Review Summary: "Hats Off to the Bull" succeeds in most respects, but is indicative of a band that is slowly losing faith in themselves, and the music they create.
Fifteen years into their career and Chevelle are still one of the few hard rock/alternative metal acts still worth a damn. While many bemoan the stagnation of the genre of music that for all intents and purposes peaked somewhere around the 90’s, Chevelle just keep on trucking with their patented brand of bass heavy, radio friendly rock. And it’s difficult to argue that this has not worked in their favor, as for over a decade fans and critics alike have aggrandized the band’s obscene consistency and ingenuity with each record and single released. Their consistency, however, is met only by their unabashed unwillingness to evolve and progress, as the Chevelle that released the bombshell hit, “Send the Pain Below” are the same damn band today. Hats Off to the Bull
, despite being an all-around solid hard rock release, is the first egregious display of Chevelle losing touch with what made them so great, and a sure sign of the band’s stunning refusal to move on.
Hats Off to the Bull
, like all Chevelle records, is truly a solid album if there ever was one. It opens up with the heavy hitter, “Face to the Floor,” and largely keeps the energy flowing from there. At that moment, when the bold Tool-esque bass riff enters, the listener knows just what they are in for. The entirety of Hats Off to the Bull
is indicative of classic Chevelle: dense, melodic, and surprisingly welcoming. As always, the band does a pretty decent job at playing up their strengths, with gimmicky-albeit popular-acoustic segments and power ballads steering clear and well-constructed rock pieces being plentiful. Verse-chorus stuff makes up the bulk of the record, but the band is charming enough to pull it off beautifully. The pairing of Pete Loeffler’s wonderful vocals and the rest of the band’s adequate instrumentation, per the usual, is very enjoyable, and is still excellent to hear all these years later.
Hats Off to the Bull
is executed fairly well, but the presentation is rather lackluster in regards to the band’s discography. Whereas every Chevelle record up to this point has had some sort of killer track, the album in question lacks any sort of defining song. Remember “Vitamin R,” or perhaps “The Red"? Said songs damn near defined their respective albums, and were superb tunes in their own right. Yet with Chevelle’s latest, there really is not a clear standout. Sure, the mysterious and elusive “Envy” is pretty great, and “The Meddler” is a catchy bit of heaviness that is also excellent, but that lovely little bit of character each Chevelle record up to this point has featured is missing here, and that is in the form of a few sure-fire hits that make the album worth investing some time into. The entire track list suffers from a bit of blandness as well. Each song is “good” to an extent, but it really feels like the band just went through the motions. A few nifty riffs here, and some impassioned vocal sections there, and bam, a song is born. The “in-your-face” moments Chevelle has sort of become known for really don’t rear their heads, and because of this, much of Hats Off to the Bull
is regrettably forgettable.
Chevelle’s sixth proper full-length is a well-produced and overall very enjoyable rock album. However, the band is starting to show age in their formula, making Hats Off to the Bull
feel like it's been down a very, very
well-traveled path. What’s here makes for a fine experience, but for listeners who have been waiting for years for Chevelle to take some kind risk are certainly going to be left wanting.