Review Summary: Branching out, baby steps
Chevelle always seemed to be one of those bands who could go on forever just by doing their thing. They have been dropping one excellent album after another up to the point where everyone takes them for granted. However, front man Pete Loeffler mentioned experiencing writer’s block and considering leaving the project aside to rest for a long time, causing some worries for fans. His sincere statement got many believing this is their final work. Nevertheless, he was kind enough to leave it to the audience to decide whether the material is on par with their best or should they take a break. Thankfully, this is not the case. NIRATIAS
(Nothing Is Real and This Is a Simulation) arrives after an almost 5-year gap and purposely follows a more melodic path than its two predecessors. The results may not their strongest, yet the ride is just as fun as the others.
feels somewhat relaxed in nature when compared to other Chevelle affairs. Sonically, it stands somewhere between Sci-Fi Crimes
and Hats Off to the Bull
, constantly blending heavy riffs with melodic segments. Ultimately, it’s all about finding new ways to keep things interesting while retaining their sonic trademarks. There is a focus on diversity as a way to create a dynamic listen. Lyrically, the record develops upon topics such as Elon Musk’s Mars colonization plans, space travelling, starting anew, but also power abuse or denying scientific facts, among others. It is worth mentioning that Dean Bernardini left the band, leaving Pete in charge of bass duties too. The former shone on The North Corridor
, but Loeffler does a good job as well. There is less low end in the mix this time, often relying on a sharper tone instead. Starting off with an instrumental track, a first for the guys, ‘Verruckt’ nicely builds the atmosphere for the first album highlight, ‘So Long, Mother Earth’. This powerful track boasts infectious riffs and an intense vocal delivery. Pete sings as passionate as ever, especially on the choruses and the final part where things become heavier. ‘Mars Simula’ is one of their classic moody cuts, where you just wait for them to snap into an intense rage. The distorted bass adds significant weight to the track, similar to its role on ‘An Island’ from La Gargola
From here, the journey diversifies, each track finding its own spot in the Chevelle spectrum. The volatile main riff from ‘Self Destructor’ sticks like glue, complete with catchy vocals and a tantrum-like break halfway through. The band tones down slightly on ‘Pistol Star (Gravity Heals)’, using a straightforward drum beat, chunky power chords and a roller coaster of a guitar solo that adds a nice depth to the tune. Meanwhile, Peter goes nuts at the end, screaming his lungs out. An interesting thing is that his voice seems to get higher in pitch with each album. On the other hand, ‘Endlessly’ creates a more ethereal vibe through its floating, reverbed guitar leads and epic timpani enhancements. These are pleasant additions to what might have been a bare bone acoustic moment on a previous LP. Towards the end, ‘Remember When’ tunefully plays the nostalgia card in a lovely tuneful way, switching from soft to loud riffing multiple times. Behind the space travelling theme, Loeffler talks a bit about how he’s not that young anymore. Then, ‘Ghost and Razor’ offers us one last round of swinging grooves, before ‘Lost in Digital Woods’ closes the record on a rather somber note. A piano plays a couple of thrilling chords while Pete speaks the lyrics as if alone in a remote place at night. This ditty shares a darker, Nine Inch Nails-ish vibe and it would have been cool if they had expanded it beyond the wah guitar madness that follows.
ends up as a slightly different Chevelle album mainly due to its interlude-filled tracklist and a sort of unifying theme throughout. Sci-Fi Crimes
comes closest for obvious reasons, yet kudos to the Loeffler brothers for trying new formulas even though they are baby steps. The songs are just as tight as before and, unsurprisingly, even the standard ones have something interesting going on. Also, the production seems a tad more organic, which is suitable for this dynamic batch of tracks. Nevertheless, I would like to see the band branch out more, to try new things rather than just press pause and work on a side project. They pleased fans for 25 years by crafting such strong records, now the guys should be free to experiment at will.