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Chimaira- Crown of Phantoms

[30th July 2013]
[E1 Music]

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
08. Spineless
09. Kings Of The Shadow World
10. Wrapped In Violence
11. Love Soaked Death

Not long ago the Mark Hunter Experience’s new video, “All That’s Left is Blood” was posted, and it was quite clear on the state of the Cleveland whatever-metal troupe’s career. They say the bigger you get, the harder you fall. Luckily, these guys never reached any real height. They still sprained an ankle or two in the fall, but their descent was more like that injury you get when you misjudge the height of a wall, land on your feet and struggle to stay standing, rather than instantly liquefying into a puddle on the pavement (sidewalk, whatever). Well now the whole album must receive judgement in the eyes of The Monolith.

Islander over at NO CLEAN SINGING put forward a very good synopsis on “The New Wave Of American Metal” – he described it as being “the term for metalcore that is more metal than core”, and this is an adequate portrayal of the genre. Chimaira certainly fall smack bang into this category. They aren’t quite “brutal”, but neither are they riddled with breakdown-itis. They aren’t thrashing or shredding, but they aren’t all whiny or plagued with the poor man’s Iron Maiden harmonies. They aren’t quite Decapitated, nor are they Killswitch Engage. This fact is clear from the inception of Crown of Phantoms.


The album art looks fairly nondescript, showing the usual Chimaira symbol adorned with an eye and a few Egyptian dudes hanging out around the bottom. It looks like Arch Enemy’s Rise of the Tyrant album art fucked a Nile album of your choice and had a boring child. There’s a couple of chimeras depicted too, which is kind of cool, mixing ancient Greek mythology with the Egyptian symbolism, however it seems that’s more because of the band name than any attempt at mixing ancient mythologies. The album doesn’t seem to emulate the cover in any way, either, so it’s hard to judge the sound beyond “I’m assuming it’s kind of heavy”. It’s not a great album cover, but it’s not terrible – which seems to be the running theme for Chimaira.

The Machine” breaks open the seal with a riff that could easily have been written by Dino Cazares. The machine gun rhythms lay down a powerful foundation for this album, which was a pleasant surprise. This song has groove, haunting harmonies and very aggressive drumming. The solo was impressive, with some very Dime-like phrases as well as the classic Emil style. While the instrumentals were impressive, Mark was the same as ever. He offers very little more than what he has put forward since the bands inception. Overall, this track was a shock – perhaps this album will not be as bland as expected.

No Mercy” erupts with similar machine gun rhythms, although with a lot more groove this time. There is some interesting lead work in there too, complementing the driving riffs. Some of these riffs are very Loomis-esque, which is another curveball. This album continues to surprise.

Emil Werstler does a very good job of retaining his signature style while leaving Dååth’s particular strain behind. You need only consult any of Dååth’s releases to note the credibility of this guitarist, so Mark chose well with this replacement; Chimaira retained their foundational style while upping the ante when it comes to lead work. It’s a pity that the vocals have barely changed at all; never mind upping their game.

All That’s Left is Blood” is definitely one of the weaker tracks. It is questionable why they chose to make this particular song one of the singles, especially when “The Machine” would have made a better impression.

I Despise” contains some aggressive displays of riffage, with some gnarly pinches and a groove that makes you want to stomp mud-holes dry, but it seems like the initial impact of the album is beginning to teeter off. It hasn’t lost steam just yet, but it looks like that time is nearing. “Plastic Wonderland” descends a little further into that ditch, with some very powerful tremolo riffs and some dark, creepy chords, but it becomes more and more formulaic.

Now, while the album starts off promisingly, it seems to utilise the same ingredients throughout the entire effort. Mark Hunter’s vocal range is more limited than Steven Hawking’s break-dance repertoire, and while Emil does his absolute best to make this release interesting, he can’t do all of the work. His solos are consistently impressive, and the drumming, courtesy of Austin D’Amond, is definitely more than acceptable. The instrumentals are not really the problem – they are all clearly very talented musicians. However, they are not Chimaira, and it seems like they may be being held back by being drawn into Mark’s determination to keep Chimaira as Chimaira-y as possible. His irrational fear of progression does little to help matters. The result is a band who should not be Chimaira, imprisoned by their own franchise. This group of musicians may be much better off if they abandoned the label and started anew.

Overall, the album is better than expected. The prediction was a consistent level of “meh”, with the occasional descent into “what the fuck is this?”. In reality, it was more like a consistent “Hmm, this is actually quite good”, with a few dips into “meh” and the occasional plummet into “for fucks sake, Mark”. This album exceeded the preconceived expectations held prior to listening.