Chicago rock band Chevelle released their seventh studio album back in February of this year, and boy is it good. Don’t get me wrong, in the fifteen years since their first album, Point # 1, Chevelle has yet to release a bad album. La Gárgola (which means the gargoyle in Spanish) just happens to be amazing. While Chevelle isn’t prog, it is certainly very good hard rock/metal music. Interestingly enough, they have been compared to Tool for years, so they sort of have a Prog connection, although I don’t really hear the similarity. Chevelle has also released a few “concept” albums, most notably 2009’s Sci-Fi Crimes and 2014’s La Gárgola. By concept, I mean the whole album more or less revolves around a particular theme. In Sci-Fi Crimes, it was aliens, supernatural beings and other cool stuff like that. In la Gárgola, it loosely draws upon themes that a gargoyle might conjure up.
So who are Chevelle? Pete Loeffler – guitars and vocals. Sam Loeffler – drums. Dean Bernardini (Pete and Sam’s brother-in-law) – bass and backup vocals. Chevelle has always been a family affair, with Pete and Sam’s brother Joe originally playing bass for the band until 2005. All are very proficient with their instruments, and Pete’s voice is incredibly unique. He has a great range, and when he screams, it is not “cookie monster” screaming. His screams come from passion and anger, and never just to please screamo fans (Chevelle in no way, shape, or form resembles anything remotely related to screamo). His voice, instead, is very mellow yet powerful. One of the things that I like best about Chevelle is they, unlike many metal bands, are not obnoxiously or overly loud. While they are loud, you can still hear each individual instrument, which is great for someone like me who loves to hear and feel the bass. It’s also difficult to believe that their sound can only come from three musicians, because the interplay between the guitars, bass, drums, and Pete’s voice make it sound like so much more. Very impressive indeed.
Earlier I said that Chevelle have yet to release a bad album. While I believe this is true, I think that La Gárgola is their best album since their second album, 2002’s Wonder What’s Next, which was brilliant in its heaviness. 2007’s Vena Sera came close (in fact it is probably their most popular album), but La Gárgola is the only album to equal Wonder What’s Next. This album beautifully combines elements from each of their albums. It brings in the raw edge from their first album, the heaviness from their second, third, and fourth albums, the idea of a “concept” and the ability to do quieter songs from Sci-Fi Crimes, and the drive of 2011’s Hats Off to the Bull. It is as if Chevelle took the best bits from their past and matured into a totally new sound that is still very familiar.
La Gárgola also sounds more technically complicated than their previous albums, especially in the percussion department. Sam (and Dean, who recorded drums on one of the songs) certainly experimented with different drum sounds and instruments. The guitar takes you on all kinds of wild adventures throughout the album, but the driving bass keeps you grounded. From songs like “Take Out the Gunman,” which addresses the recent media attention at different mass shootings, to “One Ocean”, which is by far Chevelle’s best quiet(er) song, it is hard to get bored listening to this album. La Gárgola has so much to offer, from heavier metal songs typical of past Chevelle albums, to quieter rock songs which force you to really think about what is being said.
One of Chevelle’s best traits is the lyrics, written mainly by Pete Loeffler. Unlike so many rock bands, who are blatantly obvious with what they are talking about in their songs, Chevelle’s lyrics are cryptic, yet simple with repetition of certain lines throughout the song. I know some people don’t like repetition, but the way in which Chevelle work it, it really doesn’t feel like there is any repetition at all. While some bands use expletives to convey that they are… well, pissed off, Chevelle conveys that through tone of music and lyrical undertones. Chevelle rarely swears in their songs, unless it is absolutely necessary, and none of their songs (in any album) are labeled as explicit. Also, Chevelle is not one to talk about relationships and dating and crap like that. They prefer to keep their lyrics conceptual and open to interpretation, which forces the listener to think. La Gárgola certainly continues the Chevelle tradition when it comes to lyrics.
While Chevelle certainly isn’t prog, they come close in many respects, and they deserve respect from progressive rock fans. Chevelle is one of several bands throughout the early 2000s, along with Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, System of a Down, Three Days Grace, and many others, who were able to keep rock and metal popular even while the musical atrocities of the pop and country genres rose in popularity. Chevelle have been very successful, yet they have never sacrificed what they do best – rock. So far, La Gárgola is one of my favorite albums of 2014, and I will certainly be listening to it for years to come. If you like metal, hard rock, and prog, give Chevelle a listen. They have many great songs across their expansive catalog, and their albums are a joy to listen to.
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