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Album Review: Chimaira - Crown Of Phantoms

26 July 2013 | 5:42 pm | Brendan Crabb

“The past defines us while the present refines us” is this record’s mantra. Here’s hoping the frontman can keep this line-up intact as they enter a new age of hell.

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Even for a band accustomed to considerable drama, 2010-2011 entailed unparalleled upheaval for Cleveland metallers Chimaira, as five-sixths of its membership departed. Adding insult to injury were the resignations of two songwriters, leaving growler/sole original member Mark Hunter holding the bag.

The multi-headed metallic beast's new incarnation has stuck firm, crafting their seventh LP. Hunter memorably bellowed We have become so goddamn powerful!” on the title track of 2007's Resurrection. It was a rallying cry, a middle finger to inner turmoil and industry politics which threatened to end their career but instead galvanised them. This time around, he responds by roaring It's alive!” during hard-hitting, psychedelic-touched opener The Machine. The frontman's lyrics have never been overly sophisticated (I Despise), but that's not the intention. Their output is rooted in sheer aggression, grooves fatter than the State of Origin streaker (title track) and of late, ambience, the latter adopting a more intricate bent on Kings Of The Shadow World and Wrapped In Violence's electronic flourishes. Despite the personnel shake-up, the transition feels almost seamless – for instance, Emil Werstler's fluid leads are a vital counterpoint to All That's Left Is Blood's gigantic main riff – retaining familiar elements while sidestepping creative stagnation. Breakdown-laden No Mercy is pulverising pit fodder, its clever implementation of bass-drops indicating the way forward for legions of metalcore acts. There are occasions where they seek to compensate for lack of ingenuity with mere bludgeon; Spineless is mindlessly enjoyable, albeit Chimaira-by-numbers.

“The past defines us while the present refines us” is this record's mantra. Here's hoping the frontman can keep this line-up intact as they enter a new age of hell.