Review Summary: This type of thinking (did them in).
Chevelle's name is inseparable from the alt-metal genre -- they're always the exception, the band that defied the stereotypes of a whole genre. Did they bring innovative and new material? Not really. But during their heyday, the then-band of brothers relied heavily on Pete Loeffler's remarkable (for the genre) vocals to create soaring choruses with just a hint of atmosphere. It wasn't strictly speaking innovative, but it was consistently well-executed.
But as time went on and "The Clincher" and "Send the Pain Below" left the radio waves, Chevelle seemed to start losing its touch. Every few years, they'd write another album, and every time, Pete's voice soared less, the choruses were less catchy, the detractors who cried "stagnation" gained ground on supporters who shouted "consistency." Hats Off to the Bull
seemed to be the band's rock bottom -- but there were flashes of brilliance where the band seemed to recapture its glory. In short, there was hope.
And La Gargola
managed to crush that hope in one fell swoop, re-damning this band to mediocrity.
Much has been made of the more aggressive approach that predominates Chevelle's latest effort, and there's no denying it -- the band hasn't sounded this blunt and punchy in years. "Ouija Board"'s feverish intensity make the cries of "We're growing a fire" all the more appropriate.
But underneath the crunchy guitars and Pete's snarl, La Gargola
is seriously lacking in substance. Don't expect to find it in the lyrics -- Pete's writing has been getting more self-servingly nonsensical for a decade now, and this is no exception. Chevelle made a name for themselves by fusing atmosphere and aggression, by putting a little bit of intelligence into their straightforward power chord-fests. You might not have understood what Pete was talking about, but you knew how he felt, and you knew his bandmates, while clearly playing second fiddle, at least agreed with him.
Now, Chevelle's writing songs like the horribly stilted "Take Out the Gunman," which seems permanently stuck in second gear thanks to its plodding chorus. Then there's the sly, cocky "Jawbreaker," lacking in any sort of musical direction and further derailed by lyrical gems like "You bother them, you bother me, are you part of them or part of me?" and the "chorus" of "Jawbreaker, jawbreaker, jawbreaker, you're like a jawbreaker."
Traditional song structures aren't followed rigidly throughout, but this actually works against the band. With memorable melodies few and far between, songs pass by in a shapeless mush. When the band dials it back, the results are still a mixed bag; the restrained, reverb-heavy "One Ocean" and breathy "Twinge" conjure up some atmosphere, but both constantly feel on the verge of an eruption that never comes.
While no song compares to the highlights of the band's discography, there are a few modest successes. "Choking Game" could pass for a Vena Sera
b-side with its driving chorus that at least comes close to the soaring Chevelle choruses of old. "Under the Knife" is furious, a concerted effort that doesn't sound like it's trying to sound
aggressive, but actually is
aggressive. But it's the exception that proves the rule. The rest of the album sounds like Chevelle is going through the motions, blindly stumbling toward something they've been told will work, desperately trying to capture their former glory. Everything is loud and aggressive for the sake of being loud and aggressive. There's no gripping melodies, no bombastic climaxes, no soul
. There's nothing to convince me that Chevelle is worthy of being an exception anymore.