As by-the-book as a hard-rock band can be, Chevelle doesn’t deviate much from its own branded sound on Hats Off To The Bull. Its sixth studio album checks off all the usual items: swoony vocals that build to an almost-scream; crunchy riffs that break down into even crunchier choruses; and an early ’00s radio-friendly appeal that neither offends nor really intrigues. It’s the same old stuff from Chevelle, to the point that that the laughably titled tracks “Clones” and “Same Old Trip” seem almost courageously self-referential.
While consistency can be commendable, it doesn’t do much for a band that was fairly bland to begin with. Bull has been touted as Chevelle’s return to an earlier, heavier sound—which it does seem to achieve at points, in a boilerplate alt-rock sort of way. Beefy basslines and throbbing guitars dominate most of the album, tempered by Pete Loeffler’s continued understudying of Maynard James Keenan’s pensive chorus structures. But where the latter pushes for complexity and feeling, Loeffler seems to opt for a dumbed-down—and entirely superficial— vocal delivery. The result is a dull wash of overwrought sentiment and doldrums rock. Hats Off is a predictably safe, middle-of-the-road album, which—for a band that tries so hard to build up a good rage—might be the worst offense of all.