Chevelle, The North Corridor, 2016 (Epic Records)
Door to Door Cannibals (4:36), Enemies (3:29), Joyride (Omen) (3:37), Rivers (3:59), Last Days (4:12), Young Wicked (3:06), Warhol’s Showbiz (4:30), Punchline (5:11), Got Burned (3:39), Shot From a Cannon (8:12), A Miracle (CD only bonus track) (5:32)
I’ve been a fan of Chevelle since I was in 7th grade (2007 or so), and while they aren’t prog, neither are they your typical mainstream rock or metal band. They are often compared to Tool, who are often lumped under the wide prog banner, but I can’t really comment on that since I am unfamiliar with Tool. All I know is, Chevelle has been consistently making very interesting and compelling rock music since 1999.
I absolutely loved their last album, 2014’s La Gárgola. It had such an awesome horror and heavy feel to it. In my review of that album, I said that it was the band’s best album since 2002’s Wonder What’s Next. Well, The North Corridor is a more than worthy successor to La Gárgola. It is heavy, but not in the same way as the last album. The guitar and vocals are distinctly heavier, while the last album had a thematic heaviness. There is a clear distinction between the two styles, yet the music is still familiar.
What is truly remarkable about this band is the quality of sound they can make with just three musicians! Pete Loeffler is guitarist and lead vocalist, while his brother Sam Loeffler handles the drums. Their brother-in-law, Dean Bernardini, takes care of bass, backing vocals, and artwork for the album. Being a family affair has clearly aided this band in their cohesion. They play well, they aren’t drama queens, and they focus on rock. As a group, their music sounds so full that it is hard to believe there are only three musicians. The only bands I know of that can pull that off better than Chevelle are Rush and Muse, and even Muse uses a fourth member for live shows. (By the way, those are the only two bands I have been a fan of longer than Chevelle.)
One of my favorite aspects of this band is their lyrics. They are cryptic in a way that leaves them open for interpretation. They never write about relationships and lame topics like that. In some ways, their approach to writing lyrics reminds me of Haken. They won’t explicitly tell you what their songs are about. They leave it up to the listener to figure it out and bring their own interpretation to the table.
Musically, Bernardini’s bass really stands out to me on this album. While he has always been excellent, he really takes center stage on this album. The bass is loud in an almost Squire-esque fashion, and he definitely reminds me of Chris Wolstenholme from Muse.
Currently, my favorite song on the album is “Got Burned.” It is a straight up, in-your-face rocker, but Pete’s way of singing the lyrics is just a bit different than he normally does. I dig it. While most of the songs are three and a half to four and a half minutes in length, Chevelle manage to make it seem like the songs are much longer. I think they accomplish it by having their own way of organizing their songs. They have a main verse at the beginning of the song, which is followed by a lengthy bridge/chorus. They never really return to another verse, so their songs aren’t cyclical. Interestingly, prog songs follow a very similar style, but they are usually much longer. Chevelle manage to get a similar feel without writing long songs.
While they typically write short songs, they decided to write their longest song to date with “Shot From a Cannon,” which is over eight minutes long. So there ya go. The proggiest song on the album is “A Miracle” (listen below), which only comes on the CD version. It reminded me instantly of a quiet Muse song, because it has synths overlaying the music, and it has backing vocals from Dean that sound just like Chris Wolstenholme from Muse. It’s a great track, and it is definitely worth the extra money to buy the cd just for this song.
Chevelle have released another fantastic rock album that should appeal to a wide variety of rock fans. This is a band that has proven many times over that rock is far from dead, despite the prolific nature of dog crap inspired pop, hip-hop, and country that tend to dominate American music charts. Long live Chevelle.