Review Summary: A new beginning for technically a new band..all signs point to a promising run if it all holds together.
Reasoning must be impossible with Mark Hunter because he refuses to let Chimaira Pass out of Existence. We’ve already had the Resurrection. We’ve survived The Infection and The Age of Hell, now its time to wear a Crown of Phantoms.
The definition of the mythical beast known as ‘Chimera’ is described as ‘A monstrous fire-breathing female and male creature, composed of the parts of three animals, a Lion a Snake and a Goat. Usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended in a snake's head, it is a thing of immortal make.
Immortal is very fitting when it comes to describing Ohio metal band Chimaira. They are a band that can boast eleven previous members since its incarnation in 1998. If you include the current incarnation of Chimaira then seventeen people have contributed to the history of the band. It’s a turnaround of musicians that fits very well into the description of the ‘Chimera’ beast being that it is made up of various parts and nothing being able to kill it.
The one element that has remained a permanent fixture throughout the history of Chimaira and the glue which holds everything together is vocalist Mark Hunter. Having suffered such a massive loss of members in 2010/11 there is not oneperson on earth who would have been surprised if he had decided to shut up shop and wonder the vast metal wasteland looking for a new home.
But this is Mark Hunter and this Is Chimaira. Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Chimaira would be forging ahead with a new lineup, a new lineup consisting of more than capable additions. Hunter assembled Emile Werstler, Jeremy Creamer and Sean Zatorsky from the impressive Dååth to handle lead guitar, backing vocals, samples and bass duties, Austin D’amond from Bleed The Sky/The Elite on drums and to finish the new lineup Matt Szlachta from Dirge Within was drafted in on rhythm guitar to complete Chimaira version 2.7.
With a new lineup announced the backlash began. Fans attacked Mark Hunter with a torrent of abuse, claiming that he is flogging a dead horse and that this is merely a Chimaira cover band, claims were being made that the legacy of Chimaira is being spat upon. Not reacting to the criticism Hunter remained professional and knuckled down. First by touring the new lineup and then announcing plans for a new album promised for release in 2013.
So here we are around the mid point of 2013 and the release of Crown of Phantoms. A successful Indiegogo campaign had deposited 60k into the Chimaira coffers and the machine now had fuel to silence its doubters.
Crown of Phantoms is everything you want form a Chimaira record. To the casual fan which strolls into a store and picks it up will more than likely on first listen think it is the same lineup responsible for previous releases. And that is the key, no attempt has been made to compromise the Chimaira sound, each new member is crafting a new future for the band while respecting the past and maintaining those crucial Chiamira elements. By keeping the same name for the band they realize they can’t all of a sudden put out a record that sounds like Meshuggah crossed with Mumford and Sons and expect to get away with, they have a loyal fan base that know what they like to hear when Chimaira is making its way from speaker to ear.
From the second you hear Mark Hunters voice you realize that having a little faith has paid off, his vocal delivery is vintage Chimaira, the anger and precision in which he sounds off is comforting to any longstanding fan of the band. Emile Werstler plays with all the energy and creativity you are hoping for, his solo work adds a new dimension to the songs, no solo outstays its welcome everything here is precise.
Sean Zatorsky adds depth, and just when you think a track is dropping off he picks it right back up. And when a vocal part needs enhancing he proves more than capable. Each member of the band is pulling their weight especially drummer Austin D’amond. The most refreshing element to Crown of Phantoms is in Austins drumming style. Where in the past drum sections on a Chimaira record have always been strong they have at times been fairly formulaic, Austin is keeping the tempo fast, his fills are far from predictable, his foot work at times is staggered yet structured, it really does raise the bar for the whole album, in a word its exciting.
Each track sticks to a rough 4 minute mark, enough time for everyone to shine. There is a small instrumental at the mid way point which allows for a small breather before you are plunged straight back in the deep end. I don’t feel the need to do a track by track analysis here as there really is no weak spots on this album. A personal favorite of mine is Plastic Wonderland, it showcases the talent of every member, its going to be a big time crowd pleaser at shows.
Crown Of Phantoms is a confident step in the right direction for a band who are leading the way in adapting to an ever changing music industry, an industry with dwindling physical media sales and record labels less and less willing to really support the industry from the grass roots we needs bands like Chimaira to stand tall and lead the way. Long may they continue.