Latest release: Crown of Phantoms (3Wise)

On the eve of their last tour of Australia it was close to the end for Cleveland’s Chimaira when the band virtually disintegrated leaving only founder and vocalist Mark Hunter and guitarist Rob Arnold to complete their album The Age of Hell. In the wash-up, even Arnold departed and Hunter was left with the task of completing re-building the band to fulfil their Soundwave tour commitments. Almost two years later, that line-up is still together and has just released the partially crowd-funded album Crown of Phantoms. Loud recently caught up with Hunter as he tried to relax on a Florida beach, and chatted about how Australia gave Chimaira a new lease on life.

I remember seeing you here in Australia opening Soundwave at 10 in the morning or something. What was that like, because it can’t be often that you play at that time of the day?
A morning mosh! It was still night-time for us (laughs), so it worked out just fine!

People were into it right away. Considering the turmoil that you’d been through at that point, that must have been a relief.
It was extremely humbling and at the same time it sealed the deal for us. We booked Soundwave before the line-up changes all happened and once they did happen, we didn’t want to not fulfil our commitments so once we assembled the line-up and everything and got everything in order, that was our first test: how are people going to respond to this? Does it feel like we’re a clean-up crew or does it feel like the start of something new? And automatically, the minute the intro started, the fans were chanting our name and basically it solidified that Chimaira’s going to continue with a new chapter. Had it gone any other way, I’m not sure where we’d be right at this moment.

The vibe seemed to be the same at the Sidewaves with Machine Head. It seemed like everyone was so happy to see you there.
Yeah. It was awesome. Australia’s definitely one of our biggest markets outside of our hometown that just treats us like a hometown crowd. We just can’t wait to get back. It’s been a place that’s always been good to this band. To be the first to test the waters with everything we were experimenting with… you can imagine how that must feel for all of us and imagine how we must feel when we come back for a second time after climbing the mountain we did and making the album… that’s where it all started, right there. It’s a special place for us.

It really was the first place you got to show what the new Chimaira was made of.
That was the testing ground. It seems like we passed with flying colours.

It was amazing that you were able to do that, because so many bands would have cancelled or postponed or simply not done it. It was a real test of your character to do that.
That’s cool to hear, and at the same time it was a bit nerve-wracking. We started the company with no money at all. Basically fronting everything on a whim and just hoping it would all work out! (laughs) Luckily, the shows were able to be performed and we all got together and we all got along and now, fast forward nineteen months and we have an album we’re all extremely proud of and it’s a real, real thing. It’s a strong unit, a functional unit… it’s the strongest unit that I feel within a band that I ever have. It’s the best functioning that it’s ever been. Everybody has something to bring to the table and achieve. Overall, it’s on fire right now.

So many people say that Mark, but you must know better than anyone how well things are going for you right now. Considering the turmoil that you’ve been through with this band and to be nineteen months down the track from that and be as happy as you are, you obviously really know this is working this time.
Yeah, it’s working right. The chemistry within the group is the strongest I’ve ever experienced. We’ve all come from bands that shared similar stories. Bands aren’t that different at the end of the day, and to be able to come together with people that are wanting to do something completely different and are all on the same page and to really focus on the art, it’s pretty unique and special when that happens and we’re really lucky to have that this time.

It must be really good for the band as well, because this is the first album you worked on together and the first one where people are going to be able to hear Chimaira on a record in its current form. The last album was pretty much just you.
You’re exactly right. The last album was really just Rob and I and our producer and I’ve been using this analogy that it sounds like that scene in a movie where the guy’s hanging onto the cliff with one arm, grabbing the crap out of that vine. And that’s the cool part in the movie, you know, it’s still an exciting part. And I think that’s what that album represents: that time in the band. And now I think this album sounds more like the bulldozer crushing the mountains. It’s a completely different scene in the movie you’re watching.

What’s the reaction been like?
Overwhelmingly positive. It’s a different time now, where everyone’s on the Internet talking with each other. It’s crazy how clogged my feeds are, and my timeline, whether it’s Twitter directing it at me or whether I’m just seeing it. It’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if this album is special and we’re doing something well or if we’re just in that time where it’s right in my face. But it’s right in my face right now. I can’t escape it. I’m on a day off on the beach right now and I’m standing on the water and I’m still talking about the album. I can’t turn off! It’s just one of those days. It’s an exciting time.

Considering your relationship with Australia, you must be going to bring the band down here again now.
Definitely. There is two things we’d like to do. We’d like to headline. I think it would be awesome to do a whole bunch of these new songs for everybody, and then we’d love to be asked to participate in Soundwave again. So maybe if anyone’s checking this out can maybe start to place both these ideas in the organiser’s ears so the more demand, the more we get there sooner.

It would be nice for you to headline, because last time you only got half an hour.
And play in mid-afternoon this time so we don’t have to wake up so early.

And just as the gates had opened, so people were still coming into the place.
Exactly! But you know, it doesn’t matter for us. We still had a great time and that crowd sealed the deal for us and without it, I don’t know where we’d be. So, we’re very grateful and we can’t wait to come back.