Friday, August 19, 2011

Chimaira Survives The Age Of Hell

ChimairaIf there is one band that no one expected to see break out with a new album this year, it was Chimaira. The metalcore band from Cleveland that barely survived a shakeup last year when three members — Andols Herrick (drums), Jim Lamarca (bass), Chris Spicuzza (keys) — left the band for very different reasons, most citing directional differences.

Undeterred, singer Mark Hunter and guitarists Rob Arnold and Matt Devries signed a new contract with eOne Music and went to work. With the help of frequent collaborator Ben Schigel (Spider Studios) picking up abandoned sticks, Hunter took over the keys and Arnold bass to push their new album, The Age Of Hell, forward in eight weeks.

"Words can’t express what it took to create this album. We hope you love it as much as we do. Turn it up loud, this is Chimaira at its finest." — Mark Hunter.

If you think the band breaks helped the band summon up added ferocity, you can clearly hear it in Hunter's voice and Arnold's riffs. They're pissed but grateful to have retained some friendships with some former members. It's all par for the course.

Years ago, the band had replaced Jason Genaro (drums) and Andrew Ermlick (bass) prior to signing with Roadrunner, and founding guitarist Jason Hager dropped out shortly after the release of their first album. Since, the band has been stable.

The new touring lineup now includes Austin D’amond (drums) of The Elite, Emil Werstler (bass) of Daath, and Sean Zatorsky (keys) also of Daath. The lineup was included in Chimaira's first video, kicking off with one of the harshest tracks, the Year Of the Snake. While the video is less than great, the sound screams through while only hinting at Hunter's clean vocal diversity in his restrained and haunting chorus lines.

Year Of the Snake has become a favorite among critics. It's solid but not nearly as striking as some of the other tracks. Losing My Mind presents the best layering of clean vocals over Hunter's severity while Trigger Finger and Born In Blood have significantly more crushing complexity. It's old school, but of the best kind. Check out Clockwork too. It carries the cleanest vocals.

Most of the lyrics deal with pent-up aggression against unwelcome feelings and vulnerabilities. Notable exceptions include Year Of the Snake and Born In Blood, about rebirth; The Age Of Hell, about the end of days; Trigger Finger, about release; and Samsara, a six-minute plus instrumental.

The shakeup has freed Chimaira to explore more of their music.

The deluxe edition also includes two dynamic bonus tracks. Scum Of The Earth is especially worthwhile, with its aggressively simple driving response to the world, saying it is too late (and not worth taking about). Your Days Are Numbered is more predictable, but carries a nice slice of metal core vengeance.

The new album was kicked off with a mini-tour around Ohio, which no doubt served to revitalize the wave of negativity the remaining band members faced during the elongated breakup. According to Hunter, the entire band suffered through feelings that nobody cares, the industry sucks, and everything in going downhill.

Surviving that, it isn't any mystery why Hunter and Arnold wanted to make the album heavier, but also introduce more harmony then they have on most albums. It was also easier for Hunter to drop in more melody; there were fewer members in the band to fight about it.

Chimaira's The Age Of Hell Rips At 5.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Chimaira is already booked as a headliner from October to December in the U.S. After December, they will be touring Europe and Australia. Pay attention to upcoming interviews too. There is something else decidedly different about Hunter and the way he answers questions. In the past, he and Arnold would often sound scripted, saying how each album is an evolution and every song was their favorite (because there were no bad songs, yawn).

Nowadays, there's just conversation; Arnold too, despite becoming one of the busiest guitarists in the business (he just joined Six Feet Under as well). The invitation came from Kevin Talley, drummer for Chimaira from 2004 to 2006. This news doesn't detract from Chimaira in the least. If you listen to The Age Of Hell intently, you'll notice a change in the guitar tones.

The Age Of Hell (deluxe edition) is available on iTunes. You can find it as Age Of Hell on Amazon. The CD is available at Barnes & Noble.
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