Crown of PhantomsFeatured review by: UG Team, on august 01, 2013 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: It was the death of the band they loved, they said. The fans didn't recognise the changed face of this group; they felt that while they may be talented, the new guys were not the band they once knew. Not a single one was on the lineup for their last album in 2011, besides the ever-present frontman. But, inspired by the death and reincarnation of classic lineups through metal history (see: "Heaven & Hell," "Rust in Peace"), Mark Hunter has pressed on, brought his new guys in and is ready to make music again. Straight to business, then, for the newly-spliced Chimaira.
The groove metal veterans' personal drama has been rumbling for the best part of three years now, but it's settled finally on a draft of four new members, handpicked to redesign the Chimaira sound for a new era. "Crown of Phantoms" is by far the most technically accomplished album in the band's catalogue. While all previous incarnations would inevitably break from the right hand workouts once in a while, this one evolves them, taking in more intricate grooves that reflect the changing landscape of rhythmically-oriented metal. "The Machine" retains the band's signature bite but tracks like "Kings of the Shadow World" run the gamut of diving djentisms to metalcore breakdowns with assured intricacy. Meanwhile, the electronic charges of "Wrapped in Violence" and folk-tinged acoustic interlude "The Transmigration" offer some variety, admittedly not the band's strongest point. Dth guitarist Emil Werstler has considerable influence on a seven-string, with riffs hitting tough low As and a handful of tracks passing briefly through the esoteric moods of his original outfit.
Most impressive by far, though, is drummer Austin D'Amond. He joined shortly after "The Age of Hell" in 2011 and makes quite the splash on his recorded debut. In fact, he makes three or four splashes on every groove, hyperactively smashing his smaller cymbals to indent each chunk of synchronised riffing. The new band's notable chemistry (and their capacity to lock into such a wide range of new rhythms) is almost entirely down to his leadership, while the polish comes courtesy of longtime producer Ben Schigel. // 7
Lyrics: It normally gets a little bit Guns N' Roses when there's a lone frontman guarding the revolving door of backing musicians, but fifteen years' experience writing metal lyrics helps Mark Hunter in getting to the essence of his performance during what must have been a difficult period. Although his bark is one-dimensional, he would be loath to lose it considering it's the one thing left on the album that is unequivocally Chimaira. Lyrically he's fed on the usual diet of violence and resentment, struggling to offer much clarity or any great insights into the lives we lead, but ultimately serving par for the course in contemporary metal. This line from the "Wrapped in Violence" or less sums it up: "F--k yesterday, we're here to stay a cloudy haze will forever define us." // 7
Overall Impression: Few predicted Chimaira would come back with this kind of conviction or heaviness, but sadly some fans won't be around to hear it. They won't feel the gratification of a successful album from a band who others had written off. It may not be the most creative record you'll hear this year, nor is it required listening if the band's never floated your boat, but "Crown of Phantoms" is the most important release Mark Hunter and co. have made since "Resurrection." They're not dead yet - far from it.
Crown of Phantoms
BwareDWare94, on august 13, 2013 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: We all know what Chimaira had to offer - an excellent blend of genres with incredibly angry lyrics and plenty of good riffs. Unfortunately, that Chimaira had Rob Arnold and Matt DeVries playing lead and rhythm guitar, and their presence is sorely missed on "Crown of Phantoms." And lest we forget Andols Herrick, who owned the kit on some of Chimaira's best albums. Needless to say, Herrick would have done wonders for this album. Their current drummer (Austin D'Amond) is capable, but not memorable. The same must be said for the new guitarists (Emil Werstler and Matt Szlachta), who are definitely talented, but their riffs don't hold the same memorability as those of Arnold and DeVries, not to mention that Werstler's solos seem half-assed when compared to the wonderful lead work that Arnold provided. You could say that "Crown of Phantoms" has me stuck in the past, but as the proud owner of two monstrous Chimaira albums (self-titled and "The Infection"), I must say that "Crown of Phantoms" has left much to be desired. The riffs are desperate attempts to emulate Arnold and DeVries, the drums mere background noise. Rather than leave their own mark, as Soilwork's two new guitarists have done with "The Living Infinite," Werstler and Szlachta attempt to blend in and sorely disappoint. The riffs are boring. The solos? Generic modern metal fare. It's hard to replicate the genre bending sound that was achieved by Chimaira's already revolving door, but when everybody but Mark Hunter is practically brand new, perhaps it would have been best for Chimaira to go on hiatus. // 5
Lyrics: The lyrics are pretty damn bad, for the most part. Well below Hunter's usual standard, they're definitely angry but sound as though they were written by an angry adolescent. I've loved Hunter's lyrics and delivery in the past, and while there are a few moments on this record that achieve the same thing, it's not nearly consistent enough to justify lines such as: "F--k what you think/No, f--k everything/A middle finger will forever define us." I mean, come on. That's just awful. Hunter's delivery is on form, but that can only do so much. I believe there were some clean vocals on the record, but not nearly as often as on "The Impossibility of Reason" or "The Age of Hell." Perhaps one lyrical highlight for me was on the album's best track, "Kings of the Shadow World" where Hunter screams, "We rely on death to give meaning to life." Otherwise, I found the lyrics lacking, and the delivery unchanged. // 4
Overall Impression: I've given this album multiple spins, but I just can't get into more than a track or two. "Crown of Phantoms" lacks its own "The Venom Inside" or "Salvation." There is no song that I must immediately listen to when I put this album in, and I'm hard pressed to get past the first couple of tracks without ejecting it and tossing it out my window. It is not up to par with Chimaira's other work, not even the lackluster "Pass Out of Existence" (a hated but at least interesting album). Gone are the surprisingly melodic moments, the sporadic shifts into full-on death metal assault (think of the chorus from "The Venom Inside"). In place of melody is unrelenting aggression. In place of Chimaira's usual genre bending assault is a boring mesh of riffs and solos you've heard before, riffs and solos that have been done better (it essentially reminded me of a watered down "Threat Signal"). This album is highly disappointing, almost offensive when compared to Chimaira's other work. I hope the old members eventually come back (there's got to be something better for Rob Arnold to do than f--king Six Feet Under), or that time allows the new members to recapture the Midwestern assault that we could once fondly refer to as Chimaira. // 5