Review Summary: Beneath all the loud make-up that’s been applied, a more methodical hand turns La Gargola’s gears. Below the low tuned guitars and stabilized drumming brims an atmosphere that elevates this release atop their discography
I won’t lie; I was quite ambivalent after hearing La Gargola
. Chevelle have sat at a nervous middle ground for years now, balancing comparisons to Tool and then Breaking Benjamin; admittedly, one slip could land them in less than glorified waters. One could make the case that this is why they’ve played it so safe for most of their career, by churning out albums that fed fans nicely, but never altering their sound enough to signify a real
evolution. La Gargola’s
predecessor Hats Off to the Bull
was the first warning sign of anything hindering this machine of a band, ultimately stacking a difficult deck of questions and doubts as to whether Chevelle were deserving of any praise in the first place. The joke has always been “Chevelle being Chevelle again,” and despite how strong of an argument that may be, it’s never mentioned how it’s not necessarily a bad thing, or even completely true, but ignoring this argument causes the biggest concern. This type of thinking led to a numbness to Chevelle for me. My biggest concern going into La Gargola
was simply whether I’d even be able to appreciate it for what it is.
One of my fondest childhood memories is my first trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain. Those who’ve been can attest to how much of a shi
thole it is, but through my youthful eyes it stirred a sense of wonder - there was so much “fun” in one place. This is how I wanted to feel toward La Gargola
. I wanted that euphoria you get from listening to a new album wash over the rest left to history, but something didn’t feel right after I let the seconds drip off closer “Twinge”. This is certainly Chevelle. I know Pete Loeffler’s crooning voice fairly well, I’d like to think, and the riffs are plentiful, but the struggle arises when trying to situate these songs within the bands discography. La Gargola
felt foreign, like another band doing Chevelle songs, tweaking their typical structure of music, adding eerie sound effects and shouting “Hey!”. It wasn’t until after I had gone back and listened to This Type of Thinking
that I understood the odd feeling this album leaves me with.
Finding Chevelle after exhausting a majority of commercial rock for five years was like graduating from the radio. They sounded violently different from their peers with riffs that climbed within speakers and an aggression that felt natural in all sense of the word. Ironically, I loathed the band at first, but walked away with an itch to try again, which proved wise. La Gargola
represents a new beast – honestly, I was shocked I was going to have to adjust to my favorite band again. This is the first time Chevelle brings anything new to the table and that begins by pulling Pete away from it. All three members are of equal importance this time around. Chevelle’s backbone has always been the bass, but before La Gargola
it’s role relied on mimicking much of Pete’s lead - this is the first time it’s presence dictates the direction of songs. Following behind is Pete’s voice, saved for when the instruments need their biggest push, like the bridge on “An Island” that builds and builds only to have him set off the heavy riffs that close out the track. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want the rest of the album to be identical to “An Island”. It’s audaciously loud and is just different enough to firmly say, “Yes, this is a new Chevelle song”. This is the bait though, and the conundrum is typical: venture with something new or tread familiar waters. I face this decision each time I eat out; I like to think Chevelle approach creation the same way.
greatest achievement is how complete it feels, with few seconds, if minutes, wasted; the short track list attests to this leaving little fat. Tracks follow one another with an urgent manner hand in hand, darkening the mood as the album progresses. Songs feel on the verge of cracking by the seconds and it’s when the band choose to let go that we find the brothers at their most exciting. “Jawbreaker” is Chevelle bouncing at their best, before unleashing a heavy wave of dissonance paired expertly with Pete’s feverish vocal repetition. Though the band has always had a penchant for creating a balance between the loud/soft dynamic, in recent years that formula’s grown rather awkward, and Pete’s confliction with progressing the bands “heaviness” led to these weaker bouts with aggression. La Gargola
challenges that notion by blending the line between what’s familiar with something sonically new, bending vivacious hooks around the typical crunch that fuels their sound.
Truth be told, Chevelle have never sounded so alive, and this release shows how comfortable they’ve become with any notable shift in their sound; La Gargola
bites a hook and relentlessly dances for fifty minutes - jaded and all. I can’t recall the last time the band has wrote anything as infectious as “Choking Game” and it’s superbly crafted ending that juxtaposes the songs’ first three minutes beautifully. “Under the Knife” could be lauded for it’s same design, tacking on an even beefier ending that compliments the overall rough nature of the track. In both cases, and on a majority of La Gargola
, the reason for excitement is what the band accomplishes instrumentally. Beneath all the loud make-up that’s been applied, a more methodical hand turns La Gargola’s
gears. Below the low tuned guitars and stabilized drumming brims an atmosphere that elevates this release atop their discography - a chilling intro sets the mood on “Ouija Board,” and the album smartly follows this energy by staying ahead of the usual Chevelle tropes.
It’s the finer things here that truly elevate La Gargola
, things that will have insurmountable worth for a devout fan. However, most casual listeners will dismiss the risks Chevelle take here. Obvious changes exist as well; “One Ocean” drips soft rock balladry and “Take Out the Gunman” has that damn cowbell, but the magic rests in what drives the band this time around; from the lyrical content on the unsettling nature of horror - a perfect foundation for a band that writes with a cryptic hand - to the slight implication that a majority of La Gargola’s
tracks feel like past attempts to branch creatively done right. What’s most promising is this albums density. My initial apprehension was not a sign of being let down, but an unfamiliarity toward the material. Where recent releases have enjoyed immediate standouts while suffering from songs stuffed with filler, La Gargola
shoots for cohesion, standing as strong as it’s weakest track will allow, and that extraordinarily simple concept is what redefines Chevelle fifteen years later.