Written by Jennifer Moglia
Released on March 5th, 2021, American melodic hardcore band Chevelle’s ninth studio album “Niratias” came at the perfect time. An acronym standing for “Nothing Is Real And This Is A Simulation”, this is an album built around a world you’d see in a science fiction novel in all of the best ways, and we were lucky enough to meet it roughly one year into living through a global pandemic and health crisis.
Since releasing their debut “Point #1” over 20 years ago in 1999, Chevelle has remained one of the most consistently great bands in the modern alternative scene. They’ve crafted an incredibly unique, undeniably recognizable sound over the past few decades, and each announcement of a new record filled fans with joy, knowing that they’d get another collection of amazing songs.
However, unlike their two most recent LPs, 2016’s “The North Corridor” and 2014’s “La Gargola”, “Niratias” is more of an experience than an album. Complete with instrumental tracks, ambient noise, and some of their best lyrics to date, this is more than your run-of-the-mill rock album.
“Niratias” opens with “Verruckt”, which clocks in at almost four minutes long and zero lyrics found throughout its runtime. Beginning a record with an instrumental track could be seen as a bold move, and one that might ultimately fail, but it helps to set the scene for all that is to come, chugging guitar riffs transporting listeners to the alternate universe that these songs exist in.
Track two, “So Long, Mother Earth”, sees Pete Loeffler sing on this record for the first time, and it’s a welcome debut. The contrast between his softer and harsher vocal deliveries is as amazing as ever, and this five-minute anthem has one of the more memorable choruses on the LP.
“Mars Simula” is significantly heavier, but has lyrical content similar to that of the previous track, with the narrator leaving “Earth” for “another planet”, or perhaps leaving a less-than-ideal situation in their lives for something better. The repetition of “I’m on my way to Mars, get going” as the song finishes is a great touch.
Up next is a one-minute instrumental interlude of sorts titled “Sleep the Deep”, potentially getting its title from the fact that, sonically, this track sounds like a lullaby from a horror movie before fading perfectly into “Self Destructor”, the record’s lead single. This song has the classic Chevelle sound that fans have come to know and love, with incredibly relevant lyrics and harsh sonic changes that somehow flow together; you can read more in our full review of this track here!
Track six, “Piistol Star (Gravity Heals)” is much more upbeat than the rest of “Niratias” thus far, and the change of pace is definitely a good thing. It’s certainly one of the stronger songs on the record, and its runtime of just under five minutes isn’t a drag at all; in fact, you’ll probably be left wanting more once it’s over.
“VVurmhole” is another lyric-less interlude, consisting of 20 seconds of ambient noise and futuristic sound effects before transitioning seamlessly into “Peach”, my personal favorite song on this album. Initially released as the second single, this track explores narcissism and how figures of authority treat those who are below them; the lyrical content here is scathing, attacking even, driven by a steady guitar riff and Loeffler’s frantic vocal delivery.
Falling on the shorter side in terms of runtime, “Test Test..Enough” is only two minutes and eight seconds long, and has just a few lines, “First, last, most / More, you bastard / Test, me, in these ways”, before the repeated word, “Enough.” Chevelle allows one guitar to do most of the talking here, and on an album so complex, the simplicity is refreshing, even engaging.
Another one of the stronger moments on “Niratias”, “Endlessly” slows things down both sonically and lyrically, the muted instrumentals letting Loeffler’s passionate writing and delivery take center stage. This song seems to tell the story of a relationship and how things like fear, pain, separation and isolation have pushed it to ultimately grow towards better things.
While Chevelle and other bands classified under the umbrella of melodic hardcore or alternative rock are normally known for heavy instrumentals and angry lyrics, this five minutes of vulnerability is one of the group’s best tracks to date. The lines aren’t too specific about what kind of relationship Loeffler might be singing about, leaving it open for nearly all fans to be able to relate to the experience of having a hard time letting go of someone or something that you love, but knowing that it’s for the best for everyone involved.
Things pick back up with “Remember When”, the third single dropped prior to the full album being released. This is a fun, energetic track, and serves as a respite from the emotional weight of the previous song.
The second to last song “Ghost and Razor” is another longer one at just under six minutes, but each second of it is a full experience. The distortion on Loeffler’s voice paired with the soaring guitars make for a highly enjoyable track before this record comes to a close.
“Lost in Digital Woods” is probably one of the most haunting songs you’ll hear this year, and it comes as a shock from Chevelle. Loeffler speaks his lyrics in an almost defeated-sounding voice, accompanied by just a piano and minimal other sounds in the background.
Lyrically, this song is a perfect closer, with lines about obedience and rebelling, confidence and consequences, and how important it is to stand up for what you believe in at the end of the day, even if no one understands. The second half of this track is instrumental, with feedback sounds and ambient noises filling the listeners’ ears for nearly a full two minutes, being the last thing that they hear before “Niratias” is done.
Photo via Chevelle
I think that one year into the COVID-19 pandemic was the perfect time for this to be released; everyone was starting to get a little bit restless, especially music fans, and they needed something new, something weird, even, to shock their systems a bit. Furthermore, it’s clear that this band is still killing it and fans are still eating it up 20+ years into their career; this was their fifth album to debut in the Billboard 200 and their third in the past ten years to do so, hitting number nine after pushing 28,000 units in its first week.
An atmospheric concept album of sorts was something that Chevelle had never done before, and over two decades into releasing music, it’s certainly a commendable feat to attempt even if it didn’t work, but here’s the thing; it does work, and it works perfectly. The band is able to maintain the sound that fans have come to love and expect from them and try out new things both lyrically and sonically, all while telling a cohesive story about self-discovery, anarchy, and relationships in outer space; put simply, Chevelle’s “Niratias” is a masterpiece.
Chevelle’s out-of-this-world ninth studio album is available to stream wherever you listen to music; you can support the band by picking up some merch, including signed and unsigned copies of “Niratias” on both CD and vinyl in addition to merch items based on the new record, and following them on Twitter @ChevelleInc. If you’ve listened to the LP, let us know what you thought by tweeting us @lgndsoftmrw!