Album Review: Chimaira – Crown of Phantoms
Posted by Reggie
For those that thought Chimaira died when long-time founding members made their final departure out of the band, you may want to rethink your position. Crown of Phantoms is the band’s first official release with their newly invigorated lineup. Remnants of former members were still part of the recording process on The Age of Hell, the album I like to call the transition album. Therefore Crown of Phantoms should be considered the first release with the only remaining founding member Mark Hunter along with new-ish members Emil Werstler (lead), Sean Zartorsky (Keys), Matt Szlachta (Rhythm), Austin D’Amond (Drums), and Jeremy Creamer (Bass). This is the beginning of a new…darker chapter in the life of Chimaira.
I would normally expect Chimaira to come out with a brutal (mostly) thrash style song to kick everyone in the dick…or whatever you have down there. The Machine starts with a simple riff and dives into a nice thrash cadence, but only for a little while. The song morphs into a slower tempo that is just bone-crushingly heavy before going to back to a cool rhythmic gallop. This song sets up the album well because instead of brute heaviness, Crown of Phantoms leans more toward a darker and dynamic metalcore sound with short focused rhythms, intricate riffs, and more solos than I am used to hearing.
Another thing that was noticeable is a larger level of input (or output) from Sean Z and his keys and effects. For the last couple of albums I wondered why I didn’t hear much from that section, but it’s much more prominent now. Sean Z’s talents are embedded throughout the album especially on the song – The Transmigration – nearly 2 ½ minutes of melancholy, moody, creepy music fit for a virgin sacrifice. It leads right into the self-titled track which is a balanced song with some clean vocals from Mark Hunter.
Crown of Phantoms is a new chapter for Chimaira. I am not saying the book is closed on everything they have done to this point, but the refresh has taken effect – Chapter 2 so to speak. The album is easily recognizable as Chimaira and emphasizes a more mid-tempo, darker approach as I mentioned before. One of the major flaws of the album is the lack of variety between songs. It starts off strong, but then after about four songs you realize there isn’t a whole lot of variety. For example, there are no songs reminiscent of Power Trip, Pure Hatred, Save Ourselves, or Resurrection – the fast-paced built for the pit songs. The album just doesn’t tip the scale in favor of those more fast-paced songs. There are elements of that embedded in Time Machine and All That’s Left is Blood and a few others, but that’s about it. Though the album is bone crushing; track for track it’s hard to distinguish between the songs even after numerous listens. Overall, it’s a solid album from beginning to end, but it lacks variety as heard on other Chimaira albums. They are a band redefined, but in a different way.