Review Summary: Without a doubt, this is the most un-Chevelle Chevelle album released yet.
Chevelle were always that bizarre outsider on radio rock. They were never a post-grunge band like their tourmates Seether
, nor were they heavy, straight-ahead rock like Halestorm
. They were so heavy, but still had a radio appeal, allowing them to share tours with everyone from Filter
. I still have trouble finding out where Chevelle belong in the spectrum of rock and metal, because they could be placed almost anywhere. The group’s groovy rhythms could net them places alongside classic nu-metal like Deftones
, while Pete Loeffler’s singing style in the vein of Tool
’s Maynard James Keenan could let them stand alongside the heavier metal crowd. The group’s seventh album La Gargola
doesn’t make this any easier. It is without a doubt the hardest to classify yet, all for one big reason: this is the most un-Chevelle Chevelle album released yet.
Chevelle’s bread-and-butter has always been the heavy and grinding metal rhythms, and those haven’t been forgotten in the least. These Chicago metalheads haven’t softened their bones at all, as La Gargola
contains just as much pounding thunder as their previous LP, 2011’s Hats Off to the Bull
. The album bursts forward right from the get-go with a blistering hit from opener “Ouija Board” and keeps that intensity going throughout with the weighted beats of the two initial singles, the radio pleaser “Take Out the Gunman” and the slightly more technical “Hunter Eats Hunter.” “Choking Game” tears a page right from the Wonder What’s Next
book, with an infectious, riff-heavy guitar line, while “Under the Knife” is strongly reminiscent of anything from Vena Sera
. Chevelle have always differentiated themselves from their radio rock peers with their metal sound, dwarfing the furiousness from anything ever brought about by Seether or Breaking Benjamin. That’s been their calling card from Day 1 and it’s still pretty damn honed.
But while Hats Off to the Bull
was an embrace of Chevelle’s most core essence, their heaviness, La Gargola
adds small subtle bits of difference, brief snippets of creativity scattered about the tracklist. One standout track, “One Ocean”, possesses toned, peaceful guitars and steady percussion, with Pete Loeffler crooning atop them. In stark comparison to the formerly traditional acoustic track like Wonder What’s Next
’s “One Lonely Visitor” or Sci-fi Crimes
’ “Highland’s Apparition”, “One Ocean” is dreamy, atmospheric, and brilliantly simmery, with more comparison to Saturday Night Wrist
-era Deftones than Chevelle’s more traditional influence, Tool. The group also creates melodic background melodies in the form of a shadowed solo on “Jawbreaker” and a tweaked-out guitar intro to “An Island.” The instrumentals never shed their empowered impact, but these subtle moments of texture end up making the music on La Gargola
sound very experimental for the group, but nothing too radio rock poppy to limit the metal appeal.
Pete Loeffler’s vocals, despite still following his dedicated Maynard Way, don’t rely on minor crooning anymore either. The serenity of “One Ocean” and the surprisingly uplifting call in follower “Choking Game” possess all the intensity of past Chevelle, but rarely sound as aggressive or weighted as something heard on Hats Off to the Bull
. The closer “Twinge” is a very unique and overall fantastic track, significantly subdued and creepily equipped with echo effects and Loeffler’s staggered breaths of melody. One very apparent change, however, is the length of the songs. The average La Gargola
track is somewhere between four and five minutes long (the lone exception “Under the Knife” lies just three seconds shy of four minutes). After the radio friendliness of Hats Off to the Bull
, hearing lengthier tracks from Chevelle is a bit disorienting, as early listens might seem to drag on too much. Repeated listens, however, display the steady development of the more abstract back-melodies and some remarkably warped guitar compositions dancing behind Sam Loeffler’s steady drumbeats. The longer song times also give the guys more opportunities to mix around rhythms, giving La Gargola
scope in addition to edge.
sits between the poppier melodies of Sci-fi Crimes
and the fist-to-face heaviness of Hats Off to the Bull
, but from that placement comes a fascinating desire to twist and turn. And it’s not just “make the album more accessible” or “take the album back to its roots”: the kinds of sounds displayed in songs like “One Ocean” and “Twinge” are so alien to Chevelle’s discography that you’d assume the band’s influences were reset during the time between Hats Off to the Bull
and now. But on the contrary: Chevelle haven’t given up on their heavy background. “Ouija Board”, “Jawbreaker” and “Under the Knife” are still fantastic examples of Chevelle’s trademark identity. But the moments where they add a jagged guitar behind a steady drum beat, play toned notes instead of rugged riffs, and make their songs more ethereal than demonic; those are the moments where La Gargola
is the most fascinating. La Gargola
is the most alternative of all of the albums in Chevelle’s discography, where neither radio friendliness nor heavy riffs take full control, leaving the door open for other influences to grow within the album’s tracklist. La Gargola
is the work of a band that’s leaving their comfort zone; it’s what happens when Chevelle stops trying to only be Chevelle.