Review Summary: A benchmark record for Nu and Alternative Metal of the early 2000's.
After narrowly dodging a contract extension with Christian-rock label Squint Entertainment by taking a deal with Epic, Chevelle return on what is their major-label debut "Wonder What's Next" and obliterates any accusations that their music is "Christian-rock." Now this doesn't mean they have become disciples of Lucifer, but their edge is a lot harder, and their themes are almost strictly anger-ridden.
On "Wonder What's Next" the riffs are simple, the lyrics are low in quantity, and the flow is stupendous. Though their melodies are simple, Chevelle execute them with heavily-distorted low tunings that make them sound heavier than almost all similar acts at the time. Vocalist Pete Loeffler adds substance to the mix, but his role serves as more of a backdrop to the thick and meaty riffs that compose this record.
With each track on "Wonder What's Next," Chevelle manage to capture the most potent essence of a certain mood. Take opener "Family System," for instance; the main riff is absolutely sinister, and Loeffler's vocal performance adds a caustic splash of angst and bitterness. You may as well let the next track play through while you're at it, "Comfortable Liar," switches from sinister to rough-and-tough with its dense two note main-riff and Sam Loeffler's testosterone-filled drumming that could be the soundtrack to a day in prison. The title-track is strongly seductive with its timeless hook and moments of eruption that occur throughout.
The record also makes it apparent that these guys can be completely unpredictable in any aspect of song structure or melody. The album's three singles "Send The Pain Below," "The Red," and "Closure," are the only cuts that use a standard verse-chorus-verse structure. "Grab Thy Hand" for example is the furthest out of all of the tracks from sticking to one familiar main-riff, and somehow doesn't give up any hints as to where the song is going, even though it stays within the boundaries of contemporary alt-metal. On the other hand, you get a track like "An Evening With El Diablo" which, upon first listen, will have any listener on the edge of their seat thinking the song is going to shift direction at some point, but the song just continues to build layers and layers of guitar playing the same melody on its single-note introductory bass-line until the track comes to a sudden end; a characteristic that frustrates a listener at first, but ultimately gives the song attitude and makes it one of the most badass on the album.
There are of course a few faults. Namely the closer "One Lonely Visitor" which seems completely out of place, not because of its acoustic nature or status as much softer than the rest of the record, but because Chevelle clearly doesn't pull this type of music off as well as their hard-hitters. Loeffler gets overly emotional with vocals and sways from being too angry for a song like this, to too upset for a song like this.
The album's length is also somewhat of a fault. It manages to feel both short and long due to the songs' average length of 4 minutes, their heavy emphasis of main-riffs, and the album's somewhat short 11-song tracklist. With more technical emphasis, each song could feel like much more than one solid riff. Many of the tracks here stick to rather simple formulas that manage to be wonderfully catchy, but usually overstay their welcome by just a moment or two. Then when the record ends, you may quickly notice there was only 11 songs, and you'll likely be hungry for more.
Despite these minor issues, this is a benchmark record for Nu and Alternative-metal for the early 2000's. Its trademark sound was mimicked and copied by various competing musicians, and eventually turned it stale, resulting in many disbanded acts and commercially unsuccessful attempts. Needless to say, as time went on, Chevelle learned more and more about how to implement their own flavor and creativity into their trademark density-based sound.