CHIMAIRA is a roller coaster band of epic proportions. They have hit some serious heights in their releases (the still impressive “Resurrection”), they have hit some serious lows (the Nu Metal inspired debut), and everywhere in-between like the off-kilter but well executed “The Infection”. So trying to predict where these American Metal mixers would go with “The Age Of Hell” was like trying to predict the weather…a good guess is about as good as it gets. With the massive line up changes for this release to only further the scattershot predictions, it was almost nerve wrecking to put the release into my music player.
As it turns out, rather than making a statement that says “this is the new CHIMAIRA” with “The Age Of Hell”, this album seems to revert back to the days of old, pulling heavily back into more Metalcore influenced sounds and minimizing their Thrash and Death Metal nuances to being details rather than foundations. For those who still pine for the band that released “The Impossibility Of Reason”, now is the time to rejoice. “The Age Of Hell” is very similar in that vein even if the band is adding a bit of their newer influences into the mix.
At the core, “The Age Of Hell” is still CHIMAIRA even with their massive line up changes. The riffs punch with a Groove swing and occasional Thrash intensity like on the title track or the more modern stop and go swing of “Year Of The Snake” and they can throw down some sick soloing and lead work like on the instrumental outro “Samsara”. The bass and drums are thrown to the back a bit for this release (although the producer who sat in as a session drummer for the album does an admirable job on the kit even if it is a bit more basic than what is normal for the band) and Mark Hunter once again rips out some growling Hardcore inspired barking like it never changed. To this effect, fans from previous albums will enjoy this one too.
What changed though is the focus of the band. Pulling away from many of their more aggressive tracks, “The Age Of Hell” loves to play with weaving tempos, melancholic atmosphere, and modern style. Clean vocals make a massive reappearance to counteract Hunter’s bark in many songs, more than they ever have, and the synths/keys have taken a pivotal role as a pulsing layer in the music. Side note: This is rather odd since this is the first album not to feature long time synth-man Spicuzza. Songs like “Clockwork” and “Powerless” use these elements to craft atmosphere for the album to partner with the mid-tempo punches.
Although this album sits as an individual effort that harkens back to their early days, it also falls flat when it comes to memorablility. CHIMAIRA’s aggression and density of layering were always a selling point to raise them above their peers and “The Age Of Hell” lacks this in many ways. Although its not near as redundant as “The Infection”, the result is the same: an album that falls off the path of being memorable and flounders to craft a solid effort that utilizes the band’s talents. There are a few tracks to love here, particularly those of a more aggressive nature, but the overall album just lacks the cohesion and punch that made them so impressive previously.
Songs to check out: “The Age Of Hell”, “Year Of The Snake”, “Born In Blood”.
(Online November 2, 2011)