Chimaira - The Infection (Nuclear Blast/Riot)

Chimaira have been doing their thing for around ten years and The Infection is their fifth album. From the opening track, The Venom Inside, this record has a powerful, angry vibe that doesn't let up. Sometimes you can tell from the first few minutes of an album that you're going to like it. On occasion that first impression can quickly be proved wrong, but that's not the case here.

Mark Hunter's vocals are great, real voice from the crypt stuff. The riffs are solid and relentless and the drums in particular stand out. This recording has captured some of the best drum sound I've heard in a while. There's a dark, malevolent drive to this album that I love. Track 4, Secrets Of The Dead, is a powerful piece of work. The repeated lyric, "They kept calling me back", is really creepy and the track ends with an almost Lovecraftian sound. If you've read Lovecraft, you'll know what I mean.

Track 6, Impending Doom, is well titled. It's a quiet,moody start for about the first minute, then the riffs and Hunter's throat ripping vocals kick in. It maintains a good pace, not getting carried away with itself, and this is something that shines through this whole album. It's mature and well developed, it has the feel of a definite direction and real quality song writing.

The record company bio sheet that accompanies this album is full of words like bludgeon, horror, dread, menace, doom - all these are excellent words to use with this release. Track 8, Destroy and Dominate, is billed as "downright punishing, with cinematic sonic discovery and time changes as tight as a mosquito’s ass". Waxing a bit lyrical, but accurate nonetheless. Hunter describes the track as "being dragged through the mud with a 700-pound dude on top of you." There is definite texture and weight to this record.

Every track is strong, every track has power and drive, with well placed hiatuses and moments of calm. The final track, The Heart Of It All, is an epic. It starts with clean, melodic guitar, almost uplifting, for about a minute or so. Then the drums arrive and the melody continues, building up. Halfway through the third minute the guitar bends and the riffs and power kick in for a nearly ten minute instrumental showcasing the band's tightness and versatility, drifting between riffage and melody throughout. If there are any mistakes on The Infection, it's putting this track at the end. It would do better as a mid album track, leaving the punchier tracks to finish things up. The Heart Of It All ends with a fade from melody. I would prefer them to have gone out from this record punching me upside the head. But it's a good track nonetheless and I can forgive the placement as the single flaw in an otherwise brilliant album.

Chimaira are a bit hard to place for genre, which is excellent. They're not really death metal, they're not really metalcore, they're not really thrash, but they have elements of all these things and more. Ask Hunter what kind of music his band plays and he'll say simply, "Metal". Good enough for him and good enough for me. This band is uniquely Chimaira and The Infection is a triumph of an album.

Chimaira are due to tour Australia later in the year and I'll certainly be going along. The only thing better than this album right now would be this album live. There's some good stuff out there at the moment and plenty of not so good stuff. This album shines at the top of the good stuff pile. It has variety, maturity, power, intensity and a solid coherence throughout. This is my album of the year so far. Get it.

The Infection is out now on Nuclear Blast/Riot.

Read our interview with Chimaira about this release here - or better yet, enter our competition to win a RARE radio single off this release!