Chimaira: The Age of Hell

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Chimaira: The Age of Hell
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Chimaira: The Age of Hell
Groove Metal, Metalcore, Post-Thrash Metal
eOne Records
August 16th, 2011
Release length: 49:50
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Chimaira is one of those bands that have created waves throughout the Metal world. Everyone has an opinion towards this group, disliking them for their more Metalcore roots at the start of their career, to their more Groove oriented sound of today. Either way, the band has come a long way throughout the years, but has always managed to please their loyal fan base. The Cleveland, Ohio-based group has been at it since they formed back in 1998, and after thirteen years of being a band, they set their eyes on destroying listeners once more with their sixth full-length effort, The Age of Hell, on of Chimaira‘s most anticipated releases next to Resurrection. However, after the less-then-well-received The Infection, will The Age of Hell make up for lost time, or will this be another album that falls short of what fans have come to expect from this behemoth?

The Age of Hell definitely does seem to carry the band’s sound from The Infection, but in a much stronger, refined sense. The production to the album is definitely cleaner, but the instruments themselves still have a strong presence and even sharpness to them at times, which is what one would expect from the group as of late. The guitars are heavy and often fast paced, the bass is rich and typically follows the guitars, and the drums pound away and really cement the Groove elements of the sound nicely through restraint and excellent transitions with each part of the kit leveled well and about the same. Vocally things are a little different as there’s still a strong screaming approach, but there’s also distorted spoken word passages, like with “Clockwork”, and even clean singing which first appears on that track as well and becomes a large focus point for the band on this release, and even a small keyboard instrumental that establishes an Ambient Jazz passage out of nowhere, which sounds great with the quality of the album and the effects already in that section, but it becomes clear right away that The Age of Hell is going to be an album that branches out greatly for the band, though often sticking with that black and dark atmosphere Chimaira is known to have with their music.

Aside the heavy clean singing focus, there’s nothing really all that different from Chimaira. Vocally, the screams are not always as energetic, and that’s the unfortunately thing about the title track. “The Age of Hell” is a fantastic song with a pretty heavy Groove sound with some Thrash ideas in there, but the screams are handled more like they are meant to be gutturals, and in the end they just sound bland and more like a deeper shouting harmonized against the music. It’s not bad, but it just doesn’t suit the music having them toned down so much until about two minutes in when you get a few words screamed louder. The music itself is pretty strong, and at times you could swear that it sounds like a crowd behind them from a background audio sample because of how tight and heavy the overall sound is to the release, but there just isn’t anything else going on. You can’t forget about the additional ambient effects, which happen to be another huge part of this release, which wouldn’t be so much of a bad thing if they did not just abruptly stop all the time. It happens on “The Age of Hell”, as well as “Clockwork”, which is a strong track despite that Ambient Jazz section that sounds good but comes out of nowhere and hinders the flow of the song more then helps it out, and more times then that from there, making this just sound irritating. “Clockwork”, however, also features a good deal of silence near the end that builds up to a very low introduction to “Losing My Mind”, and it simply is not worth it.

With that being said, it’s important to point out much of the album does move at a slower pace, and not all songs have that speed and intensity that “The Age of Hell” has. This isn’t bad, but the slower songs means more singing, and it all starts to come off a little more generic then anything with influences from bands like Machine Head become unmistakable. Thankfully some of the faster tracks that do hit are often a little more enjoyable and show some more flexible vocals. “Year of the Snake” does show a little more of the band’s traditional Metalcore roots, though still using that shouting-yet-somewhat-guttural sound in a performance that actually greatly mimics much of the performance of the title track, including a spoken word passage in the same whispered tone. However, for this song, there’s more energetic screaming, and it feels like there’s a little more passion behind them that works for the energetic music and slower passages and breakdown. This is the kind of song this album needs more of, especially given the majority of clean singing songs are not bad, but the clean vocals feel lackluster, as if they were done in disgust but still have a little effort behind them.

Of all the songs on here though, it’s not until “Born in Blood” that you will start to headbang along involuntarily, but it’s unti9l “Trigger Finger” and “Scapegoat” that you’ll find yourself headbanging along without thought again thanks to how strong, heavy, and catchy both of these songs are, including the latter with it’s slower, intimidating pace. There’s some good tracks before it, like the title track’s music, “Year of the Snake” and “Beyond the Grave” are enjoyable, but some of the faster tracks in this list just don’t really have a strong enough Groove to them that will find you headbanging along. Sure the songs woould be instant high-energy mosh tracks live, but that energy is just not captured well on the album, and the groove to many of the songs is just simply not good enough. The band is able to build many of the songs on this release up to the point where they’re loud as well, even progressing nicely from start to finish, such as “Time is Running Out” and the heavy slower paced “Powerless”, but at the same time there’s nothing too interesting about them as they build. It’s interesting to hear once, but after that you have no point in going back as the build up seems to never really be worth it. The conclusion to the album, “Samsara” is an instrumental piece that completely destroys “Stoma”, though that track was more Ambient oriented anyhow and did fit with the random other pieces of that style throughout the release, and feels like a strong six plus minute track of slow paced, yet somewhat impressive music that is pretty heavy from start to finish, though headbanging along will be kept more at a minimal for the most part.

Honestly, it’s hard to try to put words to how disapointing The Age of Hell really is. It’s not that it’s a bad album, as it does have some enjoyable songs throughout the album, but there’s nothing really here that makes a solid experience. Aside a small handful of strong tracks at the start, the only time you’ll really feel motivated to do anything alongside the music of this release is towards the end with “Trigger Finger” and “Scapegoat”, which are both the singles off the album. Other then that, it’s like sitting through the more “Mallcore” oriented sound of Machine Head at times, but in a much worse way. The songs are often forgettable despite how tight they actually are, the vocals are often very bland and boring though the deeper sound was nice, just lacking energy and any sort of emotion, giving the feeling that he just did not want to record them outside of maybe five of the songs, and overall it’s just not an experience that really leaves an impact with the listener until, literally, the last three tracks. Chimaira seems to be losing sight of what made them a more unique act, and while growing and expanding is all well and good, this time around it feels like the band put an effort together they simply were not too happy with. The atmosphere is right, the music often sounds crushing, but there’s no lasting impression other then disgust, then rage upon hearing the album’s closing songs. Fans of The Infection may get a kick out of this one, but this album, while sounding rather refined and showing a little more growth, comes off as generic music by a band who has greatly lost their way.

01. The Age of Hell – 3:32
02. Clockwork – 3:44
03. Losing My Mind – 4:57
04. Time is Running Out – 4:13
05. Year of the Snake – 3:41
06. Beyond the Grave – 4:55
07. Born in Blood – 4:09
08. Stoma – 1:28
09. Powerless – 4:32
10. Trigger Finger – 3:54
11. Scapegoat – 4:33
12. Samsara – 6:12
Overall Score: 5/10
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Digital review copy of this release provided by eOne Music.