Something I have respected about CHIMAIRA is the fact that they essentially change on every album. Seemingly not content with their previous work, the band is always moving in new directions with new approaches to a core that is undeniably always of CHIMAIRA sound. So is it a true surprise that their fifth full length release, “The Infection” would be on a different path then anything they’ve done before? Not really.
The direction that the band has moved for “The Infection” was a bit of a surprise though. There is still a hardy foundation of Post Thrash/Groove influence into the music, so don’t expect for the band to let go of their past lessons in Metal history. Many of the riffs and drum patterns definitely embrace that ‘swing’ element that makes the genre so particularly catchy (and horrid for some). So fans of the band are going to find some of those elements that made CHIMAIRA such an enjoyable listen. Here’s the catch though: it seems the focus on the Groove Thrash element has been divided into two new elements.
The first of the new focuses for CHIMAIRA is the mid-tempo foot stomping Death Metal influence that the band is embracing on “The Infection”. Every song on this album tends to stay away from Thrashier moments that the band has played with previously and embraced a ridiculously heavy ‘punch in the face’ pounding mid-tempo pace. Whether it was the album teaser “Secrets Of The Dead” or the fastest song on the album “On Broken Glass” the band never tries to break any speed records. At times there are some quick wristed riffs or leads (like the melody for the opening of “Coming Alive”) and there can be some pretty intensive double bass drumming but its all counterbalanced with a Doomier approach to writing.
This brings me to the second of the two new focus elements on “The Infection”. CHIMAIRA seem to have a renewed sense of atmosphere for song writing for this album. The band seems to focus on writing a cohesive album that moves with songs. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of the song’s individuality and presence are lost to the album’s atmosphere but it was a decision on the band’s part and I think for the most part they succeed at the task. Whether it’s the melancholic guitar intro of “The Venom Inside”, the long and epic Gothic toned “Impending Doom” (featuring some very odd softly spoken parts as the verses), or even the melodic synth heavy “Secrets Of The Dead” the album works best as a whole rather than as a collection of individual songs due to the focus on atmosphere.
It’s also worth mentioning that the ever vigilant Mark Hunter (vocals) gives his most unusual performance yet on “The Infection”. His already standard and unique barking roar is the staple of this release but he moves in a few new directions that took me back. As I mentioned before, there is a new sense of Death Metal influence here and that is mostly thanks to Mark Hunter. He throws in some very impressive Death grunts and growls to accommodate his normal voice and sans a few Gothic tinged spoken parts there is an almost complete lack of singing on the album. Its a few changes that really support the heaviness and the atmosphere of the album nicely.
My first impression of “The Infection” was definitely of disappointment. The lack of Thrashier moments and embracing of the mid-tempo was a shock to me, but repeated listenings helped and eventually the album grew on me. I think CHIMAIRA took a specific approach to their music and succeeded for the most part at it. I still prefer 2007’s “Resurrection” to this album, but it’s a solid work that will shock (but please) many new fans.
Side Note: If you are a CHIMAIRA fan of their few albums prior it is required that you purchase the DVD/CD Limited Edition just for the bonus track “Revenge”. It is perhaps the best track on the album.
Songs to check out: “On Broken Glass”, “Secrets Of The Dead”, and “Revenge”.
(Online May 6, 2009)