Review Summary: In Chevelle we trust.
Let me start out with saying it’s going to be a tough sell this time around for Chevelle. If you’ve stuck with them since the beginning, it’s going to be a tough sell because although the hype train correctly described this album as “back to their roots”, it is still an album that lacks many of their signature breakdowns and truly timeless moments. If you’ve never given a rat’s ass for Chevelle and simply dabble in hard rock occasionally, it’s a tough sell because Chevelle simply has never been mainstream enough to be accessible, and Hats Off to the Bull
is not going to be the album to change your opinion. This aside, their newest offering somehow feels fresh and demonstrates that Chevelle are alive and kicking. What is going to set this album apart is the fact that Chevelle now have proven they have no need for juicy riffs to write songs with impact.
One of the key differences in Hats Off to the Bull
is how much the riffs have taken a back seat. While still meaty, they are more subtle than in recent albums and rarely what are the memorable aspects of each song. What has taken their place? Two words...Pete’s voice. The longtime front man now adds value to the band beyond just his guitar playing. Does this mean Pete’s voice has always been terrible? Absolutely not. Pete's voice has always suited their hard rock style; however, up until now he's had to rely on screaming to really make his presence felt. “The Meddler” is one of the strongest tracks on the album due to Pete Loeffler's ability to ferociously deliver the chorus. This album is the wackiest you will ever hear Pete sing, throughout most verses he constantly oscillates his voice from high to low. The way he adds that weird jumpiness to his voice when he chants “You are the same old trip” is such a laughably unnecessary addition to the line, yet it is the most memorable part of the song.
Chevelle has also been criticized for its bassist, brother-in-law Dean Bernardini. I believe it was Jom from this site who rightly pointed out that Dean simply follows Pete’s lead through older songs. This time, Chevelle let Dean breathe a bit. The almost Mastodon
-like song “Ruse” sees Dean contribute much more to the verses than before.
The album as a whole feels much more layered as well. It was always difficult to believe that there were only 3 people in the band given the explosion of sound these guys are capable of. This album, while less intense as mentioned before, somehow further extends this claim. Many times there is quite a bit going on in each song simultaneously; quivering guitars, rhythms, bolder bass, and drums. It makes the album the first from Chevelle that forces itself to grow on listeners. Before, it was a simple “If you don’t like this riff/chorus, you won’t like the song”. Now, songs are listened to with different results each time, there are more sections of songs to pick from and that standout with each new listen. “Piñata” deviates from its strategy many times, quickly switching from rapidly paced guitars and drums into an almost slow and groovy Sublime
But yes, there are aspects to Hats Off to the Bull
that are unquestionably Chevelle. The intro riff to “Same Old Trip” is just as arrogant and in-your-face as past songs, not a bad thing. The undisputed highlight of the album is the climactic chorus of the title track that teases with a poppy and tamed intro, and then blasts you with a gorgeous riff that begs listeners to crank the volume, easily one of their best songs to date. This also raises a few drawbacks, you can tell Chevelle is just not being as creative anymore with their riffs. The song “Envy’s” climax almost 3 minutes in borrows almost too obviously from the chorus in “Mexican Sun” off Sci-Fi Crimes
. Listen to both and tell me I’m wrong, I dare you. It in a way hindered what should have been a standout track and beautifully progressive song.
Hats Off to the Bull
is a solid album by honestly the most consistent hard rock band there is. If you’re into them, Chevelle simply does not disappoint...ever. It’s gotten to the point where it’s a bit scary. What I will admit is this album is simply not up to par with their older albums. You are not going to get another “The Red” or “I Get It” here, and when the album trails off, that’s just what goes through a fan’s mind. It’s also less insane than fans will be used to; the highlights here feel almost weird alongside some older highlights. For instance, the acoustic track “Prima Donna”, the only noteworthy acoustic song they have ever made shines as a highlight. It makes me wonder whether this is it for my favorite band. Have they burnt out, is the mediocre “Clones” really the last new song we get? Whether this is Chevelle slowly showing signs of wear or finding a new personality and style is irrelevant when you consider one thing: Chevelle just came out with a new album, it’s still excellent, so go listen to it and be happy that the band is still as pleasant a listen as ever.
Face to the Floor
Same Old Trip
Hats Off to the Bull