Review Summary: By catering to their fans' wishes, Chevelle have released their heaviest album...
Looking back on the nu-metal scene that flourished during the mid-to-late ‘90s until the early ‘00s, the bands that still exist or most importantly sound relevant can be counted on one hand’s fingers. Chevelle have been catapulted to stardom with Wonder What’s Next
and its string of hits. The album is a heavy, tensed affair, but at the same time, criticized for keeping things simple and radio-friendly at times. Otherwise, for such a young band back then, it was and remains a surprising achievement. Lucky for us, the Loefflers decided to use that constructive criticism and add layers or expand formulas on following records. With such rarely seen consistency, instantly recognizable and groovy features, This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In)
, Vena Sera
& Sci-Fi Crimes
cemented their reputation as one of the best acts of the genre (perhaps surpassed only by Deftones at their finest hours). A couple of years ago, the guys managed to once more impress and even surprise everybody with La Gargola
, their best effort in a long time. One of their heaviest affairs at the moment, the LP saw them focusing on riffs more than melody, while also creating a horror-inspired theme throughout. More than ever, it felt conceived as an album rather than just standalone tracks.
As fans fully embraced its dirty grooves and uncanny vibe, Pete & Co. catered to their wishes and rapidly compiled a new set of songs whose starting points were the current level of distortion. I insisted above on the breakthrough record, because I’d describe The North Corridor
as Wonder What’s Next
filtered through La Gargola
’s sound. Of course, there are features from other LPs, however, the attention clearly went again on the riffage, yet the tone often harkens back to the former. Plus, the band switched back to openly discussing several social/media issues hidden beneath sub-plots created in the latter. Opener, ‘Door to Door Cannibals’ is a perfect example of the mix I wanted to emphasize on. Starting like an old-school nu metal track, Chevelle rapidly jump to the present with grinding verses, stop-start choruses all with a fat, fuzzy tone. Then, a cool wah solo takes over the middle 8, before reverting to the main rhythm. Moreover, ‘Enemies’ turned out as one of the most manic cuts in their catalog. The punk-inspired drums and staccato guitar lines burst into a syncopated riff, whereas the frustrated ditty, ‘Young Wicked’ rids the brooding segments to boot-stomp your face. Pete has always brought forth issues of the modern world, whether it was about the environment, dark corners of people’s minds (such as depression, anxiety and the consequences of pushing someone to the limits) or media’s influence (among others), but lately his message has become increasingly adamant to stick in your head, akin to the heavier music. He rightfully complains about organized religion brainwashing people, old/new generations not giving a *** about ecological disasters affecting us all, as well as the faulty nature of relationships between people. Still, there’s always enough room for interpretation in the lyrics, so that you can find different meanings on subsequent listens.
On each album there were small experiments that kept things intriguing and thankfully, The North Corridor
shares a couple of rather new sonic wanderings for Chevelle. The only quiet track here, ‘Punchline’, boasts a synth bass line over electronic drum patterns. On top of them, a banjo was added, along with some harsh percussion to augment the dark atmosphere. There’s an unusual, interesting futuristic sound created by this mix of instruments that we haven’t witnessed before. On the other hand, you have the schizophrenic ‘Rivers’ that jumps from clean, flamenco-tinged guitars accompanying Pete’s wailing croons, to some of the most bludgeoning riffs on the record. The vocal performance is arguably the most dynamic and the man chose really well where to overdub them. Although an excellent track as a whole, the intense last minute is one of the main highlights of the album. Meanwhile, ‘Warhol’s Showbiz’ is a strong, driving rocker sharing a smooth main groove (bringing ‘A New Momentum’ to mind) and sharp leads that have already become a trademark of the band’s. The infectious, straightforward chorus is somewhat relatable to most acts in the mainstream scene, as the man screeches it. Dean steps up too, delivering some cool bass lines on the slick first single, ‘Joyride (Omen)’ or epic closer, ‘Shot from a Cannon’, whose repetitive nature of its marching rhythm was set to a story that seems to resemble the summary of a wasted life. The track slowly grows through a second guitar adding leads and powerful choruses, each time sung at a higher level of distortion. Halfway, the front man indulges in a prolonged, feedback-drenched solo, while the others stay locked in a groove for a few minutes. The song slowly fades out, feeling like an appropriate, deconstructed ending to an album that runs over you like a truck.
So, these three sweethearts responded to fan’s desires and created their heaviest LP so far. The North Corridor
soars like never before, surpassing This Type of Thinking
& La Gargola
without feeling one-sided. Personally, I would’ve asked for at least another toned down reflecting tune much like ‘Twinge’ or, let’s say, ‘Panic Prone’, yet I understand it would’ve considerably distilled things around. Again acting as a cohesive unit, the record plays best when listened to as a whole and even those who complained about ‘Joyride’ will see how well it fits within the track list. Should we call it their best achievement so far? Coming from a band that for me already has 4 best albums (see the ratings on the website actually reflect this opinion), it’s safe to say this one proudly sits among them. It doesn’t get on top since it expands on previously laid foundations, however, it displays the tightest features. It amazes me how Chevelle manage to maintain such a consistent output. They never sound boring, always tweaking the overall sound in small amounts, so that you’ll be constantly surprised. Dig it!