without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Ever since I listened to all Aria's albums, I've always admired their consistency. Really, there aren't that much bands which kept great level of quality throughout many years and releases. Aria is one of them. However, if one stated that they have no weak albums at all, that would be a lie. Their second ''Whom Are You With'' effort was average at best, being overall unremarkable and unoriginal (still it had some kickass songs), and then there's this album, ''Химера'' (''Chimera''). So, you're asking me now, what's the matter with ''Chimera''?
The shortest possible answer - it is the most uninspired album Aria ever put out. Compared to ''Hero of Asphalt'', ''Play with Fire'' or ''Generator of Evil'', ''Chimera'' really pales in comparison, on every department. The most obvious and most important thing is this - you get the feeling that Aria recorded it half-assedly, as if they said ''Let's just get this fucking thing done'', without even trying to make an excellent album, like they did with the predecessor. The best thing to compare this situation is to take Maiden's ''Seventh Son of a Seventh Son'' and ''No Prayer for the Dying''. The former is an absolute masterpiece, the latter is its decent follow-up, but nowhere nearly as good. Same thing here. That brings us to question - what happened to Aria? What kind of internal quake could cause such drop?
One hell of a quake, I would say. Valeriy Kipelov was about to leave the band. Everyone who knows anything about Aria knows how big deal this was. Kipelov was the voice of the band from their beginning, someone whose name came to mind immediately when one mentions Aria. The rumours circled that Aria will fall apart, and then came this album, as an answer that Aria isn't dead. A solid answer, since it had some notable qualities, but not the best possible, cause it showed some restraint, which is normal I guess, given all the events that happened at the time of songwriting.
Anyway, apart from so-so songwriting, what's the main problem of ''Chimera''? The production, definitely. Although the sound is crisp, sharp, metallic, I cannot help but notice how those drums in particular sound uninspired and how much they drag down the rest. Alexandar Manyakin was never the most technical drummer, but he was excellent in providing some solid back-up to other instruments. His performance is just plodding, highly reminiscing of Dave Holland. I also notice that solos, which were before full of vigour and passion, are now played kind of reluctantly, for most of the time. Still, nothing to be complained about Dubinin's bass, which is as great as ever, and Kipelov's singing, he's up to the task. In one word, professional.
''Chimera'' is composed of some masterpieces, some good songs that should've been better, and some total snoozers. Nothing new under the sun, you might say. True, but never before on an Aria album you had such distinctive difference in quality. Only one listening is enough to see which song is awesome, and which one sucks. My point is, that there aren't any ''growers'' on this record - what you hear is what you'll get. Totally oposit situation is with their latter ''Armageddon'' album (2006.), but that's another review.
From each section (the great, the faulty, the bad), I will examine two songs and point out all its attributes. I think that's the best way to describe all the virtues and flaws of this album, and also to leave you room to explore it yourself, cause my opinion and your opinion can differ.
The great - ''Chimera''. Awesome opening title track, one the finest in Aria's catalogue. Speedy, powerful, interesting, catchy - this song is all of that. For once on this album we have no problems with songwriting, motivation and band performance, everything is just perfect. Pay particular attention on that supercatchy, fist-pumping chorus and on face-melting solo. Hats off to this song, it is beyond amazing. An excellent proof that Aria were and are able to write a classic whenever they put enough energy in it. Likewise with ''The Calm'', which is a stunning ballad with mesmerizing, chilling melodies and one of the most epic choruses I've ever heard. Fun fact: the lyrical subject is almost exactly the same as the one of ''Rime of the Ancient Mariner''. They just couldn't get away from Maiden, could they? I'll forgive them this, since the song is so damn good.
The faulty - ''Heaven Will Find You''. Interesting (though overlong) beginning, great riff, chorus, solo. So what's the problem? Lack of intensity. I mentioned this problem before, and here's where it's most obvious. If you analyse this song piece by piece, you'll find nothing wrong with it, except the fact it sounds like some lazy jam, and that's what heavy metal shouldn't be. I know, it's mid-paced, you couldn't expect some maniacal headbanging (like with the title track), but still... This lack of conviction is something that all these dodgy tracks share - same thing with ''I'm Not Insane'', absolutely same. Damn you, you stupid production!
The bad - ''You'll Be Given a Sign''. When Aria write long epic tracks, they're usually awesome, but not this one. Basically, it's nine minutes of waiting, waiting for something spectacular to happen. Nothing happened. Especially irritating is that ending, with some random words and uninteresting choirs over and over again. Argh. Then there's ''Path to Nowhere'', which is undoubtedly the most boring song Aria ever made, even worse than the forementioned one. Kipelov kinda pulled it off on his solo ''V Let'' live album, but still it left bad taste in my mouth.
