CHIMAIRA’S COMING ALIVE: THE DEHUMANIZING PROCESS IS OVER
A lot has happened since Chimaira released their first full-length DVD, The Dehumanizing Process, in 2004; as captured by director Todd Bell, the band portrayed in that DVD is struggling to make the album they want to make, struggling to stay signed, struggling to get good tours, struggling just to stay together. The Chimaira of Coming Alive — the band’s third excellent collaboration with Bell — are opening for Disturbed, playing arenas, and taking bets on how many copies The Infection will sell in its first week. We’re obviously not in Metallica territory or anything here, and we do see that the band’s members are still working their collective ass off (a scene in which bassist Jim LaMarca personally hands out band stickers and canvasses fans is particularly striking) — but Coming Alive has less conflict and drama than its predecessor. And while no one should begrudge a band this talented and hard-working, unfortunately, conflict and drama are the things great stories are made of.
It’s the biggest — and, really, the only — strike against Coming Alive. Luckily, Bell is such a talented guy that it also really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.
The documentary portion of this three-disc set runs three hours, following the band from the recording of The Infection to a festival show in Dubai to an arena tour with Disturbed to a European headlining trek with Unearth, Throwdown, and Daath. It has to be one of the most, if not the most, gorgeously filmed movies about heavy metal ever created; every single frame is just beautiful. Even talking-head interviews are lit and photographed with a panache that’s highly unusual for these types of DVDs.
And Bell retains his talent for drawing distinct portraits of every band member, making you feel like you know each musician. Coming Alive does not fail in providing a vicarious kick, making the viewer feel as if he or she really is a member of Chimaira. So when you’re racing across the dunes of Dubai on sand buggies with the band, or standing on-stage with them in front of thousands of screaming fans, or sitting in the studio as LaMarca and guitarist Rob Arnold rib one another about who’s more overweight, or crawling around their European tour bus, you’re basically watching the best home movie ever made, and it’s an incredible amount of fun. And much to the band’s credit, it always feels like they’re being honest with the viewer. (Some of them were way off on that little album sales office pool — an admission a lesser group might find unfit for their fanbase.)
Bell’s concert footage is just as good as the documentary. Some of it is intercut with the documentary, but it’s most fully on display in the second disc of the set, which Bell co-directed with Nick Kleczewski, and which captures the band’s tenth annual Chimaira Christmas hometown show. This concert film is as handsomely photographed as the documentary footage and crisply and rhythmically edited in a manner which always compliments the music, using the soundtrack to give the images their maximum amount of impact. It’s probably as good of a representation of Chimaira’s awesome live show as you’re ever gonna get without actually going to see them. (But you should still go see them if you can. Seriously, they rule.)
And as if that wasn’t enough, the DVD is lined with bonus features, and a third disc features all the audio for the Chimaira Christmas show, co-produced and mixed by the band’s longtime collaborator, Ben Schigel.
Coming Alive is an embarrassment of riches, and overwhelming amount of material that you’ll probably have to digest in increments, and will want to re-visit later. Once again, Chimaira prove why their fanbase — which includes this reviewer amongst its ranks — is so rabid: they put out superior product. Period.
(four out of five horns)