To live in Cleveland, Ohio, more of a sunken hole than a driven notch in the Midwest rustbelt, is to not only encounter, but embrace the crippling winters, the broken jawed economy, and the expectations of defeat. All of which culminate in the very specific attitude of not only being an asshole, but being an asshole and an underdog. None of this is lost on Chimaira. After twelve years of defining what Cleveland metal and brutal music should sound like, Chimaira advances their trademarked brand of heavy with their latest monster, “The Age of Hell.”
As with most Chimaira records (and everything Cleveland) the composition of the record was fraught with adversity. Longtime drummer Andols Herrick, bass player Jim Lamarca and electronic knob twister Chris Spicuzza had fallen away from the band. This left Chimaira’s flagship member and singer Mark Hunter and guitarists Rob Arnold and Matt Devries with an album to record for their debut on eOne Music / Long Branch with no rhythm section or an effects specialist. The splintered Chimaira could have stared at the sun dissecting separate fires then converging into a singular sphere of blinding defeat. Most bands would have. But most bands aren’t from Cleveland. And only one band is Chimaira.
Instead, Hunter, Arnold, and Devries pushed themselves into frequent collaborator Ben Schigel’s Spider Studios with bloodied teeth and balled fists, hell bent on birthing what anyone else would have aborted.
Instead of filling the cavities in the lineup with new members, Hunter, Arnold, and Schigel took on the roles themselves, constructing each of the songs creating electronic auras and having Schigel man the drums. After only eight weeks in the lab Chimaira emerged with their sixth album. A series of songs that extract the hallmark elements of the band braiding them together in a pastiche of soaring violence, vacuum sealed riffing and memorable hooks giving the listener a hellish train ride that leaves them drooling. “This is Chimaira.”
The eponymous opening track summons the ferocity of a band hungry and disgusted. Mark Hunter’s guttural barks declare a twisted war while the guitars shift from ravenous chugging to soaring leads. “Clockwork,” a song that refuses to grow stale after countless plays provides a chorus that sees the band tastefully using layers of clean vocals while not sacrificing Chimaira’s severity, a theme throughout the album. Tracks like “Losing My Mind” and “Time is Running Out” lyrically reflect the tribulations of a group under the gun and both include the band’s signature groove that is utterly crushing. But it’s songs like “Trigger Finger,” “Born in Blood,” and “Scapegoat” that will leave janitor’s mopping up blood from venue floors across the world.Throughout the record the sonic layers are far from trite ear candy, giving an oceanic depth to each track. Solos and leads by Arnold confirm his status as the next shredder to beat. Schigel on drums goes from syncopated to bar room brawler and back again with no regrets for the jaws he dropped along the way.
Beyond the stellar musicianship and crisp yet raw mixing from metal mastering mainstay Zeuss however, is the song writing. It’d be easy for a veteran metal band to fart out an album of “borecore” breakdowns and 0-1-0 bullshit riffs. But Chimaira never settle. The power, authenticity and forward momentum of the “The Age of Hell” are complimented, never betrayed by the band’s technical prowess. Listeners will leave this record equally frustrated that they can’t figure out how to play the tracks, as they are wanting to scream along in their cars or at Chimaira’s legendary live experiences.
After the album was recorded, Chimaira was faced with adding musicians to take on the road. Austin D’amond had been drumming for Rob Arnold’s side project called The Elite and with his fusion of technical mastery and breakneck, spine shaking power came as an easy fit. Emil Werstler lead face melter of metal peers in Daath and provider of the epic solo on “Saṃsāra” folds seamlessly in on bass while Werstler’s Daath frontman Sean Z will thread his hands through the various wires and triggers of Chimaira’s electronics. Chimaira, as it was forced to be in the past, was anew.
And now the eclipse of what you thought you knew about contemporary metal has begun. There is a new definition announced by distorted, yet familiar faces. Chimaira will take you through “The Age of Hell.” Let’s hope you are prepared.