Crown of Phantoms review by Chimaira

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  • Released: Jul 30, 2013
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 7.4 (33 votes)
Chimaira: Crown of Phantoms
2

Sound — 7
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.

Lyrics — 7
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."

Overall Impression — 7
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.

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26 comments sorted by best / new / date

    bdof
    It's ok. Nothing deep about it though. The inclusion of 7 strings (from what it sounds like) throws you off at first, but then moves along to some good ol' fashion Chimaira riffage. Not really sure I'll be paying close attention to Chimaira updates anymore like I used to though. Oh well, plenty of other great modern metal acts out there to help me move on.
    BwareDWare94
    It's really boring. I have a more critical review that they're either working on publishing or for some reason haven't accepted (I didn't do anything wrong with it, so I don't think that'll be the case). Regardless of whether or not it's still heavy or whatever people hear, it's not nearly as interesting instrumentally. That's for damn sure. They really need Rob Arnold, no ifs, ands, or buts.
    Mr Winters
    I think it's very interesting instrumentally. The guitar work is for the most part much more complex than in previous albums (and there's some awesome riffs too) and the drumming is great. I love the old Chimaira and I love Rob's style, but I don't think this album is bad or uninteresting at all.
    BwareDWare94
    Complex? Sure, but it's boring. It's essentially the djent influence you hear on the last Threat Signal album, with really boring solos, and I don't hear it with this new drummer. It's not like Jason Bittner, where you have to listen closely to hear his brilliance, either. I just find it...boring. And if I might say, perhaps what was best about Arnold and DeVries was that they weren't complex when unnecessary, but their riffs were still continually interesting, from song to song. Granted, I loved The Infection, which a lot of people didn't, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's part of the reason our opinions differ. I wish they wrote more songs like "The Venom Inside," and experimented with Death Metal a bit more, even if it was just the chorus.
    Mr Winters
    There is no djent in this album. People use that term too loosely these days... I agree that the guitar solos are kinda boring. Much more technical than Rob's solos (which were great on the self-titled and Resurrection), but they are indeed boring. My favourite would be the solo in All That's Left is Blood, but there really isn't anything remarkably good in the solo department. After what Emil did in Samsara on the previous album, I thought the solos would be much more interesting. But I think there's some really great riffs in this album, and that's what chimaira has always been about. And in this sense this album blows most of The Age of Hell out of the water.
    BwareDWare94
    I hear some Meshuggah ripoff riffs in there, but maybe that's me. That's the trend that a lot of modern metal has gone into. I just don't find more than one or two moments to be too instrumentally interesting on this album, and I feel as though Mark's lyrics have really suffered. Kinda bummed my review hasn't been posted yet, but oh well.
    Mr Winters
    Your review will be posted sooner or later, I imagine they have to go through a lot of articles, reviews, etc so it takes some time to post all that stuff.
    BwareDWare94
    Oh, I know, but I did submit it Monday night (ran into the record last week. Must have been a mistaken shipment). Either way, I've been rediscovering this band lately, and I think their best front to back record is still The Impossibility of Reason, but I still love the Infection, and Age of Hell had some brilliant moments. I really enjoyed their return to clean singing. Then there was that track with Phil Bozeman, which was just brutal. I know people hate on Whitechapel, but by God if that tiny little man can't belt out some fury. As to your original post, I never really got to listen to all of Resurrection. I didn't much care for the title track, so I never bought it. Fortunately, I've still heard Six, but that's about it for that album. I just pulled it up on Spotify and plan to listen to it after I get off work later tonight. As far as Crown of Phantoms is concerned, to me it just doesn't sound at all like Chimaira. I know it wasn't going to be exact, but I thought it'd be a lot closer than it is. The instrumental arrangements just don't have that Chimaira groove, or the conglomerate of metal genres they've mixed so well in the past.
    Mr Winters
    Oh yes, Impossibility remains their best album for me too. The self-titled and Resurrection are great as well. As for The Infection and Age of Hell..well they have some brilliant moments and some great songs (The Venom Inside, The Heart of It All, Coming Alive, Born in Blood, Samsara)but overall they weren't as awesome as their previous work. To me Crown of Phantoms sounds like Chimaira but doesn't, if that makes any sense. It clearly sounds like a different band, but at the same time it still feels like Chimaira, and not only because of the vocals.
    Mr Winters
    And by the way I would really like to hear something new by Rob Arnold someday...I read he was working on a project with Andols and that he was also working on new the Elite stuff.
    HardAttack
    Very pleased with this album. I don't think it's their best work overall but as users have said above, it still sounds like them despite some of the new-ish lead and more electronic elements. I was surprised that the band survived through such a harsh lineup change. Kudos to Chimaira. Bought the album a few hours ago, already like it. 'Crown of Phantoms' is still my favorite track.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Groove Metal's not really my thing, but this is at least somewhat enjoyable.
    BwareDWare94
    At this point I think my review must have not gone through to them, though I got the confirmation page. There was nothing wrong with it, and I can't check and see if they found a reason to turn it away because the email I used to start this account is no longer in operation. Either way, I'm disappointed, especially if it was turned away for some reason I can't even come up with.
    waddys2
    it's a real solid album, no doubt about it, lots of groove in my opinion, much better than all those average deathmetalbands nowadays, despite of the new members it still sounds very chimaira
    BwareDWare94
    Are we listening to the same album? It certainly doesn't sound much like Chimaira to me. I hear a heavy band with Mark Hunter on vocals, and that's about it.