CHIMAIRA is a band that's always played like they have something to prove. After an (at best) average debut, "The Impossibility Of Reason" roared in and earned them a spot amongst the powerhouses of the NWOAHM, while its self-titled follow-up was a monstrous display of a band that wasn't afraid to take chances. Label woes and inner-struggles that would have slain a lesser beast only gave these Cleveland workhorses that extra bit of fuel needed for the devastating and appropriately-titled "Resurrection". Whether it was the return of drummer Andols Herrick that got the juices flowing, or the fact that the band wisely ignored any laurel on which they could rest, 2007 saw CHIMAIRA firing on all cylinders. Two years later, we're starting to see a bit of a pattern of slam-that-ass, followed by artistic expansion and exploration, then back to the butt-whooping. Following that logic, "The Infection" is exactly as it should be; a less brutal, yet more evolution-minded affair that sees the band rumbling toward the next phase of their career.
Mid-paced and song-oriented, "The Infection" is an album that brings a more cerebral attack than it does a bludgeon to the skull, but that's not to say this isn't one heavy mother fucker. As good an intro as any I've heard in a long time, "The Venom Inside" slithers in with a mood-inducing melody the main theme, filled with whammy-bar spiked riffs and speed-picked melo-death runs, comes growling in. Said intro melody reprises itself briefly before the album flows seamlessly into the chug of "Frozen In Time". Despite the fact that a noticeable formula begins to set in, textured guitar work, strong vocal hooks and an eerie little solo from Rob Arnold offer enough distraction to keep things interesting. As the disc rolls on, so too does the barrage of galloped riffing flavored with little intricacies, schooled lead work and slick song arrangement. At times, this formula is all too apparent, but other moments are highly effective. "Broken Glass", "Destroy And Dominate" and the triumphantly epic instrumental (the disc's biggest surprise) "The Heart Of It All" are great examples of CHIMAIRA past, present and future.
By avoiding chaos within structuring, CHIMAIRA has left plenty of room for each member to breathe their own breath of air into each song. Backed by the machine-like bass and drum pummel of Jim LaMarca and the still invigorated Herrick, Arnold and cohort Matt DeVries use calculated interaction, opposed to straight-forward brutality, to make their statement on this album. Making himself more present than ever before is keyboardist Chris Spicuzza. His atmospheric subtleties, while always noticeable, have finally reached their full potential. In fact, the darkness of "Impending Doom" would probably be little more than a dimly lit light bulb were it not for his contribution. Always an aggressive growler and barker, Mark Hunter came into the studio with a heart full of anger this time out. By adding a death-like scowl here and an anguished scream there, Hunter brings an apocalyptic aura to the mix.
When all is said and done, "The Infection" will surely be a hot topic of discussion amongst CHIMAIRA fans. This may not be as epic, aggressive or intense an endeavor as the previous three, but once you've explored every corner, you'll find it to be one of their most creative. A good sign of things to come.