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Chevelle: Looking Back At Lifeblood

The album cover for Vena Sera.

Seventeen years ago today, Chevelle released their fourth album, “Vena Sera.” The title translates in Latin roughly to “vein liquids.” The album consisted of new material and revisited demos and was recorded at the Palms Hotel studio in Las Vegas under producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette.

“It basically just means our lifeblood is music,” frontman Pete Loeffler said in an interview on The Sauce. “It’s so hard to take 11 songs and put a title on them. It was the last thing to come.”

This was also the band’s first release with their new lineup. Despite being composed of three brothers, the group had a pernicious relationship behind the scenes, which resulted in bassist Joe Loeffler’s departure in 2005.

“I mean, we never got along anyway,” Pete said in a 2018 hardDrive Radio interview. “He quit three times, and then the fourth time he quit, we just finally took him up on it. It wasn’t that big of a deal because he didn’t want to spend time writing. … He learned the songs in the studio after they were written. It wasn’t something he cared about.”

However, the sanctity of the Loeffler Brother Band was saved when Dean Bernardini, Sam and Pete’s brother-in-law, stepped in as their new bass guitarist.

“Having a different person come in at this stage in their career, I think it helps,” Bernardini said on Sony Entertainment Beyond Access. “They never really had someone else to go to besides a producer, and I’m kind of like a best friend and a brother.”

The addition of a third collaborator was a huge asset for the band. There was now a more cohesive creative process, and as a fellow drummer, Bernardini brought a fresh set of eyes to the skins.

“As far as drums go, if [Pete] would write everything it would be four on the floor,” Sam said in a 2008 interview with Pearl Drums. “It’s up to Dean and I to make it go somewhere. So I try to work within his idea of what drumming is and what’s interesting to me.”

Since their debut, “Point #1,” Chevelle has strayed into the darker, more unnerving side of rock alongside the likes of Deftones and Tool. This is mainly thanks to their change from D to a heavier drop B-tuning when writing their double-platinum sophomore release, “Wonder What’s Next,” and their penchant for stewing at a slower tempo. 

The record debuted at No. 12 in the U.S. which was worse than their previous No. 8 release, “This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In).” Pete blamed media sharing for the low sales.

“Technology and sharing overwhelmed people and it was too easy to get the album from your friend than drive down to the record store and pick it up,” Pete told the Illinois Entertainer. “It’s the worst time in history to start a rock band.”

“Vena Sera” marks a significant moment in Chevelle’s growth as a band because it feels like they’ve come into their own as songwriters and composers. WWN was steeped in murky territory while their next release, “This Type of Thinking,” was more of a scattershot, with the band trying out a range of new sounds and tunings. This time around, they know where their strength lies, both sonically and lyrically.

“We made a decision a long time ago to not rhyme in songs,” Sam said to Artisan News Service.

That’s shocking from a songwriting perspective, but “Saferwaters” is proof that their formula holds up. The song starts heavy before relaxing into a pre-chorus where Pete’s guitar hits like soft sun rays. While wailing out in a lighter D-tuning, Pete paints an abstract picture of someone fighting against the current to get back to where they belong. 

“You mock the place where I exist / That world is calling, so I’m crawling back to sea / Against the surge of waves that / Held us, with that ancient grip beneath / Retreat to safer waters,” he sings.

The lead single, “Well Enough Alone,” kicks off with a three-click count-in from Sam, then Pete screams his head off, ripping through the key of D on guitar. Sam keeps the song pushing with his spastic kick pattern then, as Pete chugs to the chorus, opens up the hi-hat to create a three-over-four polyrhythm while still driving forward, lining up the bass drum with Bernardini’s bassline.

The album has its grittier side as well, with tracks such as the Bernardini-led “Antisaint,” a nod to their usual slow-burn style, and “The Fad,” which finds Pete screeching through the chorus inspired by their time at the Palms.

“The song [“The Fad”] is about those pretty boys who get all done up in their expensive clothes and that whole club scene, which you run into a lot out here in Vegas,” Pete said to MTV. “So we kind of poke fun at that whole scene, where you’ve gotta look like you’re wearing $10,000 worth of clothing. I think it’s ridiculous.”

On “Straight Jacket Fashion” Sam shows off his chops with blast beats and Pete puts on one of his best vocal performances, caressing the mic one second and abusing it the next. “I Get It” finds strength in its straightforward approach – the song is just Pete antagonizing someone in an argument as the band does their thing. 

“You’re right / I get it / It all makes sense, you’re the perfect person / So bright, so wrong / Let’s all live in your imaginary life”.

Chevelle’s fourth album is often harped on for abandoning the grisly sound that had fans hooked or for being overproduced, but the record’s impact is undeniable. These tracks served as a meaningful point of exploration for the band and remain some of their best-to-date in a catalog full of hits.

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Sean Stroud
Sean Stroud, Editor in Chief

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