Review Summary: The best "metalloid" album ever.
Vena Sera. Not the best time for the band, Chevelle. They had lost one of their brothers. They couldn’t match the success of their previous singles. Their equipment was stolen during one of their tours for this album. And all of this is kind of reflected in the album’s cover: just an endless, spinning circle of despair. Now, a lot of people thought that Chevelle made a real comeback with Sci-Fi Crimes, but in all honesty, this was the record that reinvigorated them as a driving force in the world of “metalloid” music-- on the border between rock and metal.
Whereas Sci-Fi Crimes was concerned with the extraterrestrial world, Vena Sera has a much earthier quality to it. Only rather than being buried underground or stuck on a flat surface, it feels as if you’re standing on the edge of the earth, looking down into a bottomless pit much like the spiral on the cover. Nowhere is this more apparent than the underrated “Midnight to Midnight,” which goes, “We toss our failures at the earth.” The chord on “earth” is monumental, and so is the rest of the chorus. And considering that the song appears to be about dreams (“Sleep will carry us, not to mention heavy on the REM”), it makes that image all the more surreal. And of course the bonus track, “In Debt to Earth,” has to do with that same theme.
It certainly is a great melody that stands out, but in between the verses and the chorus, you get this dirty, sludgy guitar riff. These kinds of sounds appear throughout the whole album. “Antisaint” is a perfect example of a song that has those same crunchy, downtuned guitars heard in “Midnight to Midnight.” Towards the end of the song, there’s all sorts of guitar squeals and stutters of all different pitches that carry the tune to its nearly four-and-a-half minute mark.
Drum sounds are also a major high point of this record. The snares are incredibly dense at times, ringing through the many layers of distorted guitars. The aforementioned “Antisaint” begins with pummeling snare beats, and “Straight Jacket Fashion” does the same, yet takes it up a notch. The combinations of loud, piercing drums and guitar rhythms add a kind of unique groove to the whole album instead of some songs or some parts of some songs. “Humanoid” is one of the grooviest tracks on here. “I Get It,” one of the singles from this album, has a restless bass rhythm. And “The Fad,” an attack on consumerism, features sudden stabs of guitar that are tuned extremely low by Chevelle standards.
But this wouldn’t be the album that it is without the vocal melodies. On “Paint the Seconds,” one of the softer songs here, the vocals slowly build up to a gorgeous chorus that’s almost as earth-shattering as “Midnight to Midnight.” The same goes for the slow-burning “Saferwaters.” And even on the heaviest tracks like “Humanoid,” there are very distinguishable verses, bridges, and choruses hidden from within. They all kind of blur together, but if you listen to this album more than once, chances are that they will stick out so much more and become more memorable.
There’s no experimental touches or electronic flourishes on this record. Nothing fancy, just the basics. However, even with just the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums, each one of them is executed and produced to perfection. The band members clearly show that they have talent, and this album is no exception. This might even be the most cohesive album that they’ve ever done because all of the songs fit together, and there’s no track on here that loses momentum, personally. It’s nice to have an album where even the singles sound like they could blend in with the album tracks. Even eleven years after its initial release, Vena Sera remains the artistic triumph of Chevelle’s career. No other Chevelle album would ever match the colossal sound of this one.
“Well Enough Alone”
“Paint the Seconds”
“Midnight to Midnight”
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars