I’ve always been quite a fan of Chevelle’s music. I think I first got into them thanks to the Daredevil movie soundtrack released in 2002 I think it was. Their hard hitting simple sound, powerful but borderline angelic vocals really resonated with me and have to this day. So when I heard Chevelle were recording and releasing a new album titled Hats Off To The Bull I couldn’t help but feel excited for what they would release.
Pete Loeffler stated a while back that Hats Off To The Bull would either be an acoustic album or it would be one of the heaviest things they’ve done. Although Pete has a great voice, an acoustic album wouldn’t sound nearly as good as a hard hitting, face melting Chevelle album and luckily on Hats Off To The Bull the guys have created one of the heaviest albums they’ve released since This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In).
After listening to this album a couple of times, I am in complete awe. I still can’t believe 3 guys created this, in almost every way this is a perfect Chevelle album. Simple, hard hitting and right to the point guitar riffs driven by prominent bass lines and excellent drum work. The simplicity and sheer genius of Chevelle’s music has always made them great in my opinion, no egos just 3 dudes playing instruments.
The opening track ‘Face To The Floor’ is classic Chevelle. It instantly reminds me of something that would have been on This Type Of Thinking (Could Do Us In), the simple repetitive guitar riff and slow build up to a heavy chorus. This song is anthemic in its own right, the lyrics are catchy and that guitar riff gets stuck in your head.
Hats Off To The Bull also sees Pete once again changing up guitar tunings and opting for a more modest tuning of dropped C. As far as I can tell, the whole album is played in dropped C which is a change from the lower tunings from previous albums. This might not mean much to others, but I’m a guitarist and this means tuning my guitar down to play Chevelle’s music is now a lot easier. Plus in my opinion dropped C works much better with Pete’s voice.
In my opinion the track ‘Ruse’ is easily one of the heaviest and best tracks on the album. It sounds like a b-side to (hate to make the comparison again) This Type Of Thinking (Could Do Us In). Only there isn’t really any screaming, it more-so sounds like Pete melodically crooning.
The track ‘Piñata’ upon first listen will really throw you off. The intro guitar riff sounds like something System of A Down would write, more specifically the track BYOB. This track then weaves in and out of slow chord driven verses then in the middle out of nowhere, there is a guitar solo! A guitar solo in a Chevelle song is about as rare a finding a briefcase of cash on your doorstep. This is one of the more enjoyable songs on the album, with Pete showcasing some new found vocal capabilities as well.
Even though Hats Off To The Bull is one of the heaviest albums they’ve done in a while, there are remnants of their sound from Sci-Fi Crimes and Vena Sera in a few of the songs. The song ‘Arise’ for example sounds like it would be a good fit for Sci-Fi Crimes and title track ‘Hats Off to the Bull’ sounds like it was lifted from Vena Sera most likely due to the fact it is driven by very prominent bass.
The production on this album is also a perfect compliment to a perfect album. Everything sounds beautifully mixed, the bass isn’t washed out, the guitars are beefy and heavy, the kick drum and cymbals in the drums department are mega loud just the way they should be on a Chevelle album. Joe Barresi did more than an amazing job on this album, and ironically enough he’s just started producing Tool’s upcoming studio album as well.
Hats Off To The Bull wouldn’t be a Chevelle album without the inclusion of an acoustic track. From memory every album Chevelle have released, they’ve always included one or two acoustic tracks. The track ‘Prima Donna’ is a radio-friendly acoustic song that kind of has a haunting dark feel to it. This track is nice reprieve from the heavy chaos the rest of the album places upon you.
If I were to pick something wrong with this album it would be that I am not particularly a fan of the track ‘Same Old Trip’, the intro is awesome, but that thing that Pete does with his voice where he goes from high to really high quite abruptly kind of throws me off from liking this song. Who knows, it might grow on me and it is still a great track, just not as great as some of the other songs on this album. The inclusion of Pete and Sam’s sister Natalie doing guest vocals works extremely well in this song.
From a band and personal perspective I really respect Chevelle. A lot of bands that have been around as long as Chevelle develop this attitude, somehow like they feel they have this sense of entitlement. Chevelle to me always has and always will be (unless they go and release a dubstep album) 3 guys in a room writing and performing great music without the need to feel as though they have to be something they’re not.
This is easily one of the best hard rock albums released in 2011, and might be a last minute contender for a few people’s AOTY lists as well. The lyrics on this album feel honest, and I can’t help but notice Pete has subtly upped the ante in both the song-writing department as well as the singing department too. Chevelle prove they’re good at what they do without the egos a rare trait for a rock band to have that has been around for over a decade.
Overall this is one impressive album, one of the best albums Chevelle have released in a long time and it definitely won’t disappoint old and new Chevelle fans alike. Whether you’re a fan of Sci-Fi Crimes or a fan of Wonder What’s Next there is something on this album for everyone.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10.