Chimaira – The Age of Hell Review5 By Rick Bakker
The Age of Hell is a great metal album with original ideas and intelligent execution.
Cleveland’s Chimaira have had a very interesting career over the past decade. Ever since their breakthrough album The Impossibility of Reason in 2003, the band has seen more than their share of troubles, including numerous line-up changes and record label disagreements that would surely bring an end to most metal bands. Chimaira has always been able to respond accordingly, turning their frustrations into their uniquely crushing blend of Thrash, Death and Industrial Metal – all while maintaining a strong worldwide fan base and earning the praise of metal legends such as Slayer and Fear Factory. With albums like the aptly named 2007 release Resurrection, the band seemed poised to move to the front of the American metal scene. However, the past few years saw even more hardships for the band.
When they released 2009’s The Infection, many fans were turned off by the albums mid-tempo, experimental nature that lacked the hard hitting, memorable grooves the band had become known for. Then when the news came of another label change followed by 3 longtime members leaving the band, many wondered if they could bounce back at all, let alone release an album that returned them to prominence. Thankfully Chimaira, like the mythological beast they are named after, once again refused to die. With The Age of Hell they focused in and brought back everything that made their previous albums great while subtly adding even more styles to their unique sound.
The intro title track sets the stage for The Age of Hell, thrashing out of the gate and erasing all doubt that Chimaira have lost their edge. It’s the most pure Thrash metal track Chimaira have released since “Power Trip”. It never lets up until it segues into “Clockwork”, an excellent track that returns something Chimaira fans have wanted since “The Impossibility of Reason” – singer Mark Hunter’s haunting clean vocals. Inspired by the eerie melodies of Chino Moreno (Deftones) and the late Layne Staley (Alice in Chains), they are melodic without ever sounding weak and are a welcome return. The next few tracks continue this sonic blueprint like a mad scientist hybrid of Chimaira and Alice in Chains. This results in a fresh, memorable take on the familiar sound and the band wisely keeps the song times under 5 minutes to help the album progress. The tempo picks back up for the album’s first single “Year of the Snake”, showcasing Hunter’s vocal versatility and new drummer Austin D’Amond’s quick hands and heavy double bass attack.
The second half of The Age of Hell shows some new sonic tricks from the band, as they let up on the throttle for the the standout “Beyond the Grave”. It’s a slow, melodic rock track that once again recalls AIC, specifically the classic “Rain When I Die” off 1992’s “Dirt”. When the tempo picks up at the end, it kicks in with a classic metal riff that would make Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath proud and ending with a nice solo from lead guitarist Rob Arnold. This track may be love it or hate it for many, but if you’re a fan of the aforementioned bands you’ll enjoy it as it breaks up the albums pace nicely.
The remainder of The Age of Hell recalls the Resurrection and the 2005 self titled releases, relying on heavy but catchy death metal grooves and aggressive vocals. Crushing tracks like “Bound in Blood” (featuring WhiteChapel’s Phil Bozeman) and “Scapegoat” bring the headbanging riffs and fist pumping choruses that will no doubt be staples of the band’s live show. The album then closes with what has now become the Chimaira standard, the instrumental “Samsara”. While shorter then previous album closers “Implements of Destruction” and “The Heart of it All”, it’s a very focused song that stands on it’s own and is an instant classic. It’s here Rob Arnold shines once again, releasing some of his most memorable solos and channeling his inner Kirk Hammet while getting an assist from technical death-metal guitarist Emil Werstler (Daath).
The Age of Hell is a definite return to form for Chimaira. It’s the sound of a band that has regained it’s confidence, learned from their mistakes and secured it’s foothold in the metal landscape . If you were a fan of the bands early albums but have strayed away, I highly suggest you check this album out.