The Age of Hell

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The Chimaira that recorded The Age of Hell was, in a very real sense, half a band. Drummer Andols Herrick, keyboardist Chris Spicuzza, and bassist Jim LaMarca left the Ohio metal band in the preceding months, leaving vocalist Mark Hunter to cover keyboards and guitarist Rob Arnold to take over bass duties while producer Ben Schigel deputized on drums. What's remarkable is how little an effect the stated departures had on the sound of the album. It's a very smooth and seamless transition from 2009's The Infection -- so much so that it's not immediately obvious that anything has changed. Chimaira have a solid sound that mixes up the rigid groove metal formula of funky Pantera-influenced riffs, squealing solos, and blastbeats with subtle electronics and layered melodic vocals clearly influenced by Alice in Chains. The Age of Hell does little to break from that blueprint, but they do manage to be inventive within the framework, such as the Eastern-sounding melody of "Year of the Snake," which evokes the music of a snake charmer, or the slick crescendos that precede guitar solos on "Clockwork" and the title track. However, while there is plenty of good on the album, there is very little that is great: lead single "Trigger Finger" is pedestrian and "Born in Blood," which features guest vocals from Whitechapel's Phil Bozeman, is not nearly as explosive as the billing suggests. Nevertheless, for half a band, Chimaira come out of the experience in good shape with another solid but unspectacular album.

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