“This isn't a 'first listen' record,” says Chimaira frontman Mark Hunter. “The songs will stick in your head for the rest of your life, but it's not dumbed down. People are going to listen and say, 'This is interesting. I need to hear it again.' By the third time they listen, they will go, 'Whoa, I 'get' it.'”
Those are bold statements, but Hunter and Chimaira thoroughly back it up on their new album, appropriately titled Chimaira. It's fitting that this wrecking crew have named their third full length, Chimaira. That's because this Cleveland sextet have fine tuned and honed their style so deftly, that this album truly represents everything they were, everything they are, and everything they are poised to become once this monster is unleashed on the heavy metal world.
Chimaira is Chimaira, from the opening note of the brain damagingly heavy “Nothing Remains,” which Hunter reveals was written the day Dimebag Darrell was murdered, saying “The song has nothing to do with the situation, but musically, it's brutal and anger-filled, and the shooting brought out the feelings. We sat in the practice space, staring at the ground for an hour, when Rob picked up his guitar, and the song was just born.” The heaviness quotient doesn't lessen, thanks to the brutal breakdown present on “Save Ourselves,” which feels like a mortar grinding your skull and bones into a fine powder. “Salvation” is the album's most melodic song, due in part to the enormous chorus. The album's closer is the epic, dynamic mindfuck called “Lazarus.” It's the “most roller coaster track. It's not about the Biblical character, but a friend who committed suicide 11 years ago. It's the most personal song I've ever written, and I got it out of my system,”Hunter says, admitting he envisions kids listening to the song on headphones, to fully absorb it.
Hunter continues, saying, “The lyrics are really personal, and fans looking for a 'Fuck you,' or a 'Power Trip' type song will be disappointed. This is more thought-out, more realistic. I thought it was time to be upfront in my lyrics and strip away the ambiguity.” That makes the lyrics a perfect complement to the music, which directly connects like a series of punches to the groin.
When Chimaira commenced the writing process, they were coming off a marathon, two-year road trek in support of their most successful album, The Impossibility Of Reason. They had toured as headliners, with Lamb Of God, as well as with Ozzfest 2003, Jagermeister Spring 2004, which featured Slipknot and Fear Factory, and co-headlined the Summer 2004 Road Rage tour with Machine Head. The played a spate of European festivals and clocked 330 shows in 21 countries. “We were eager to write new material,” says Hunter. “While we were touring, we didn't think there would be pressure. We thought it would be a breeze. But when we sat down to do it, we were like deer in the headlights. It took a month of toying with ideas.” They joined up with Ben Schigel for the second time, recording at Spider Studios.
On Chimaira, the band refused to write songs that fit any stylistic format. Most of the songs on Chimaira hover at the five-minute and over mark, making it clear that they evolved through a natural progression rather than a preconceived notion. “We were trying to not have any restraints. If it was a 1 and a half-minute song and or a 15-minute song, as long as we were happy, that's all that mattered. The songs are as long as necessary, in order to get the point across.”
The band contends that Chimaira is Chimaira at their most musical, and that the solos ripped out by guitarist Rob Arnold are unlike anything on previous records. Hunter's screaming is much more intimidating and Chris Spicuzza's ambient/electronic element has added an additional, yet crucial layer to Chimaira's sound. Hunter says, “Chris took epic parts and made them more epic. You'll ask yourself, 'Why does this sound so big?' That's our trick!” New drummer Kevin Talley, who cut his teeth in death metal bands Misery Index and Dying Fetus, is more of a brutal, in your face live drummer, and Talley's intensity is omnipresent on the recorded album as much as it is on stage. “You can't deny that the drums are ripping your head off. These sound ferocious,”Hunter says.
The addition of Talley and Chimaira's progression as individuals and a band are what give Chimaira its fresh, invigorated feel. “Everyone put their two cents in,”Hunter explains. “Everyone contributed their flavor and style. So, it's truly a Chimaira record. We're like the three-headed beast we're disagreeing animals forming into one monster.” And what a monster it is.
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