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Album Review: CHIMAIRA Crown of Phantoms

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Chimaira is definitely up there in the respected names of metal. The band, their music, and their iconic players have gone down to become household names in the metal world. With quite a few albums, and about 10 years on major labels, it’s pretty hard to have a bad reputation. But even Chimaira isn’t immune from troubles that bands their age encounter all the time. And unfortunately, this particular situation is one fans believe could make or break the band.

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When it comes to changes in bandmates, Chimaira has definitely seen their fair share. Their most recent bouts were more like overhauls than changing of the guard. Before The Age of Hell – their previous release – dropped, keyboardist Chris Spicuzza left, followed by drummer Andols Herrick and then bassist Jim LaMarca. After that release, the iconic guitar duo of Matt DeVries and Rob Arnold called it quits, causing many fans to simply give up at this point, and call it quits on Chimaira.

Vocalist Mark Hunter is not only the longest running member, but now the only founding member left. However, Hunter, obviously not wanting to give up so easily, was able to fill each of those open positions with seasoned professionals. So now, we have Chimaira with some familiar faces, but basically a whole new band; three of which are currently still playing in Dååth. If they could only get Kevin Talley back, Chimaira might be completely assimilated by Dååth. Many fans were worried that it just wouldn’t be the same, and that “Dååthmaira” might not be worth their time. Honestly though, there’s really not much to be suspicious about.

If you’ve been a loyal follower of Chimaira over the last few albums, then you’ve noticed the band leaning toward a more groove-oriented sound. And groove is exactly what you get out of Crown of Phantoms. It’s EXTREMELY groovy all throughout the album and doesn’t stop until you tell it to.

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The opening track, “The Machine” basically has the true Chimaira sound to it. We have the thrash metal inspired opening riff, a chorus that gets melodic enough to be catchy, and guitar solos. And of course, the one thing to tie it all together is Hunter’s vocals; the only bit of consistency the band has had in its career. Amid the dramatic personnel change, Chimaira has been able to maintain the sound and feel that fans have been enjoying.

Other songs like "I Despise" and the title track "Crown of Phantoms" keep you going with memorable riffs and infectious grooves. The new guitar duo of Emil Werstler (Dååth) and Matt Szlachta (Dirge Within) on lead and rhythm respectively works quite well. It’s definitely not simply a replication of Arnold and DeVries’ styles, but really just sounds like a Chimaira record.

But in all fairness, sometimes Crown of Phantoms can be a little TOO slow. Sometimes it can even come off as a little boring. Songs like “Kings of the Shadow World” and “Wrapped in Violence” can run together with the same overall feel. The songs themselves aren’t terribly repetitive, it’s just that many of the tracks have a similar groove to them. It gets to a point where if you stop paying attention just for a little bit, you might not notice that the track you were listening to actually ended a couple of minutes ago. It’s a minor nitpick though, because the songs are still distinguishable through their main riffs. Overall, Crown of Phantoms is a solid release, and even more impressive when the band’s recent history is taken into consideration.

Crown of Phantoms is a must-have for Chimaira fans. If any fans are highly suspicious about whether the band still has it, there’s no need to fear. Regardless of who’s in the band, or who left, Chimaira got it together and put out another solid album. So we’d all better get used to hearing their name getting tossed around for a lot longer.

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8.0/10

"No Mercy" Official Video

Crown of Phantoms Teaser Trailer

 

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