Released: 2005, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Much has happened at Camp Chimaira since the release of their breakthrough sophomore album, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF REASON, in 2003. Drummer Andols Herrick left, leaving ex-Soilwork skinsman Rickard Evensand to temporarily step in before ex-Dying Fetus/Misery Index skin basher, Kevin Talley, assumed the role behind the kit for the recording of the self-titled third album (NOTE: Herrick has since returned to the band). Endless touring with every band under the sun has gotten Chimaira’s name on the tip of the collective metal tongue and anticipation for CHIMAIRA reached a fever pitch. So defying all expectations, Chimaira has done away with adding a “commercial” sound to their music and actually gone darker, heavier, more epic and essentially more metal on their third release. The clean vocals are almost gone entirely and any nu-metal dingleberries that remained from their debut album, PASS OUT OF EXISTENCE, are also dead and buried. In their place, Rob Arnold has unleashed a torrent of flashy, shredding guitar solos on nearly every song and Matt DeVries has checked in with one of the most riff-tastic albums of the year. Kevin Talley is an absolute machine on drums and while vastly different in style from Andols Herrick, he brings an incredible talent to this album. For whatever reason, the band continues to hide Jim Lamarca’s bass so far back in the mix that it is almost inaudible and despite the occasional atmospheric flourish, Chris Spicuzza’s reason for being in the band still remains a mystery but note-for-note, CHIMAIRA is the album that fans have been waiting for and certainly one that will take Chimaira to the next level along with Lamb of God as leaders of modern American heavy metal.
The effectiveness of opening cut “Nothing Remains” focuses on the band’s groove-based thrash that is spawned by a slow-building intro and larynx-shredding scream from Mark Hunter. Arnold’s solo smokes and DeVries has clearly been studying his Exodus albums as the big, meaty riffs echo those of the Bay Area legends. “Save Ourselves” digs in with a powerful groove and Hunter’s mantra of “Can you feel us, we’re stronger” in the chorus shows exactly where this band stands circa 2005. “Inside The Horror” is punishing from start to finish with a barely-there keyboard howling behind the verses. “Salvation,” a song worthy of a single if I have ever heard one, is one of the few examples of clean vocals used on this album but they work very well here. Talley’s work on “Everything You Love” and the otherwise trivial “Pray For All” showcase not only a versatile drummer but one who is able to shift from a military-like roll to machine-like, programmed exactness. “Lazarus” reveals a dark, introspective side of Chimaira with its brooding mid-section and imposing exiting riff that is a welcome addition to the band’s sound.
An uninspiring middle third (“Comatose,” “Left For Dead,” “Bloodlust”) takes some of the wind out of the album’s sails and the dreaded sniffs of nu-metal pop up with downtuned guitars here and there, as well. The tracks aren’t necessarily bad but certainly not up to par with the rest of the album and they really feel like a wedge driven between the superior bookends. Also, while the songs are longer and more complex overall, I can’t help but feel that some could have been trimmed and made the nearly hour-long album a bit easier to digest without really losing anything.
CHIMAIRA definitely requires a few spins to fully appreciate how far the band has come since their last release (and it is far). The addition of solos and near dismissal of clean vocals and hardcore breakdowns ups the band’s metal “Blue Book” value. Matured songwriting and improved musicianship also up the ante. The songs here average almost six minutes each and there aren’t really any hooks or melodies that immediately grab your ear, either. Instead of following what some may call the smart lead of adding a few three minute singles to the album in hopes to crack the market and sell a bazillion albums, CHIMAIRA is a big raised middle finger to conventions, defying the status quo and giving its fanbase a difficult album to sink its teeth into. Probably not the wisest move but credibility is easily sold to the highest bidder and kudos to Chimaira for holding on to theirs.
KILLER KUTS: “Nothing Remains,” “Save Ourselves,” “Salvation,” “Lazarus”