almost feels like some sort of Holy Gift-type troll. However, it is very fitting for this album and the lyrics were fantastic. A pretty good end!

Overall: this was fucking incredible. Everything about it was awesome, from the song writing to the lyrics to the instrumentation, heck, even the album order. All of it felt purposely done and all of it worked so well. I have no idea why I haven’t listened to these guys much before, or at least not outside of their first couple of albums, but damn, I’ll be going back and checking out their last few immediately after finishing this writeup. This has leapfrogged all others to become my album of the year so far, and I think anyone else will have a very tough time knocking it off that spot. Check this out if you are in any way into rock music or just music in general, you will not be disappointed.

Overall: 9.5/10

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The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths

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