Chevelle – Sci-Fi Crimes
Record Label: Epic Records
Release Date: August 31 2009
If there’s one thing I love about music, it’s that bands don’t have to conform to one genre. Bands and artists can mix genres together, or even create their own. I’ve just been getting into the genre of hard rock, which bands like Three Days Grace and RED fall into, and I knew that Illinois band Chevelle was another one of those bands. I was never interested in this band, but I was recently sent a record by this band, 2009’s Sci-Fi Crimes, so I had the chance to get acquainted with them a little more. I was quite surprised when I listened to the record, because it was a lot more than your average hard rock record. There were bits of acoustic, indie, progressive rock, as well as hard rock and alternative rock. Most hard-rock bands tend to sound the same, but Chevelle surprised me by sounding a lot more unique and being a lot more hard-hitting, so to speak. If there is one thing that makes most hard-rock bands stand out, it’s usually their vocalist, because that’s the main part of a band, for the most part. Of course, the vocalist should not be the sole part of a band, because instrumentation is important, but the instrumentation of most of these bands is rather generic with a few exceptions, this band being one of them.
Opening track, “Sleep Apnea” starts with a rather aggressive guitar riff, and has vocalist/guitarist Pete Loeffler’s unique and haunting voice guide the song forward. His voice is rather different, especially for the genre that he’s in, but it works nicely. There are some cool distorted vocal effects in the bridge of the song, and honestly, Loeffler is the star of this record. While the instrumentation is aggressive, it comes off rather generic in this song. There are some very unique moments, but this song doesn’t do very much in terms of the overall instrumentation. As I mentioned, most hard rock bands utilize their lead vocalists, who end up being the most unique part of the band, but not Chevelle. Some tracks don’t go above and beyond, but there are some that certainly do. Second track “Mexican Sun” is a wonderful track. This is the kind of track that I was just talking about; aside from Loeffler’s unique vocals that sound larger than life, the instrumentation in this record has a rather progressive vibe to it, as a few other tracks do. The prog-rock and sound goes a bit further with third track “Shameful Metaphors.” The song kind of switches between huge, sweeping choruses with quiet, and ambient verses. Aside from a progressive rock sound, there’s even some arena-rock, too. It would explain Loeffler’s larger than life voice, who brings to mind Jared Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse’s Matthew Bellamy. Am I the only person who thinks of those vocalists as I listen to this band? Maybe, maybe not, but I digress.
Next track “Jars” is a one-two punch with “Mexican Sun,” because this has the exact same sound, to some degree. This song has a really huge chorus, but it’s really aggressive throughout. There are even a few faint screams from Loeffler during the song, which makes it that much more impacting. While I haven’t listened to this band, “Jars” was the first single from the record, and it’s clear why they chose the song. It’s one of the more hard-hitting tracks, especially lyrically. According to drummer Sam Loeffler (who is a very solid drummer, may I add), he says the song is “a kind of a play on words. It's saving the environment. It's a joke about saving the environment and it's about literally taking the earth, and putting it into jars to save it for later. It's very tongue in cheek.” It’s a really interesting idea, and the lyrics on this whole record are really cool, yet a bit odd.
As the record goes on, the alternative, indie, progressive, and arena rock influences show up time and time again. This band may be a hard rock band, but they still show a bit of diversity and versatility. Fifth track “Fell Into Your Shoes” continues that hard rock meets prog-rock, and arena-rock sound. The guitar riff woven throughout the song is very ambient and proggy, and combined with Loeffler’s vocals, it’s easily one of the highlights of the record. A couple of tracks later, seventh track “Highland’s Apparition” is the “standout” track of the record, being that it’s an acoustic track where Loeffler can show off his vocals, and they’re absolutely fantastic on this song. His voice is shown more on this track, and the band is at their most vulnerable. Things go right back to normal with next track, “Roswell’s Spell,” but that song isn’t one of the best on the record, because it doesn’t do much differently than other songs on the record have before. It’s got some ambient, yet aggressive instrumentation, and Loeffler’s vocals are great, but that’s it. An interlude track, aptly titled “Interlewd” follows, and it’s a really “chilled out” track, but it doesn’t serve any purpose, really. It’s only about a minute and a half, and it doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything. It doesn’t even lead into the next song, “A New Momentum,” which is a rather forgettable track, but it continues what the rest of the record was doing. Closing track, “This Circus,” does the same thing, and while that song doesn’t do much for me, it’s still a nice closing track. Clocking in at 43 minutes, this is a nice hard rock / alternative rock record with hints of indie, prog-rock, and arena-rock. There are a few songs that really don’t do anything for me, but as a whole, it’s a great record. I’ve never been too interested in hard rock, but bands like this are what perk my interest just a little bit more.