Review Summary: Chevelle is past their prime.
Since Chevelle‘s release of Wonder What’s Next, one single question has come to my mind: I wonder what’s next? We then saw the alternative metal trio release a half-disappointment in This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In), a more progressive-oriented release in Vena Sera, and a decent-at-best thematic record in Sci-Fi Crimes. None of these records lived up to the incredibility of Wonder What’s Next. So, what’s next you ask? Hats Off To The Bull, the band’s sixth full-length album. And once again, I’ve found myself a bit disgruntled with Chevelle.
Drummer Sam Loeffler mentioned that Hats Off To The Bull would be “definitely returning to heavy melodic rock, which is the sound we love.” At first I thought this meant they were returning to their Wonder What’s Next sound, but it seems to be more of a continuation of their last few albums. The first track, “Face To The Floor,” demonstrates this perfectly. It is definitely one of the more solid tracks in the grander scheme of things. It finds Chevelle pushing themselves through a catchy guitar riff into a high-energy chorus. It’s not quite as scorching as Wonder What’s Next material, but it proves one thing: Chevelle’s back and in full throttle.
After the solid first single, it was really hard to find any tracks worthy of playing over and over again though. A lot of the material on Hats Off To The Bull just sounds like recycled tracks from Chevelle’s stocked repertoire and others just are bland and unopportunic of the blistering style that Chevelle took advantage of fairly well in Vena Sera and This Type of Thinking. “Same Old Trip” and “The Meddler” bring more mysterious, windy song structures, but both of them fall flat on their faces when it comes to choruses – they are somewhat pale and lack important, depthful detail. In addition, “Arise” has a chorus that lacks a sense of direction, as it seems like vocalist Pete Loeffler is going whatever way he wants.
On the other hand, it’s songs like “Pinata” that have a more tense, more grandiose style (just listen to the guitar solo). The album closer “Clones” is straight-up powerful – a marathon of fuzzy chords and reckless bass riffs – which, in effect, closes the album out on fairly optimistic terms. Other tracks also bring some interesting, rich appearances, such as the alchemistic intro of “Revenge” and the strangely out-of-place acoustic track “Prima Donna” (whose title is Italian for the principal female singer in opera). I like how Chevelle gets a bit experimental in tracks like this, even if they aren’t exactly the most successful tracks that the band has composed.
If Hats Off To The Bull proves anything, it’s that Chevelle is progressing in a somewhat pathetic manner. Though I didn’t full-out hate the band’s sixth record, I was yet again unsatisfied with it. Unless the band goes back to their roots and tries to reinvent themselves from there, I don’t see them getting much better. They are far from the more hard rock Trapt sound that was an attainable correlation back in the early 2000s, during their prime, but at least they are continuing to experiment. Hats Off To The Bull as a whole is disappointing, but it finds Chevelle looking for a unique sound with somewhat ambiguous textures. Hopefully next time Chevelle will full-out blow our minds.
Also found on The Review Spider: http://thereviewspider.net/2011/12/hats-off-to-the-bull-chevelle/