Rare is it that Chimaira aren't marred by some internal or personal strife when making an album. Whether it be label woes, internal conflicts or even band members leaving; it always felt like anger and revenge fueled the creative process for their past few efforts. Not so with "The Infection" - a conceptual outing that metaphorically latches onto a virus outbreak ala "28 Days Later", while simultaneously steeling the bands temper thanks to a flexible story arc.
One would be wrong to think that the absence of heated emotions guiding their hands would stay Chimaira's heaviness though. Instead, what it has done is allow them to establish the higher plateaus that they were only able to reach for in the past. In turn, numerous unexpected part changes and a wealth of experimentation push the songwriting and playing on this album beyond feeling like just another collection of metal songs.
Removed from the riff, chorus, breakdown, solo formula, the band careen through their material in intrinsic ways that few will be able to telegraph. This allows them to greatly develop atmosphere, whether it be through the stepped up electronic subtlety, thunderous percussion or even the occasional dynamic vocal pattern; the band are able to fully embrace their vision, allowing for a greater range of their influences (Carcass, Nine Inch Nails, etc.) to abrasively mesh together.
Complex structuring aside though, the group repeatedly crank out a downpour of adrenalised guitar driven rage. Inspired solos, gnarled stomp riffs, ethereal electronics and bone crushing drumming are all in place when called for and rarely do they fail to deliver anything short of a bloodbath. Still, "The Infection" is not an album without a few missteps.
Given that the momentum of the songs seems to adhere to an overall trajectory, things can slow down a bit past the halfway point. While this allows the band to try on some mid-tempo excursions and breach new territory, it can also tax the listeners attentiveness and see a few tracks meander a bit - especially when stacked up next to the all out devastation the first few cuts provide.
Deliberate pacing also has its benefits though as the band are able seamlessly fade into the closing track, "The Heart Of It All", an 8 minute plus instrumental journey that could best be described as Chimaira's own "Orion". A harsh, discordant and colorful album rife with thematic subtlety, "The Infection" may not be what diehard fans were expecting, but its expanded depth and devious prowess are sure to be met with little resistance.
(4 / 5)