Chimaira “Crown Of Phantoms” (2013 -E1 Music-)
Founded in 1998 in Cleveland, Ohio and taking on a role in the musical movement that would come to be called the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, Chimaira are celebrating their fifteenth year of creative activity at the same time they are releasing their seventh studio album, Crown Of Phantoms.
While their career has always been defined by a certain amount of upheaval and numerous lineup changes, with vocalist Mark Hunter serving as the sole original member for some time, the last phase of Chimaira’s existence has been particularly volatile, with a complete lineup turnover since their last record, 2011’s The Age of Hell.
Crown Of Phantoms feels very much like a restart for the band after a time of drastic change, and as such it is schizophrenic in its writing and composition, and uneven in terms of quality. Chimaira have experimented with everything from metalcore and nu-metal to groove metal and traditional heavy metal over the course of their career, and their latest effort includes elements of all of these past experiments.
This seems very much a choice brought on by the fact that the band’s identity, and with it anew aesthetic, has get to fully solidify, and so while Chimaira’s sound is still recognizable, it is also oddly nebulous compared to their more recent out put, more mimicry than original passion.
The biggest flaw to Crown Of Phantoms is the wide variation in quality. The first four tracks are by far and away the weakest. While Chimaira’s usual stomping groove is still present, there is a blandness to these tracks that makes them difficult to get into. With “Plastic Wonderland” however, the quality picks up considerably, and the real bloody meat of the record can be found in the later tracks. “Spineless” is a harrowing, roaring track with vast energy, while “Wrapped In Violence” has a seething, searing rage that elevates the entire record.
Clearly still finding their feet with the new lineup, Chimaira seemed more vulnerable that usual on the uncertain Crown Of Phantoms. Above all else, the record could have benefited greatly from a harsh editorial voice, and may have emerged from the resulting cuts a tight and might more high quality EP rather than a sprawling and unsure full-length.
However, there are some moments of brilliance here, such as the guitar work on “Spineless,” which indicate that there will be stronger offerings to come in the future from Chimaira as they find their footing again.