Review Summary: "They said this fun is near the end".
You’d be forgiven for doubting Chevelle after their 2011 effort Hats Off to the Bull
. While a solid album in its own right, it was the first sign in a long time that the band might be stuck with its wheels spinning, unsure of the direction they wanted to take. And, I mean, what was with all the faux-rebellion themes about Bernie Madoff, the injustice to lower and middle classes, and rising against corruption? The music sounded good enough, but really who are they to stomp into the scene and suddenly become socially aware 2-3 years after the actual events of the recession took place. More importantly, who cares? Chevelle has earned a reputation playing hard rock music built on killer riffs and lethal aggression, with lyrics that hit at a more personal level than that album did; and they’ve been damn good at it too. Hats Off to the Bull
was a fine experiment, but whatever strengths that album had, La Gargola
makes the album look almost foolish now. Who needs political drama when something simple like horror movies is all the rage and can serve as the inspiration behind an album?
This is Chevelle back in their element, their core competency. Remember that brooding track “Ruse” off the last album? “Hunter Eats Hunter” takes literally the same introduction and song structure, but beefs the verses up with a frantic pace, a sinister atmosphere and a chorus that has infinitely more presence than the latter song, essentially making it negligible. You don’t even have to listen to “Ruse” anymore now that this song exists. The heavy hitters are also more abundant than the past two albums. Opener “Ouija Board” escalates quicker than any listener will anticipate, with Pete’s voice expertly transitioning between harsh screams and eerie crooning. Chevelle even add an almost danceable groove to their heavier tracks on “An Island” and “Jawbreaker”. Both songs serve as reminders that the band still knows how to cut the bullshi
t and just crush listeners.
There’s a fine balance between aggression and groove among the tracks, setting a nice pace and fluidity to the album. This is what made their old albums like This Type of Thinking
so great. You get a refreshing punch to the face with “The Clincher” and “Get Some” and then ease into a smoother (but no less-heavy) track like “Vitamin R”, tossed up with a few slower emotional burners like “Panic Prone”. On La Gargola
, tracks like the very Tool-sounding lead single “Take Out the Gunman” or “The Damned” settle things down just enough without coming to a complete halt, keeping things heavy but establishing a catchy rhythm throughout. The first song uses a clever cowbell while the latter song relies on bassist Dean Bernardini to create rhythm with his low-tuned bass slithering through the track.
While Chevelle does bring back the familiar heaviness here, there is also no shortage of experimentation on La Gargola
. The only difference this time is that it’s the right kind
of experimentation. In a surprise twist, Chevelle decided to substitute their typical token acoustic track for two slower tracks, both built mainly around bass and minimal rhythm, which is a rarity for Chevelle. It’s on these tracks that singer Pete Loeffler’s voice shines. On “One Ocean”, his breathtaking vocals glide and echo across the track, evolving into an angelic chorus. His whinier voice does take some getting used to, but on closer “Twinge” Pete decides to do his best Chino Moreno impression and delivers a masterful blend of gentle whispering and crooning that is more accessible than usual. Some other bizarre moments such as the way the band breaks into a round of “Hey!” in the bridge of “The Damned” makes you wonder sometimes if you’re actually listening to a Chevelle album.
With their seventh studio album now under their belt, Chevelle find themselves at an odd crossroad in their career. La Gargola
is the last album under their contract with label Epic. What they decide to do after this is critical. Is Chevelle a band that can make music on their own, or might they call it a day? Whatever the plan, La Gargola
is the type of album that a band can look back upon and smile knowing that if something were to happen and the decision was made to stop making music, there would be very little regret. “Twinge” is a perfectly acceptable final song that fans can be happy with, a soothing yet unsettling masterpiece. There are so many other moments on here that exceed expectations, like the ferocious finishes to both the first two tracks, the opening explosion on “Jawbreaker” and the wild riff at the end of “Choking Game”. Chevelle has shown uncharacteristically strong consistency throughout their career, unheard of among most of their hard rock peers. By now, there should be little surprise that an album like La Gargola
is as strong as it is; they have rarely ever let fans down, if at all. Chevelle are truly in the top-tier of hard rock bands and continue to run the show even after over 15 years.