Chevelle – Hats Off To The Bull – Review

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The last time I actively ventured a listen of Chevelle was some point back when numetal was all the rage and 2002′s “Wonder What’s Next” and 2004′s ”This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In)“ had such thick bass reverb that it would blow stereo subwoofers if played too loud (from experience). Since then, the band has released two Epic Records backed albums, “Vena Sera” and “Sci-fi Crimes,” that went virtually unnoticed by most of their mainstream fans, while the bands early adopter base has slowly started dropping off, no doubt the result of the lightening of Chevelle’s sound over the last half decade to a shadow of their previous alt metal standing as well as the notable absence of the third Loeffler brother on bass. The groups latest release “Hats Off To The Bull

When Pete Loeffler, and his obnoxiously long hair, began writing the bands fifth record with brother Sam, he claimed it would be as melodic and heavy as their sophomore and junior records mentioned above. While many “over the hill” bands attempt to recreate prior success by venturing into their past, I was hoping Chevelle wouldn’t simply rehash old treading grounds while writing new material. In truth, “Hats Off To The Bull” does attempt its hand at more melody driven tracks, but most times it comes at the expense of the thick bass lines that haven’t shown themselves since Joe Loeffler was ousted from the group, with exception being the wall of sound that permeates from the latter half of the wonderfully building track, “Envy.” As for the empty spot, now filling in for bassist is brother-in-law Dean Bernardini (this band clearly keeps it in the family), while Dean’s wife Nicole Loeffler even makes a vocal cameo on the effort.

Much of “Hats Off To The Bull” often rushes by, like the album opener “Face To The Floor” and “Pinata,” which are both loaded with swift and repeating down-tuned riffage, all of which are a backing for Pete’s memorable rough, flair-y croon. It isn’t until you give songs like the Tool-emulating, “Revenge,” the progressive “Envy,” and the stripped-down, echoed acoustic outing “Prima Donna,” a few extra listens, that you start to appreciate the subtle deviations from the bands previous formula, where more detail is given to each musical movement (verse, chorus, etc) and it feels less and less like a loose collection of bland radio songs and more like the explorative alternative metal the band chose to discard years ago.
Chevelle hasn’t reinvented the wheel with their latest effort, but with a few bright tracks that shine long after the formulaic songs lose their luster, “Hats Off To The Bull” is certainly moving in the right direction. Now if we could only get Joe’s bass configuration to make a return, maybe reminiscent songs like the album’s closer, “Clones,” would make a return and bring the heavy quota back up to speaker-blowing levels. Or continue with the progressive melodic trip, which ever. [Staff]

Score: 3 (out of 5)

Release Date: December 6th, 2011
Record Label: Epic Records
Genre: Alt Metal
RIYL: Breaking Benjamin, Taproot, Cold

Track Listing:
1. Face To The Floor
2. Same Old Trip
3. Ruse
4. The Meddler
5. Piñata
6. Envy
7. Hats Off To The Bull
8. Arise
9. Revenge
10. Prima Donna
11. Clones

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