SummaryThe impossibility of being (the new) Metallica
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I’m a little sorry for that review title, it’s a bit of a bitch move admittedly, but hear me out on this.
Originally groove/nu-metal band Chimaira’s metamorphosis is one of the most notable ones in recent metal history from a debut straight to a sophomore effort. Bands will usually gradually move from one sound to a more evolved mature one over a slew of records. These guys jump from nu-metal catering to the very young audience of the early 2000’s, to a ripe post-thrash sound drawing direct influence from Pantera or Metallica now targeting metal purists, in a matter of two years from 2001 to 2003. A sudden change of heart, or perhaps a willingness to be remembered as a perennial class act of true metal versus another trendy band from a movement generally looked down upon.
Interestingly, this is still very much Chimaira with their own distinct flavor from their debut, just transferred to a perhaps more credible frame, and it should be reiterated it feels like a few albums have gone by to reach this stage. They were now a driving spearhead of the new wave of American metal by that point, aligning with fellow acts like Lamb of God. The verses are marked by enormous power chord grooves, and thrashy shredding locked in with the machine gun double kicks on drums, chunky distortion chugs and crushing palm muted stomps, fat baritone open string or tremolo picked sequences, mixed up with a few wild vibrato-punctuated licks or rapid clinical hammer-on/pull-offs, and still with their characteristic high work rate from the previous album. Leads are now pervading the tracks with a some of that trademark Metallica harmonized twin guitar flowing (notable example: intro to ‘Down Again’), sinister bending octave chords or full-on pentatonic solos bringing a Dimebag Darrell to mind but not without a hint of originality.
Mark Hunter’s vocals are venomous and spiteful as ever, trading off with occasional clean sung spells on choruses or verses, at times alternative and even grungy when of the more mainstream variety with that solemn fifth harmony feel, or the more common forceful and rocky type for thrash vocalists.
A word on the album closer, ‘Implements Of Destruction’, which mere name, let alone its placement at the end of the record being the epic instrumental, is as obvious a throwback and homage to the original thrash metal greats as it gets, Metallica or Megadeth. The acoustic guitar intro in fairness is quite touching and original as it’s got an almost mandolin quality to it. The track constitutes a definite break from the rest of the album and its hectic hyperactivity as this one takes its sweet time establishing its various moods, taking the ample liberty of setting some parts on a long-winded loop. It’s got a main musical theme, hardly original by any standards but the composers were surely opting for that awe-inspiring lordly theme made memorable by how simple and organic it felt, in the vein specifically of a ‘To Live is To Die’. Calling this a poor man’s version of the latter might be a tad harsh but wouldn’t be completely out of the question either. Of course it’s long as hell, reaching north of 13 minutes. The composition comes to a halt and we’re given a sort of random drony rustling at the end that eventually fades to 0 decibel. Experimental outpouring from the artists, surely, although underwhelming.
Some tracks are particularly well crafted and stand out: the opener ‘Cleansation’ with its titanic groove hook, the title-track ‘The Impossibility Of Reason’ with its well conducted buildup to the humongous and memorable anthemic chorus (“I fall face down at the sight of myself”) or the late and ultra heavy ‘Eyes Of A Criminal’ and notably its massive outro breakdown. There’s enough of a concerted effort from the band to offer good variety on the record overall, although this can quickly turn into a formulaic tough guy sludgy metal fest with somewhat redundant guitar crunchiness over and over and Hunter’s constant “I hate everyone and I’ll freaking kill you” threats.
Despite its effort to extricate itself from the ignominy of forever being associated with the by-the-numbers nu-metal scene of the time, and hence attempting to “do the right thing”, the album only seems to be filled with fresh inspiration and momentum for a while and although it doesn’t flat out crash after that, the music just isn’t deep, complex or diverse enough to keep the listener thirsty for what’s served up on the long term. What’s more, there’s that certain copycat, overt willingness to be a tribute to the classics that only robs the band from potentially achieving a more authentic edge.
Release date: May 13th, 2003
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