Crown of Phantoms
Years of line-up changes have ravaged Chimaira, and despite their willingness and indeed their ability to forge ahead, their decline from one of the kingpins of the NWOAHM to road-weary, arguably past-it veterans of the scene, have taken their toll. But listening to ‘Crown of Phantoms’, the Cleveland, Ohio outfit have found something within to bring their sound back up to a new level.
I personally felt up until ‘Resurrection’, Chimaira seemed to look pretty strong, but 2007’s slower ‘The Infection’ and 2011’s disappointing ‘The Age of Hell’ – an album vocalist Mark Hunter admitted didn’t contain ‘the fire and the passion’ of previous releases – had me wondering whether Chimaira could ever return to their destroying best. The line-up is unrecognisable now from the days of before, with Jeremy Creamer joining fellow Daath bandmates Emil Werstler and Sean Zatorsky, along with Bleed the Sky drummer Austin D’Amond and Dirge Within’s Matt Szlachta on rhythm guitar now completing the line-up. Fans might well argue that Chimaira died when Matt DeVries and Rob Arnold left the band at the end of 2011, but Hunter insists Chimaira are a band that ‘never quits, no matter the odds’. And thus that spirit seems to carry over into ‘Crown of Phantoms’, their best album for some time.
Bringing together their most recent sound and blending it against the style of some of their mid-career, ‘Crown of Phantoms’ is full of swerve, melodic but harsh choruses, and knockdown grooves when called upon. It’s a continuation of where they left off in 2011, but vastly improved – ‘The Machine’ opens proceedings and shifts into slower gear tremendously for the lead solo. ‘No Mercy’ and ‘I Despise’ are particularly venomous, and the title track truly slams. Yes, it seems the Chimaira of old is truly alive and well. Occasionally it does get a little too groove-orientated – ‘Wrapped in Violence’ being one notable bit of filler – but by and large, this is an enjoyable return to form, marking another notable resurgence along Killswitch Engage for noughties American metal bands who were thought to be past their best. I’d gladly have some more of this from the bands of that era if they can keep producing with a point to prove.
Chimaira – No Mercy (official video)