Sound — 5
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.
Lyrics — 4
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.
Overall Impression — 5
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.