A REALLY LONG REVIEW OF CHIMAIRA’S THE INFECTION
Chimaira have never made the same exact album twice, so the only thing a listener can assume about a new Chimaira record is this: it’s going to be crushingly heavy. This band makes truly unpleasant, misanthropic Metal with a capital fucking “M.” Fuck, their most famous song is all about how they don’t like you very much.
The Infection is no exception. It sounds at once both distinctly like Chimaira and yet not precisely like anything the band has ever made before. The dichotomy of it, though, is that the vitriol is wrapped the catchiest and, in some ways, most optimistic music the Cleveland sextet has ever created.
Fist of all: yes, it’s generally slower than most other Chimaira material. Relax – this isn’t a Sleep-slow. Hell, most of it isn’t even a Crowbar-slow. Think of the breakdown at the end of Pantera’s “Domination” or even some of Chimaira’s own This Present Darkness – that might give you some sense of the pacing. (I don’t know how anyone will mosh to these songs, but I’m also sure people will figure something out.)
In fact, comparisons to Darkness – of which I’ve already seen a few in our comments section – are not entirely unfounded. The jagged edge knife jab breakdowns on songs like “Frozen in Time,” “The Sun Disappears” and “Secrets of the Dead,” amplified by the synchronicity between Andols Herrick’s drums and the guitars and bass of Rob Arnold, Matt DeVries and Jim LaMarca, do recall the Chimaira of yore.
But as songwriters and musicians, Chimaira have come a long, long, long way from that album. The proggy tendencies that started to rear their head on the self-titled and Resurrection records – slightly unusual song structures and a tendency to constantly replay a specific riff, making slight changes every time, as though holding it up to the light to examine from all angles – are incorporated again here. But they often don’t call much attention to themselves, are are integrated into relatively short songs (eight out of ten of these tracks are under five minutes), which kind of makes this album the polar opposite of 2005’s Chimaira – instead of sending you into a food coma, The Infection leaves you hungry for more.
This is probably Chimaira’s most groove-metal oriented album ever. That’s not to say that the usual elements of thrash, death, black and even industrial aren’t present; it’s just to say that these songs have a natural fuck yeah quality to them that insist you must bob your head along with the music. You don’t have a choice. This album is – dare I say it? – infectious.
And hopeful. Vocalist Mark Hunter still sounds like the singing voice of that panther thing that was helping The Nothing in The Neverending Story, like he gargles every morning with a cocktail of broken glass, battery acid and a little bit of lemon juice, y’know, just for flavor. And his use of clean vocals is now more sparing than ever. But while he’s still willing to spit venom like nobody’s business (uplifting pearls of zen wisdom here include “Good things never fucking last,” “Only death will save us from this hell,” and the promise that “One by one I will crush you all”), it also seems as though, for the first time, he’s developed something of a grip on his inner demons. “Coming Alive,” with its documentation of the “unbelievable force when you’re close to my lips,” might be the first Chimaira love song (Unless you count “The Flame.” In which case, seek help.). And the last words you’ll hear Hunter speak on the record are these:
This journey’s taught me to stand strong
Never again will I
Surrender my fears
Surrender my dreams
Surrender my soul
To the infection
So we’ve made some progress from “How great it would be to end it all.”
Alright, so, to be fair: here’s my one minor complaint about The Infection. I would have liked to have heard more Rob Arnold guitar solos. It’s not that Chimaira haven’t already proven in the past that they can write an effective song without solos, and it’s not that Arnold doesn’t get to do play some killer leads and solos here, ’cause he definitely does – fuck, the verse of “Coming Alive” alone is pretty sweet. And the more I listen to the album, the less I’m bothered by the lack of traditional solos – there are places where his interplay with keyboardist/electronics expert Chris Spicuzza is probably more interesting than a regular solo anyway (And it’s worth mentioning that Spicuzza doesn’t get enough credit; on this album I think he’s especially effective on “Destroy and Dominate,” the IMAX-worthy “Impending Doom,” and nine-minute plus motherfucker of an instrumental, “The Heart of it All.”). But after his guitar god-worthy shit on Resurrection – especially “Six,” which I’ll still argue for as an unequivocal masterpiece – I was ready for more.
But bitching at all about an album I fucking love so much is retarded. I can’t wait to hear this shit live, and I implore you to at least check it out and give it an honest listen.
All I really wanna know now is: do I really have to wait ’til 2011 for another new Chimaira album?
(4½ out of 5 horns)