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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Wonder What's Next

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Nov
Wonder What's Next
Sounds like … a less experimental version of Tool meets classic Helmet (otherwise known as commanding vocals over jolting guitars and chest-thumping bass beats)At a Glance … former Squint signees break out of the underground and find major-label support for their much more confident and authoritative sophomore effort.

It's all in the family when it comes to Chicagoland's hard-rocking trio Chevelle, comprised of brothers Pete, Joe, and Sam Loeffler, a group who just three years ago burst out of the suburban setting onto a national platform with their debut release Point #1. Released by Steve Taylor's Squint Entertainment (a Word Records imprint), the project earned the attention of both the Christian and mainstream rock worlds, propelling the group's single "Mia" into regular MTV and radio rotation and the band onto the road with fellow Windy City rockers Filter ("Take a Picture," "Hey Man, Nice Shot"). But like then-labelmates Sixpence None the Richer (now signed with Reprise), the brothers Loeffler were burned by Squint in the midst of the company's shakeups and ended their contract at the peak of such exposure.

Most bands don't get even one chance to strut their stuff on a national level, let alone a second shot at the big time, but Chevelle managed to do so after the Filter tour, maintaining their loyal following on the Chicago club circuit while constantly writing new material. Such determination, despite their mounds of career distress, was a point of attraction for Epic Records, who eventually gave Chevelle the chance to start anew. Even then the group had to remain patient as their release date was pushed back multiple times. But a summer run on the second stage of the Ozzfest Tour built up enough buzz for Wonder What's Next to debut at #14 on Billboard's album charts, spawning the runaway first single "The Red."

The track is one of the many that showcase Chevelle's ability to stray from the nu-metal flash-in-the-pan formulas that will see peers such as Default, Nickelback, and fellow Chicagoans Disturbed disappear just as quickly as they came. Songs such as the album's allusion to sibling rivalry, "Family System," and the temptation allegory "An Evening With El Diablo" resound with a slicing Tool/Living Sacrifice-like rhythmic concentration, while the complacency bashing "Comfortable Liar" and forceful spiritual plea of "Grab Thy Hand" sport mounting vocal pandemonium across razor sharp instrumental adrenaline rushes. Pete's personal angst, on songs such as "Send the Pain Below," makes the violent vocals and musical snarls all the more authentic and believable. However, he's quick to balance such chaotic heights and justified rage with vocal clarity and melodic tendencies on a couple of occasions. Cuts such as "Don't Fake This" and "Forfeit" are the album's best examples of his ability to sing rather than scream, as bassist Joe and drummer Sam set up listeners for a no-nonsense head-banging brawl.

Not every song on the album revolves around such testosterone-induced intensity, as cuts such as "Closure" and "One Lonely Visitor" show an even more sensitive side of Chevelle. On the first, Pete's voice ranges from his typical dictating tone, flushed out with more melodic melodrama, as rippling guitar crunches ease away from the usually piecing strums. "One Lonely Visitor" shows Chevelle in their most vulnerable state with a simple, lightly distorted acoustic guitar accompanying a series of chilling harmonies during which the Loefflers sing of overcoming forlorn abandonment.

Fans who have followed the group since their Christian rock beginnings are most likely curious about the record's spiritual direction, which despite careful dissection is still somewhat challenging to determine. The group's primary songwriter, Pete, is very descriptive on everything from the band's recent struggles ("Wonder What's Next") to dealing with grief ("Send the Pain Below") to his analysis of an out-of-control mosh pit ("Forfeit"). With the exception of "Grab Thy Hand," clearly an angst-filled cry to be in God's presence, don't expect to find overt religious references here. However, even the group's most righteous listeners will find that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Unlike the hardcore/nu-metal company the band keeps, listeners will find nothing offensive or crude on Wonder What's Next, showing that Chevelle has stood their ground when it comes to their faith and wholesomeness. They've just chosen to focus the latest chapter of their career on music rather than ministry. As for the immediate future of these brothers, expect continued touring (with Slipknot's side project Stone Sour and fellow shock rockers Sinch) on the immediate horizon. Chances are Chevelle will return to the road after those outings to show off their renewed vigor while continuing to revel in the fact they've defied the typical sophomore slump.