Mainstream Album Review: Chevelle – NIRATIAS
Throughout the past 8 months, I’ve visited my local record shop about 20 times, since the restrictions were lifted enough to visit in person (masked and socially distanced, of course) looking for heavy metal, prog rock, or R&B vinyls. But for a moment in this year 2021, the Year of our Lord, I sought something different: the new album by famous radio [hard] rockers Chevelle. Yes, you know their name, as modern rock radio has played [the hit single] from each of their albums for the past two decades, give or take. So you might be asking yourselves, “why is an underground heavy metal blogger reviewing Chevelle?!?!” Simply put, it’s because Nothing Is Real And This Is A Simulation is one of the best albums of the year, even if it’s only metal-adjacent.
Quick background info: before I got into heavy metal, I was into hard rock. Back in those days I found little to no heroes. Then in 2004 Chevelle released This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) and I was hooked. To this day, it remains a masterpiece to my ears. In the years since I loosely followed their career because by that time it was time for HEAVY METAL!
Okay, background over. It’s 2021 and every vinyl I own fits into one of the following genres: metal, prog rock, Finland, classic R&B, and good country. Chevelle’s new album NIRATIAS has found a welcoming home in this home, and I’ll tell you why with a simple bullet-point presentation:
- Let’s start with the hooks…
Now here is the problem—and feel free to blame me for this—but you’re hearing the worst possible quality of this track in the above embed. I think that because of our listening habits, we find ourselves overhearing the occasional modern radio rock song on shit platforms like YouTube and Spotify. When’s the last time you’ve heard a mainstream hit on a hi-fi system with great speakers? Right now I promise you that jamming “Self Destructor” on a solid stereo system is a game changer. Pete Loeffler’s vocals are simply spellbinding, with gorgeous, crooning, melodic lines and then moments later pained screams. I know, I know it’s not death metal; but this guy has the chops to contend with any of the masters. Immediately following is “Mars Simula” with a hook that will worm its way into your brain after the first listen. Dude can scream.
- About the songwriting:
With my novice-level experience, I must admit that I cannot pinpoint a single previous album of theirs that matches this one in terms of creative album construction. Its overall composition of long(ish) rock songs, interspersed with both short segues and instrumental passages, will cement this sucker into the pantheon of “progressive” rock albums (if only people give it a fair chance). Track #1, “Verrukt,” is a guitar-centric instrumental that breaches the three-minute mark but never wears out its welcome as an intro song. The Loeffler brothers have consistently and slowly added more intricate guitar leads over the years even approaching—GASP—some solos, which is perfectly exemplified in these first few minutes. It gives us a glimpse of what’s to come.
- But what about the riffs, maaaaaaaaan?
They’re really good! No, it’s nothing that would quality for Tech Death Thursdays, but it’s obvious that these brothers are skilled at writing a skilled and simultaneously catchy riff. As mentioned earlier, they kinda sorta craft a few bridges which approach the realm of “guitar solo” and I appreciate that. There’s enough interesting guitar play at hand to skyrocket this above anything we commonly call radio rock. Proof can be found here:
- The overall listening experience?
From firsthand experience I can confidently tell you that NIRATIAS is an engaging experience from the moment you let the needle drop until it concludes around 45 minutes later. Every song is both instantly memorable and repeatedly enjoyable, able to singularly stand on its own but also coherently fitting into the overall concept of this album. With the hard rock mastery that the Loeffler brothers bring to the table, one could credit them on ensuring every detail adds up to a work that shall promulgate them as masters of modern hard rock. Sure I’ll point out the one most prominent blemish on this record—except that it’s kinda good—and that’s how the second half eases off the intensity of the first. But it fits. It all fits.
This record excels in almost every aspect, to the point where I can confidently call it their best since their career highlight This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In). Tracks like “Self-Destructor” and “Piistol Star (Gravity Heals)” are so excellent that my interest in the the band has been reinvigorated. I’ve sampled a few of their past releases and none of them stack up, whether it’s the production or songwriting quality. If this is their final release—and they’ve threatened thusly—it’s an utterly phenomenal swansong. If I have one minor complaint, it’s that the penultimate song, “Ghost and Razor,” feels oddly out of place with the flow of the album; also it’s a complete Tool rip-off (and Tool is not a good).
I love this album and it’s absolutely perfect for a vinyl release, at home with the lights off and speakers turned way up. Smoke a joint for additional appreciation. It’s been spun over and over again without growing old… Chevelle has knocked it out of the park with their incredible 2021 release Nothing Is Real and This Is a Simulation. Though it’s no underground, old school, barely-legible-font death metal release, this one begs your attention. It is another career-defining moment for the Loeffler brothers.