Chimaira. Crown of Phantoms
eOne Music, 2013. Chimaira: chimaira.com
One head howls. The other shrieks. Another growls. The legendary monster known as the chimera has always commanded allure among the creatures in Greek mythology, and with so much ferocity amongst the bestiary to name yourself after any of them takes gall and daring to live up to the source. Unfortunately, with their final album Crown of Phantoms the late Chimaira meets their end with a plain, acceptable departure. This album is not the ichor and excellence of legends but at least at the beginning…
The opening track detonates into a blast of promise with a gale of electric guitar riffs and pounding drums to boil the notes for Crown of Phantom's genesis.
“We have died a million times before Every struggle opens a door.”
At the start it's like a climactic showdown, and the solos ring with an amped uproar, a true blitz of sound that foretastes something grim and grand. Isolation, resentment, ire at the artificiality of the entertainment industry, there's plenty in the targeting reticles of the imagery for Crown of Phantoms.
“No more lies, no more lies, no more god damn Hollywood vampires.”
Disgust abounds. Many a band has slammed the gaudiness and predatory glamour of Hollywood for all the fraud, faux wisdom, and seduction that its altar is built upon, and the indictment contained in the above lyric from "No Mercy" is reminiscent of songs like "Lost in Hollywood" from System of a Down.
“All that's left is blood.”
“It's just a holiday in this plastic wonderland.”
A familiar metalcore story slinks into your ears, a gray tale about hardened souls stacked against the inevitable, punishing trials of life, with never a hint of surrender in the words. Would that it all developed into something more interesting.
Instead, this release felt like a capped venture. Think of a movie touted by an awesome preview that, upon viewing, actually ends up being an okay experience. Therein lay a comparable feeling for what Crown of Phantoms offers. While not something to be completely discarded the album suffers from anything really distinguishing it from the pack of the overall rock genre. If you were killing time in your car on a lunch break or wanted to liven up a senior living center then these tracks could serve such purposes, the latter possibly being met with some objections.
Aside from the very tempting track at the beginning the impact fades. There's nothing amateur here so much as uninspired, and while for the most part everything is well-played by the group and finely screamed by Mark Hunter the flames of allure diminish with bright spots in the blandness. The instrumentals are tactful and sharp, notable for the line-up since most of the personnel on this album were all recent additions to Chimaira's line-up. No one fails to perform their roles well but it's simply that the total end product is not anything all that memorable.
A comparison to past albums does not amount to much because there is simply little to explore here. Metalcore enthusiasts may very well be perfectly happy with this release the same way a college fraternity would be satisfied with a case of cheap vodka being thrown onto their porch. That's not intended as a put down since the high-octane followers of this subgenre reward hard punches of music, and there's no lack of those with Crown of Phantoms. Have chasers ready from other Chimaira albums and you could possibly pull some songs from here to make a playlist for a buddy or a road trip.
In ancient lore all the heads of the monstrous chimera were different, be they breathing fire, snaking a long tongue, or snapping a beak. From the perspective of this heavily belated review the defining characteristic for this album's head is that it appears to have peacefully nodded off. As the last chapter in the story of this band they could have done worse.
Rest in piece, Chimaira, and rest assured that this is not a bad album, just an average one.
Crown of Phantoms
Personnel: Jeremy Creamer (Bass Guitar), Austin D'Amond (Drums), , Emil Werstler (Lead Guitar), Matt Szlachta (Rhythm Guitar), Sean Zatorsky (Keyboards, Additional Instruments, and Backing Vocals), Mark Hunter (Lead Vocals).
Tracks: The Machine, No Mercy, All That's Left Is Blood, I Despise, Plastic Wonderland, The Transmigration, Crown of Phantoms, Spineless, Kings of the Shadow World, Wrapped in Violence, Love Soaked Death.