Chevelle – ‘Hats Off To The Bull’ [REVIEW]
With the help of producer Joe Barresi, Chevelle have found their way back to the sound that made us all fall in love with them on their sixth studio album ‘Hats Off to the Bull.’
After becoming staples at rock radio with the one-two punch of 2002’s ‘Wonder What’s Next’ and 2004’s ‘This Type of Thinking Can Do Us In,’ Chevelle lost a bass player and, perhaps coincidentally, some of their momentum. The following albums ‘Vena Sera’ and ‘Sci-Fi Crimes’ felt like the band’s exploratory period — which for some bands never ends. While those albums did have their high points, they lacked a certain hard rock mojo that the band was so well tapped into on their earlier releases.
Much to the delight of fans, Chevelle has returned to the essence of the sound they built their name on. ‘Hats off to the Bull’ is a masterfully produced and cohesive hard rock adventure — showcasing Pete Loeffler’s ability to shift gears from melodic vulnerability to gut-wrenching animosity in the blink of an eye. Another impressive feat, as always, is the three-piece’s aptitude for creating a sound thicker than most two-guitar bands can produce.
The album kicks off with the Bernie Madoff-inspired diagnosis of Ponzi schemes, the barn-burning ‘Face to the Floor.’ The heavy riffage continues in the second track, ‘Same Old Trip,’ which proves to be anything but what it’s title would imply. Evoking the band’s more Tool-esque sensibilities, the song ends up being one of the album’s true highlights.
The missing factor in their previous outings may have been producer Joe Barresi — who is known for his work with Tool and Queens of the Stone Age — in his first collaboration with the band he manages to find the core of the Chevelle sound. This is becomes evident on two standout tracks, the bass-driven excellence of ‘The Meddler’ followed by the haunting subtleties captured on the flawlessly over-produced ‘Envy.’ The latter of the two packs eerily overdubbed backup vocals, thunderous drums, and galloping muted guitars — it serves as the perfect intermission from the straight forward thump the rest of the album delivers.
The albums second act brings more of the signature Chevelle heft, kicking off with the thinking man’s jock jam and killer title track ‘Hats Off to the Bull.’ Eventually fatigue sets in — not due to lack of quality material, but the full throttle attack loses some of it’s steam when digested as a whole. Solid songs like ‘Arise’ and ‘Revenge’ are unfortunately overshadowed by the strong first act of the disc. The acoustic-driven ‘Prima Donna’ with all it’s orchestral swells and phantasmal ambience may have served as a better finisher than the straight forward ‘Clones,’ but when all is said and done it’s still a great album.
Final Verdict: Chevelle evoke their early days on this collection of mostly heavy and well produced tracks. While the forward drive of the album becomes a bit tiresome in the later innings, all the songs stand well on their own.