As I tackle listening to the new Chevelle – I mean really listening to it on a pair of headphones – I start to hear something worth talking about on album #7 from the Chicago trio.
If one were to go back to 1999, when the band first dropped on the scene with Point #1, I remember being at a vendor trade show and being handed a promo copy of that album. My close colleagues, who were hard rock fans themselves, asked me what I thought. Well, I could hear parts of Tool and some of the other more melodic hard rock at the time. This was before the Three Days Graces of the world. We’re talking the Staind’s, Godsmacks, and Korn’s still commanding stages and this band coming up and trying to play to half packed arena’s waiting for the headliner.
The first two tracks, ‘Ouija Board,’ and ‘An Island,’ harken back to their early days…the more I listen, the more I appreciate. The single ‘Take Out The Gunman,’ is pretty sweet, even if it’s usage of cowbell seems to be a running joke in rock these days. In my opinion, Chevelle’s albums are generally pretty decent, but you never know how decent (Speaking of decent, I don’t know if I’ve just got a shitty digital copy that I DL’d or if the production of this album truly is this gritty).
For example, on one listen of 2002’s Wonder What’s Next – I knew that album was going to be huge and that it was chock full of radio and arena-friendly singles. Sadly, I was right about Nickelback’s Silver Side Up during this time too. Chevelle have always remained true to their sound, though – and there’s something to be said for that. This Kind of Thinking… (2004) was kind of their ‘commercial,’ sophomore album and it was just kind of ‘eh…’ Vena Sera, well, to be honest I’d completely forgotten about that album until I sat down to write this. That could have had something to do with first single, ‘Well Enough Alone,’ which never managed to register with me. Too commercial and lacking in hooks, which was indicative of the album as a whole.
Sci-Fi Crimes brought it all back to Wonder territory for me and 2011’s Hat’s Off… was half an album of really solid stuff. So after an initial strong start, where do the other seven tracks land in summary of La Gargola?
‘Jawbreaker,’ is a slow simmering boil reminiscent of a few tracks on Hat’s Off… ‘Hunter Eats Hunter,’ sounds like something off of Tool’s Opiate EP for the first 2:40, before :50 of instrumental threaten to derail the almost six minute track. A little bit of editing here would have tightened up the aggression. Honestly, the track could have been a lot better if two minutes were trimmed.
Featuring guitar patterns that recall dredg, ‘One Ocean,’ is an interesting, lighter turn midway through the album. ‘Choking Game,’ is melodic to a degree before dissolving in it’s final minute into something recalling Pretty Hate Machine type industrial rock and feedback. ‘The Damned’ is groove oriented but perhaps a bit stock for Chevelle at this point. ‘Under the Knife’ again starts with riffs that are most cognizant of early Tool, and fortunately maintain the vibe through the entire four minutes without diverging elsewhere.
La Gargola closes with ‘Twinge,’ a slow burner with distant shimmering guitar and a steady refrain. It’s a good track and in the same vein as ‘Clones’ (which closed the last album). Basically, I found six out of the 10 tracks to be keepers after giving things an honest listen. I enjoy Chevelle and admire their work ethic. They’re mostly consistent and La Gargola, while perhaps not as good as the last two albums, still holds it’s own early, in the middle and again at the end with some filler in between.