Review Summary: While the songs are still good today, Chevelle's "collection of favorites" pushes re-packaging to bitter heights.
Starting off, it can be safe to say that the songs on Illinois hard rockers Chevelle’s first compilation album, Strays Arrows
, will be familiar. If you’ve been a listener of alternative rock radio stations or a follower of the hard rock festival circuit, Chevelle have become a mainstay. But while their immediate peers like Seether and Three Days Grace have taken grunge as their influence, Chevelle have followed the metal monikers like Tool and FireHouse as influences, relying on melodic vocals and thunderous hard rock instrumentation. Even more so is Chevelle’s recurring theme of consistency. After six studio albums, the band still refuses to step outside their comfort zone. Is that bad? Not necessarily, but this is stunningly clear on Stray Arrows
. Chevelle’s “collection of favorites” compiles many of the band’s most successful singles into a surprisingly brief and ultimately underwhelming package.
Across the 15+ years of Chevelle’s activity, the band continues to pursue the gravity-packed heaviness heard in their influences like Helmet and Tool. The singles take that weight and mix it into something hooky and incredibly apropos for radio airplay. The band’s trademark track “The Red” is furiously instrumented, but guitarist/vocalist Pete Loeffler still adds an intimacy in his soothing singing to the screaming. You’ll hear more tracks from the later albums as well, including the softer Sci-fi Crimes
(“Sleep Apnea”, “Jars”) and the band’s most recent outing Hats Off to the Bull
. These are all respectable tracks and even if the music starts to blend together after a while (this is a band whose goals are rooted in consistency), Chevelle has made their formula work even after such a long time playing together.
Firmly note that the album is a “collection of favorites,” and a brief one at that, with only eleven singles to listen to. The tracks are “re-mastered”, but the difference from the original recordings is negligible. The album cannot with any circumstance be called a retrospective, as the band’s debut album, Point #1
is ignored entirely. To be fair, the starting album wasn’t as successful as the sophomore entry Wonder What’s Next
(and not as true to the band’s lurching heaviness), but introducing listeners to the older tracks in Chevelle’s discography would’ve been a welcome addition. This is essentially a singles collection, so if you call yourself an avid fan of Chevelle, you already own the albums that the tracks are already on. Under those conditions, this can only be recommended to either the most diehard Chevelle fans or those first getting into the band’s music (which is already played on rock radio incredibly frequently).
Alongside the eleven radio-friendly tracks lies a lone new track, “Fizgig.” A crunchy grind of a track, “Fizgig” would fit in well among the Wonder What’s Next
tracks. Behind echoing guitars and the spectral gasp of Pete Loeffler is a heavy song, but one without the texture or atmospheric tension heard on their most recent studio album, Hats Off to the Bull
. “Fizgig” also lacks a catchy chorus or radio-friendly qualities in general, leaving it in the obscure “b-side” category. Is it a good track? Sure. Is it worth buying an entire new album for? Absolutely not. For Chevelle fans, “Fizgig” is, once again, a consistent track. There are no surprises with it, so it’s hard to justify a purchase of Stray Arrows
when the only new material is so traditional and baseline for a band priding themselves on that sense of consistency.
really has no proper place in Chevelle’s catalog. If you fell in love with the band’s radio singles and want to have most of them together on a single album, this is fine, but the lack of any significantly impressive new material or comprehensiveness makes the album feel vacant and unneeded to anyone else. Maybe someday we’ll get that expanded Chevelle compilation, one that doesn’t ignore the starting motions, perhaps adding some rarities in between. For now, though, we have a collection of singles that while decent, don’t do much at all to justify their purchase.