A mixed bag

Mark Hunter, the one constant of Ohio band Chimaira – formed way back in 1998 – is one tough hombre.

The only remaining member from the original line up, it would have taken a brave man to stand firm, recruit some top class replacements and forge on with the band’s seventh album.

Despite the turmoil, Hunter and co have been studio machines since 2001, churning out an album every two years; quite a feat considering a total of 17 musicians have featured in Chimaira since they began. Crown of Phantoms may have a whole new line up besides the afore mentioned Hunter, but the Chimaira traits are still there, groove metal with Hunter’s aggressive approach coupled with energy, creativity and an industrial tinge.

The skills of guitarists Emil Werstler and Matt Szlachta and Jeremy Creamer (bass) combine to create a sound across a fair portion of this release that is nearing the best of their whole discography, a fair accolade considering the quality of previous members. Fans of the Chimaira sound have nothing to fear with the new release. The groove is there, the aggression is there and of course the anchor man, Hunter is there with his signature ballsy dry lung.

With a Dino Cazares-like riff ‘The Machine’ brings an industrial edge to start proceedings emulating previous Chimaira efforts with its brutal introduction. ‘No Mercy’ is up next, one of the best tracks of the album that slams from the speakers with some great lyrics that Hunter spits forth with venom: “No more goddamn Hollywood vampires!”

‘All That Is Blood’ and ‘Plastic Wonderland’ both build up slowly to a crescendo of groove with the nasty ‘I Despise’ wedged in between to rip the skin off your face. Token instrumental ‘The Transmigration’ is a bizarre piece that meanders along and really doesn’t go anywhere. Stuck between the brutality of the tracks either side, the sluggish ambience ends up being more weird than anything else.

From the remainder of the tracks, there are some good, some average. ‘Spineless’ is a stellar track, with an almost hardcore break as Hunter screams, “These words will cut you like a knife”. However ‘Wrapped In Violence’ is a slow bass infused bore that just begs to be skipped and on ‘Love Soaked Death’ Chimaira do their best Meshuggah impression but fall a tad short.

A mixed bag for Crown Of Phantoms but the good far outweigh the average, with the first half in particular absolutely crushing.

1. The Machine
2. No Mercy
3. All That’s Left is Blood
4. I Despise
5. Plastic Wonderland
6. The Transmigration
7.Crown of Phantoms
8. Spineless
9. Kings of the Shadow World
10. Wrapped in Violence
11. Love Soaked Death