This review originally featured on my blog - [...]
"It's alive..." screams Mark Hunter in the opening lines of Crown of Phantoms, and with the pounding of kick drums and shred guitar, so is the listener. As front man and co-founding member Hunter takes command, like the bands very own Victor Frankenstein, bringing life to this new incarnation of Chimaira. With the lightening power of great musicianship the bands latest offering gels synth electronics, melodic riffing and the heaviest of metal that gives birth to the darkest of audio delights. Released in July of 2013, Crown of Phantoms was funded by fans through the campaign site Indiegogo, for which they received various rewards for their support. What the general public got in return is the chance to hear a band that are not just trying to create a `heavier than thou' record, but something that exists beyond the realm of pure musical reference. This album feels like its missing the moving image, with so many of the lyrical themes, sounds and moods coming together to create a tale of horror. Opening track "The Machine" is a calling to rise, not just to the awareness of the music itself but to a need for change, as Hunter states "Every struggle opens a door...", there is hope in the anguish.
The battle heats up with "No Mercy", an ear shattering track that takes no prisoners, the dark psychedelic nature of the song is brilliantly encapsulated by its accompanying video above. The pounding bottom line of drummer Austin D'amond and bassist Jeremy Creamer drive the intensity of the inner conflict expressed, it is also a challenge to those who may feed off this inner torment. These themes are continued through tracks "All That's Left Is Blood" and "I Despise". Songs "Plastic Wonderland", "The Transmigration" and "Crown of Phantoms" are stitched together with a musical motif, starting as a crystal picked acoustic guitar riff that moves, develops and morphs through each track. Like a trilogy, they offer different perspectives to the tale being told, cleverly merged by electronics and guitars. There are hints of Fantômas' Delìrium Còrdia (2003) in the movement between soundtrack and pure metal. The instrumental menace of "The Transmigration" begins with electro keyboards familiar to the soundscapes heard in 1980′s horror movie scores. It is here that keyboardist Sean Z really shines. Following this is a sinister choir of male voices, the motif is once again echoed and repeated by electronics, moving onto a mirroring of the acoustic guitar riff heard at the beginning of "Plastic Wonderland". "Crown of Phantoms" is the doom driven, heavier end of the trilogy, transitioning to the darker side of the self and creating renewal from the ruins; as Hunter howls "Finding the beast inside of me and I will grow...", it is clear this introspection concerns the need for growth and change, brought on from struggles with inner and outer worlds. This is a band that's been through a few hells and come back stronger, taking their listeners on a dark tour of experience through the album.
Songs such as "Crown of Phantoms" and "Spineless" could still set alight to any circle pit, but again there is an added element, taking the tracks from just another moshing song to something that has a thematic relation to the overall feel that the album is conveying. This is not the output of a band who just want to make a party album, something for the fans to rock out to, there is a conscious effort to create an album that exists beyond the realm of the stage and concert hall, a story is being told, heavily injected with elements of horror film sounds and lyrical imagery. The album continues to explore the dark truths of existence, tracks "Wrapped in Violence" and "Love Soaked Death" leaves us with a harsh reality that will not be given into. Chimaira raise a proverbial middle finger to anyone/thing that stands in their way. After fifteen years the band have risen up stronger than even, with Crown of Phantoms being perhaps their most innovative and exciting offering to date. Em Webb