Review Summary: Chevelle undergoes several upgrades to their sound on this 2007 outing.
Chevelle have made a number of improvements on Vena Sera. For starters, vocalist Pete Loeffler has conjured up a new source of rage from the incident that occurred prior to this record’s release, involving the firing of bassist and brother Joe Loeffler.
That rage has given Pete a new bank of inspiration from which he makes withdrawals lyrically on the record. He is now much less cryptic with his word-choice and more fluent with verses. The chorus on “Straight Jacket Fashion” is not only easy to sing along with but deeply critical of the song’s target, “Cause quietly, you're overrated anyhow, And currently, you've spread yourself so thin!” Loeffler sings. Compared to the zombifying rants he was shouting on This Type of Thinking… this is pure top-notch poetry. His sudden jump in lyrical quality further solidifies the importance of his role in the band (as if he wasn’t crucial enough already).
The next notable upgrade the band has undergone is the entry of new bassist Dean Bernardini, who is clearly more of a presence than ex-member Joe Loeffler, as shown on songs like “The Fad,” and “I Get It,” where he is the driving force behind the melody. Elsewhere on the record, Bernardini makes a lot of otherwise-decent songs like “Brainiac,” great by being very active throughout compared to his bandmates.
The most important change to Chevelle’s scheme however, is that they most certainly “have their groove back,” for lack of a better phrase. Songs are catchy again, and multiple grooves are fitting better together, especially in “Humanoid,” and “Midnight to Midnight.” They haven’t completely returned to the template used on Wonder What’s Next but who says they have to? They’re headed back in that direction, but have decided to sacrifice abundant hooks for more developed songwriting. They don’t exactly master this approach on Vena Sera but it certainly proves an efficient starting place considering the epics that followed this record (Sci-fi Crimes, La Gargola).
The only thing holding them back here is the faint but existent tendencies that Chevelle’s songs still live by in most aspects. These tendencies I’m referring to, are Chevelle’s apparent focus on a late teen-aged audience. There is always a need for a stronger sense of maturity at some point in a band’s career, and it’s about time Chevelle got the ball rolling with it. Pete Loeffler has improved majorly lyrically, but on the opener “Antisaint,” and closer “Saturdays,” he is as choppy and obscure as he was throughout This Type of Thinking.. They’ve also come to show a better sense of crafting solid alternative metal, but they still haven’t established any robust memorability or distinguishable traits on some songs, and that needs to change. Otherwise, Vena Sera does Chevelle’s reputation nothing but good, being an obvious step in their path to greatness.