When Chevelle popped up on the radar back in 2002 on the strength of singles The Red and Send the Pain Below, they came across as an Opiate/Undertow era Tool with slightly emo tendencies. While this approach gained them a substantial following, it also saw them ending up written off by a large chunk of the alternative metal audience as... well, an Opiate/Undertow era Tool with slightly emo tendencies. While it is true that their M.O. is a double-edged sword, Chevelle offered very creative songwriting on their major label debut (though second overall) Wonder What's Next, which they sadly weren't able to recreate on their subsequent efforts. While This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) and Vena Sera were at no loss for great songs boasting monster hooks and a solid piquancy, they were at a loss for consistency. Like fellow Maynard James Keenan disciple Will Martin's band Earshot, they were putting out albums that felt more like outstanding singles cluttered with an overabundance of B-sides.
On Sci-Fi crimes, not only do the songs sound great, but they do so unfailingly; there's no lull in the songwriting's quality, nor is there an overwhelming urge to simply skip ahead to any particular track. Even the lyrics have gotten better; true, there's still a lot of Gavin Rossdale reminiscent gibberish (though nothing as bad as Greedy Fly; I'd be impressed with the song that could top "I'm screaming daisies from fourteen miles away") but genuinely clever moments as well. "[Jars] is kind of a play on words," says drummer Sam Loeffler. "It’s saving the environment. It’s a joke about saving the environment and it’s about literally taking the earth, and putting it into jars to save it for later."
Jars, the lead single, is at the tail-end of a bruising opening, with the only breathers coming in Shameful Metaphors' verses. There's an ardent charisma to the fierceness though, primarily because the songs are so catchy. Some even have an almost post-hardcore sound, like Fell Into Your Shoes, which sounds like latter-day Deftones with more focus, or the furious, Helmet-recalling Roswell's Spell. Still, the most crushing moments are given their power from the record's impressive dynamics. In the softer moments, particularly on the acoustic Highland's Apparition, Pete Loeffler sounds more like Keenan than he probably ever has, which isn't a criticism so much as a less charitable way of saying he sounds pretty good. The song benefits from the spare arrangement, and it produces a very haunted atmosphere. The interlude, Interlewd (ha-ha), is a great break from the brutality as well, almost as well placed as Sevendust's Insecure from the Home album.
Granted, Sci-Fi Crimes isn't going to top any year-end lists, it hasn't revolutionized the genre, and it isn't any kind of departure from their already established sound. It is, however, a great showcase of all their strengths, and presents them in an accessible package on par with Wonder What's Next with a consistency that just isn't found that often in this genre.