Chimaira - The Infection
Nuclear Blast
Groovy Post-Thrash, Deathcore
10 songs (54:07)
Release year: 2009
Chimaira, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

After the more than decent Resurrection was soundly ignored by both the above- and under-ground scenes in the Metallic sphere, few would blame Chimaira for giving up and admitting failure. They’ve been hovering at the edge of success for years now, outlasting Nu Metal and Groove Metal’s rise and fall with Pass Out Of Existence and The Impossibility Of Reason, before abruptly deciding that their sound needed a-tinkerin’ and releasing their rather good self-titled album. Even after this, Roadrunner’s response was to drop them, and whilst I personally hold pretty much every other Metal label that there is in higher favour than the Walmart of Metal that is Roadrunner, it seems that the Metal public is resolutely uninterested in Chimaira, and the band’s fifth album is unlikely to change that state of affairs. For your average Metalcore bandwagon-jumpers this state of affairs wouldn’t be a problem, but Chimaira have always been that bit better than their peers. In recent years especially, the added influence from bastions of the underground like Meshuggah has made their brand of Modern Thrash into something actually worth hearing, and the fact that they go out of their way to make each album different, truly pushing themselves, is something all too rare in today’s modern Metal world.

However, looking at The Infection even through these admittedly rather rose-tinted goggles, it’s still somewhat of a disappointment. Exactly how is hard to focus on in initial listens: from the epic and melodic introduction to first track The Venom Inside onwards, the album states its presence fiercely and refuses to back down. Yet it soon becomes obvious that Chimaira have swapped their speedy technicality for a slower, more atmospheric approach, repeating riffs more often and coming very close to the same traps that made The Impossibility Of Reason a hard album to love. The album as a whole seems several steps backwards; the stop-start dynamics of that first track, which builds into a wall of sound not far off Black Metal, just makes you realise that they perfected that kind of technical chuggery two albums ago, for goodness’ sake! What The Infection wants to be is a hail back to the self-titled’s intense Thrashery, but it misses the mark just too much.

The main problem is a retreat towards more typical Metalcore territory, admittedly with hints of Deathcore. I once praised the band on this site for their devotion to guitar solos rather than breakdowns, and whilst the breakdowns may still be absent, here the guitar solos are, too. Instead, we get riffs repeated ad infinitum – groovy, Meshuggah-esque riffs, sure, but if there’s a single lesson that needs to be learnt by Metal bands near and far, it’s that they are not as good as Meshuggah. Only the Swedish masters can carry their unique approach off, pulverising those enormously heavy riffs right through your cerebral vortex, and attempts to copy it usually end in failure. So quite why Chimaira are happy to chug along, making the kind of mistakes that their self-titled album (released back in 2005, lest we forget) easily avoided is anyone’s guess.

The likes of The Disappearing Sun are tired and nothing that hasn’t been surpassed long before. Things improve rather with the complex opening to Frozen In Time, yet when the song begins properly the same problems are evident; repeated riffs, played at the same mid-paced crawl make up most of the album and The Infection seems repetitive and dull as a result. Of course, there are moments of excellence that helped to remind me just why I do rate Chimaira as above the competition. Coming Alive, for instance, would have been an excellent intro for the album, touching on ‘proper’ Death Metal territory and making excellent use of the guitarists’ skills. The one truly memorable moment on the album is the opening to Impending Doom, an electronic-backed piece of calmness that reminds you of recent Skinny Puppy before the Death/Thrash riffs start up again, the technical wizardry working at its best here.

If this album seems like anything to me, it’s a farewell. Each and every damn track could have been the finale song from a previous album, the kind of subtly epic track that makes you want to listen to the entire album again, but here the effect gets rather tiresome when you’re listening to an entire album of it. Even ten-minute closing instrumental The Heart Of It All is a step wrong – were this one of their previous albums, the band would have added progressive influences and weird vocals and defiantly stuck it in the middle of the tracklisting. Here, it’s something that will get skipped. A lot.

Maybe this is the voice of a jaded fan speaking, but this might just be Chimaira accepting their position in the Metal world – after the piss and vinegar of Resurrection heralded a band returning to life after the overcoming of struggle, we now have The Infection, something that sinks its teeth in and will only leave once when you’ve made it pretty bloody clear it’s not wanted. The artwork hints at a guerrilla fanbase that, like those pockets of SS resistance after World War II, refuse to accept reality and continue to make their presence known via vandalism and graffiti – even Mark Hunter himself sounds tired when he growls ‘this was never meant to be/a lifetime of instability/I guess I was always weak/someone please rescue me’. The Infection is the sound of a band that needs to be rescued, certainly, and whilst it’s never actually bad, it’s a step down after the quality of the previous two albums. If you enjoyed them, you’ll get something from this although it’s a disappointment; if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, then The Infection won’t do anything for you.

Killing Songs :
Frozen Inside, Coming Alive, Impending Doom
Goat quoted 61 / 100
Other albums by Chimaira that we have reviewed:
Chimaira - The Age Of Hell reviewed by Goat and quoted 64 / 100
Chimaira - Resurrection reviewed by Goat and quoted 74 / 100
Chimaira - Chimaira reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Chimaira - The Impossibility of Reason reviewed by Aaron and quoted 36 / 100
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