Crown of Phantoms
01. The Machine
02. No Mercy
03. All That’s Left Is Blood
04. I Despise
05. Plastic Wonderland
06. The Transmigration
07. Crown Of Phantoms
09. Kings Of The Shadow World
10. Wrapped In Violence
11. Love Soaked Death
One of metal’s greatest attributes lies in it’s variation and the many different forms it can take. Perhaps more than any other genre of music, metal has bred some of the most distinctive and individualistic sounds from any of it’s predecessors, giving birth to a whole slew of subgenres. Thrash metal, death metal, djent, deathcore, metalcore, post-metal, melodic death metal, technical death metal, progressive metal, groove metal, black metal….as one can tell, the list goes on and on, and while this variation is undoubtedly wonderful, it an be a bit daunting at times. Sometimes, it’s nice to listen to band that doesn’t necessarily transcend each of these genres, but one that takes elements from each of them and cohesively combines them into a vicious stew of metallic onslaught, one that can only be described as METAL. That’s where Chimaira comes in.
Chimaira are no strangers to the scene. Since their inception in 1998, Chimaira have been one of the leaders of the NWOAHM movement, and have consistently pumped out quality metal beatdowns whose sole purposes are to get blood pumping and bodies moving in the pit. Each of their albums has displayed a fair amount progression, but their essence has always remained, in large part thanks to the explosive guitar duo of founding member Rob Arnold and his longtime partner-in-crime, Matt DeVries. What a curveball it was, then, when in 2011, both Arnold and DeVries announced their departure from Chimaira. Fans around the world cried blasphemy, and some were even bold enough to share sentiments such as “R.I.P Chimaira” in the many corners of the internet. Many wondered how the band could go on without contributions from it’s most powerful creative forces. In fact, as of 2011, the only original remaining member of Chimaira was frontman Mark Hunter, and in a time where Hunter could have easily chosen to call it quits or start another band, he understood that at this point, Chimaira had transcended being simply a specific group of certain musicians; it was an institution, an ideal, and a way of life for him and for it’s many fans, and he chose to rebuild.
Replacing such heavyweights as Arnold and DeVries, who are highly-respected and well-established musicians is no easy task, but a safe place to start would be with Dååth guitar virtuoso Emil Werstler and former Dirge Within guitarist Matt Szlachta. Hunter also recruited two of Werstler’s Dååth bandmates, Jeremy Creamer (bass) and Sean Z. (vocals/keyboard), and rounded out the lineup with ex-Bleed the Sky drummer Austin D’amond. While these lineup changes are evident on the band’s latest opus, Crown of Phantoms, Chimaira’s essence still remains very prevalent, and with this evolution, Chimaira have crafted an album that stands up well next to their classics. They haven’t sounded this violent or focused since The Impossibility of Reason.
First off, let’s get one thing straight: this album has GROOVE for days. Chimaira is infamous for their unfailing ability to groove, and the change in members has not sacrificed any of Chimaira’s signature groove. From the opening lick of “The Machine” to the final notes of “Love Soaked Death”, the entire album beckons a bobbing neck. It’s immediately clear that Emil Werstler and Matt Szlachta have adapted Arnold’s and DeVries’ signature styles uncannily, but they still maintain an originality all their own. The most notable difference in the guitar work not only lies in the songwriting, which is not surprisingly reminiscent of Dååth’s work, but in Werstler’s lead work as well. Whether he’s shredding a solo over Szlachta’s tight rhythm riffs, or complimenting with an interesting melodic line, the lead guitar work here is nothing short of impressive; it’s colorful, bold, and, not to belittle Arnold’s style, but it stands out much more this time around than on any other Chimaira release. In other words, it’s natural continuation of what was only hinted at on “Samsara” from The Age of Hell. The rhythm section is equally as impressive; when Creamer and D’amond lock into each other, they’re unstoppable, supplying a solid backbone to the chaos, complete with tasteful drum flourishes and all.
The implementation of new creative forces in Chimaira have allowed the band to create songs very different from anything they’ve ever done before. There are, of course, the signature mosh-inducing anthems, such as “All That’s Left is Blood”, “Spineless”, and the title track, as well as an ambient piece midway through the album, but the final tracks on the album are prime examples of this change in style. “Kings of the Shadow World” is perhaps the most technically complex and dynamic song Chimaira have ever written, and it’s arguably the strongest cut from Crown of Phantoms. This track has it all; floor-stomping grooves, a dark melody, one of Werstler’s best solos, and even a melancholic piano interlude and outro. “Wrapped in Violence” is a very experimental-sounding piece by comparison to the rest of Chimaira’s work, and Werstler’s ties to Dååth are more evident here in his alien-like guitar work than anywhere else on the album. Hunter’s instantly recognizable bark remains intact and he sounds as blistering as ever, even if his lyrics are somewhat predictable, and frankly, recycled.
Overall, this is a very satisfying and effective reinvention of Chimaira. Many bands before have endured similar changes and have failed in trying to reinvent themselves. Such is not the case with Chimaira. Everything on Crown of Phantoms is vaguely familiar yet strangely different, and those unfamiliar with Chimaira’s drastic changes might not even notice it was an entirely different band. Chimaira have once again defied death and proved that they are a resilient force, one that even when faced with death, will persevere and become even more powerful. Heavy lies the Crown of Phantoms.
Chimaira – Crown of Phantoms gets…