Chevelle: Vena Sera
Chevelle blew me away with their debut album, Point #1 back in 1999. It was urgent, raw, full of energy and passion. Over the course of the past few years, internal problems, mostly focused around youngest brother and bassist Joe Loeffler, took something of a toll on the band.
On their third release, This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In), this internal turmoil resulted in a record that was too formulaic, lacked much real energy, and was quickly forgettable. With the addition of Dean Bernardini (brother-in-law to Sam and Pete, talk about keeping it in the family) as the official and full-time bassist, could Chevelle reinvigorate themselves?
Vena Sera, their latest release, answers that question with a positive, if not fully convincing, yeah, probably.
Vena Sera definitely rises above its predecessor, mostly on the strength of it variation. Whereas This Type of Thinking felt like the same song over and over and over again (with the exception of the final acoustic track "Bend the Bracket"), Vena Sera does seem to have a bit more going on. There are still plenty of mid-tempo, chugging rockers that Chevelle has become expert at. However, the are more acoustic guitars, a few more mellow tracks, and some up-tempo tracks.
This variation helps Vena Sera from feeling too stagnant. However, the band still hasn't captured the frantic energy that made Point #1 such a strong album. Likewise, missing is the utter confidence and polish that powered Wonder What's Next.
Musically, the mix is perfect. The bass is present, but not overpowering. The guitars have just enough edge to them to keep this from sounding anemic, without spilling over into the realm of true heavy metal. Pete Loeffler's vocals continue to walk the fine line between clear, melodic singing and guttural screams, with a bit more emphasis on the singing this record. As This Type of Thinking suffered from too much angst, the more present clean vocals strengthen the record. Lyrically, Chevelle continues to attempt to wax poetic, while generally just coming across as somewhat incomprehensible. But that is just what they do. At least it hasn't changed.
Tracks to catch: "Antisaint" has a great, angry chorus that just begs you to sing along. "Humanoid" is one of the darker songs, with some powerful guitars that help it build to a monstrous crescendo. "I Get It" is a pleasant change of pace, with its acoustic guitar based verses. "Midnight to Midnight" is a solid track as well, with an excellent bridge section.
Vena Sera will be immediately familiar to fans of the band's previous work. The album immediately feels comfortable. This also hinders the record, as there is little new here to look forward to. The subtle variability certainly makes Vena Sera more interesting than the bands previous release. However, if you aren't already a fan, Vena Sera isn't going to do much to win you over.