Chevelle fill an interesting niche in popular alternative rock music; while they enjoy a moderate level of success, they have not allowed that level of success to force them to gravitate towards putting out the same recycled drivel that most of their peers do. Though that may be the case, that in itself does not mean that they are by any means experimental with their sound. They simply deviate a small amount from the constants of their formula to create slightly different-sounding albums. It’s simply what’s expected of them at this point in time, and there honestly is no reason for them to do anything differently. They have progressed steadily from album to album, with each being better than its predecessor. Vena Sera was an immense step forward from This Type of Thinking, adopting a slightly more aggressive tone in the songwriting and benefitting quite a bit from the presence of more apt bassist Dean Bernadini. Sci-Fi Crimes sees Chevelle making a similar leap, albeit in a different direction. Pete Loeffler, vocalist/guitarist of the trio mutes his screams and focuses on creating a much more vocally diverse, melodic record. This is Chevelle at their undeniably most mature with them even churning out a strong acoustic track (“Highland’s Apparition”), something that has eluded them for years. Loeffler masterfully uses his enigmatic vocals to match the equally confounding lyrical subject matter on Sci-Fi Crimes, this time focusing on subject matters such as UFOs and the paranormal.
“Sleep Apnea” starts the album off with thunderous double bass, something that hasn’t been very prevalent in past albums; other than that, this song unfortunately just doesn’t do anything new. It doesn’t go anywhere exciting or explore any new avenues of sound, and that honestly is the downfall of Sci-Fi Crimes in general. There aren’t too many fans of Chevelle expecting them to re-invent the wheel at this point, but the most frustrating aspect of that is the fact that they show so much promise on the stronger songs of this album. “Shameful Metaphors” starts off as an unassuming mid-paced track that morphs into one of the best in their discography when it hits the incredibly strong chorus. Loeffler does not trip over his generally cryptic use of words and ends up creating a very transparent, emotionally relatable song. “Fell Into Your Shoes” plays with an ethereal guitar line that explodes at the perfect moments into a muscular riff while Loeffler employs a falsetto that keeps it vocally interesting as well. One could certainly give credit where it is due in terms of what Chevelle have accomplished here; instead of gravitating towards writing the same song ten to twelve times and calling it a day, they went outside their comfort zone and created a few gems that will give listeners a more rewarding and varied album.
Alternative rock is a tricky thing; it is a genre tag that reeks of staleness and repetition. Trapt becomes Three Days Grace becomes Breaking Benjamin, and at the end of the day they all start to bleed into one another seamlessly. Chevelle have thus far successfully avoided being lumped in with bands of that caliber, but that is truly only half the battle. Their safe songwriting is slowly leading them down the path of anonymity, and fans that were expecting a huge leap forward will surely be disappointed with the final product. With the exception of a few stellar songs, it falls short of expectations and unfortunately feels like a missed opportunity for the band to realize their full potential.