March 5, 2021 Chevelle – NIRATIAS (Album Review)
In 1995 two brothers and a friend decided to make a band. Their names were Pete and Sam Loeffler, and accompanied by friend Matt Scott, the trio began a tumultuous journey that would continue for another 25 years and counting. Scott left the group early in their career and after two more line-up changes, with the 2019 departure of former Bassist Dean Bernardini, Chevelle is back to basics and currently comprises only the dynamic Loeffler duo.
Over the course of their career, Chevelle has enjoyed incredible success with Platinum and Gold records, and chart-topping singles like “The Red,” which peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts, and later, “Send the Pain Below,” which peaked at No. 1 on the same chart in 2003. Now, after eight studio albums and a five-year hiatus, Chevelle has returned to the scene with their ninth album, NIRATIAS, released on March 5, 2021, on Epic Records.
Exploring themes of space, science, and reality, NIRATIAS (which stands for “Nothing Is Real And This Is A Simulation”) opens with something unusual for the band, an all-instrumental track, “Verruckt.” While definitely not of the same gravitas, there are hints of Tool-like vibes in this opener that are appealing and instinctively let familiar listeners know that this album will be a little different than the usual Chevelle fare; immediately offering the listener a more spacey and heady experience than what most have come to expect from the band.
“Sleep the Deep” is a brief interlude with a syncopation that is both atmospheric and unnerving. Like music from a Horror movie, the one-minute and seven-second bridge to “Self Destructor” is brief but eerie and effective. Released as the lead single earlier this year, and introducing the world to the new sound of Chevelle, “Self Destructor” has the soul of their work from La Gargola with an added spacey-ness to it. Add to that the song lyrically targets and vilifies science-deniers—and despite not having been written over the last year of the pandemic, but rather a full year before in 2019—we see the guys hitting on timeless conflicts in a new way. It’s heavy, but not as crunchy or thunderous as some of their previous work. This becomes a trend throughout the entire album, posing the question of whether this is just the result of Bernardini’s absence and Pete finding his way through the low-end.
“Piistol Star (Gravity Heals)” is an atmospheric track with excellent moments of string work that demonstrate Pete’s string abilities. It’s bouncy, compelling, and bright while still carrying a darker moodiness. The deceptive thing about this song is that just when the listener thinks it’s going to end one way, Pete takes us out with screams until the piercing and sharp end. This then transitions down the “VVurmhole” to be brought directly into “Peach,” another pre-released single that advanced the album. Here the guys give the bass a little more light to shine. While nothing revelatory, it does hit differently than its predecessors with its composition and crunchiness. There are plenty of Hats off to the Bull vibes here that will make any Chevelle fan not only happy but nostalgic.
“Test Test…Enough” is an interesting two-minute sonic journey that rolls right into the soft lamentation of “Endlessly.” Here Chevelle slows it down and delivers a lighter version of the angst they’re usually associated with that is tinged with a sense of longing hope. The moments that upswell on this track are beautiful deviations from the usual that are more uptempo, evocative, and give the percussion a moment to shine a bit. “Remember When” turns the dial back up with its sharp strings and snare. It is here that the band gives fans a throwback vibe with some very “Send The Pain Below” essence present, especially in the chorus. Then closing things out are “Ghost and Razor” and “Lost in Digital Woods.” “Ghost and Razor” has some of the heaviest moments on the album and the most attitude. It’s darker and broodier than many of its predecessors, both instrumentally and lyrically. For those looking for some of the best blending between “old Chevelle” and “new Chevelle,” “Ghost and Razor” is an interesting amalgamation of what they’ve always done and what they wanted to do here.
“Lost In Digital Woods” closes out NIRATIAS in a spoken word over piano that eventually devolves into what seems to be ambient nature sounds followed by echoic guitar that is easily the best part of the track. In parts strange and unusual as well as unnerving, this is how Chevelle ends the journey and thus ends the simulation.
One thing Chevelle has mastered over the course of their career is consistency. When fans dive into new Chevelle music, they know exactly what they’re getting and NIRATIAS is no exception. Here the band is playing to their strengths with some outliers of experimentation for fun. While there are some pitfalls on the lack of depth in the low-end, overall, this album delivers more of the same Chevelle core sound with a heady theme. So, Cryptic Rock gives NIRATIAS 3 out of 5 stars.