What we have here is Aria's desperate struggle to make an album good enough to shut gossip's mouth. Some parts of it are brilliant, but for the most of the time it sounds really forced, and we all know that forcing things in music can't end up well. Still, it is a very important album in their discography, since it's the last album with mighty Valeriy Kipelov on vocals, which marked a turning point for Aria. Should you listen to this album? Only if you're determined to fully discover Aria's opus. Otherwise, ''Chimera'', ''The Calm'' and ''Shard of Ice'' should do the trick for you.
This last album with Kipelov on the vocals shows us that Aria still play powerful traditional heavy metal in the new millenium. The kicking and vibrating bass lines, the melodic guitar solos and the powerful and convincing vocals are easily adorable and addicting.
The most convincing songs on this record are the mighty opener and title track "Chimera" with its melodic guitar leads and brilliant chorus. Another highlight is without any doubt the dark ballad "The calm" that has also been performed with "Udo Dirkschneider" and covered by "Rammstein" and this fact already shows us the talent of this track. The other ballad "Shard of ice" has a very warm and calm atmosphere and invites us to dream and relax which is not a thing that is eventually typical for a traditional heavy metal band. kipelov does an amazing job on the vocals on this track that is growing after a first few tries only.
To keep the whole thing a little bit surprising the band added some modern and electronical elements to songs like "Heaven will find you" or "Burning arrow" that are surprisingly well integrated in the traditional overall sound and that should not even bother the truest metal purists.
The only but big problem of the album is that most of the songs offer nothing new and are not as addicting as the promising single"Chimera" and "The calm". The epic "You will be given a sign" is quite long but offers us nothing outstanding or memorable. This is the problem of most of the songs. They sound nice and inoffensive but they are not convincing enough and I think that it was a good thing that the band parted ways and tried something new after this record before the whole thing would have become too much of a routine work as the follow up has been an amazing and unexpected return in force.
Nevertheless, I would recommend this album to any traditional heavy metal fan that wants to listen to something traditional and at the same time exotical.
I have been a fan of Aria for quite some time now, and listened to all their releases before this one a ton of times, and all were solid, if not great, heavy metal albums that still manage to entertain me after many listens. An accomplishment not many bands have achieved, staying so true to their melodic heavy metal roots but still changing their sound slightly across the way with each album, without EVER losing the songwriting. This album wasn't received too well, but I was pretty convinced that Aria with Kipelov couldn't do any wrong. When I finally checked it out, that turned out to be the truth. This is yet another great album by Aria, despite what anyone else may say. In fact, I'd even rate it as the third best Aria album with Kipelov (I haven't heard anything from the Berkut era as of now). I'm honestly amazed how these guys made so many classic albums in a row as if it's nothing.
The title track opens the album, and like the previous reviewer said, this is an instant classic. As soon as I hit up my car for a ride and turn up this song, I can't help but push the gas pedal like hell. A very speedy opener with lots of melodies, riffs and some amazing soloing, courtesy of Holstinin and Terentyev. Their guitar playing is just awesome and really, the guitar tone does rule here. Perfectly in the mix, loud 'n proud, just what I crave. Another big highlight here is Burning Arrow, with its amazing intro riff and some really good vocals by Valery Kipelov, who has the perfect voice for this kind of music. His vocals combined with the majestic guitar riffs and melodies really give an atmosphere that's not often seen in heavy metal. It's majestic, but at the same time it's also very moody and emotional.
There's also a lot of variation on this album, and yet, I can't stress this enough, the songwriting never suffers a bit. A good example of this is Vampire. It starts off in a very calm way, with a very gloomy melody, which continues in the verses that are sung beautifully by Kipelov. Then, there's even a flute solo section, which is just beautiful and fits the song perfectly. This is a great song, but I guess it's not for the people who only want their metal fast and aggressive. But I love it and I don't give a shit what anyone else says.
There are several rather epic songs on here as well. The last three songs, and possibly also I Haven't Gone Insane, if just for the chorus. The most well known song from this album is Calm, which starts as a ballad and then turns into something pretty epic as well. Another winner, and certainly not the only one on here! In fact, there is not a single song here that can be described as weak. It's all good.
To conclude this review, I just have to say that this is a really underrated album. The classic Aria formula is completely at work here: Epic songs, beautiful melodies, awesome riffs, amazing vocals and the ability to write a good song. If you're hesitating to check out this album because of negative opinions, put aside all of your doubts and get this album!! As usual with an Aria album, it takes just a bit getting into, but after that it all unfurls into a great experience. Highly recommended especially to those who like their metal melodic and classic, and of course to any fan of Aria who hasn't heard it yet.