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In my mind, a lot of the hate thrown in the Blasphemer-era Mayhem’s direction is unwarranted. A lot of said hate is thrown at Maniac and his infamous “raped-cat” vocal style, but I have a feeling most of it is just the Euronymous and Dead fan boys unwilling to accept the new Mayhem and who continue to ever fellate the Dead-era Mayhem simply because the principal members of the band are dead (pun not intended). Of course, they may simply not like the music, but I digress… “Chimera” is often compared to 1997’s “Wolf’s Lair Abyss”, and I can see that. I however view the album as more of a synthesis between “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” and “Grand Declaration of War”. Don’t let that off put you if you hated that album for its eccentricities, “Chimera” is very much a step back from that album. Essentially, this is “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” without the claustrophobic atmosphere and chilling production. In a way, it’s almost a mechanical album, yet retains a sense of human aggression not seen since “Mediolanum Capta Est”, or if we want to keep in the studio, “Deathcrush”.
Maniac’s vocal performances during his stint with the “new” Mayhem are often much maligned. Detractors who were previous turned off by Maniac’s strangled vocals will be hearing a pleasant surprise on “Chimera” as the man rasps, chokes and screams his way brilliantly through the album. Never letting down, his one mellow moment being a very haunting chant during “My Death”. Yes, the clean vocals from “Grand Declaration of War” are gone. I personally enjoyed Maniac’s performance on that album, however anybody who thinks such a clean vocal style could work on “Chimera” is fooling themselves.
The sound on Chimera is brilliant. Cold and mechanical is what Chimera is all about. The bass is audible (and sounding great) and Blasphemer’s guitars are brilliantly produced to bring out the magnificently written riffs. If you’re not getting your face torn off on “Whore” or “You Must Fall”, then prepare for twisted riffs that are sometimes, to be frank, fucking scary. Blasphemer’s effort on this album is commendable, the utterly repulsive (in a good way) title track being particularly notable. The bass work on Chimera is also very nice, with the start of “Impious Devious Leper Lord” displaying a very disturbing sounding bass line for much of the song.
Unfortunately Hellhammer’s drums are still triggered which while not too annoying, does detract from the album. When he’s playing slower, it does become a problem, because the same snare sound hits you powerfully, which IS annoying. When he’s doing his good old blasting, it’s not so bad, as with all high speed drumming it can become a slight blur which is actually a good thing as it gives more room for Blasphemer and Maniac to work their (black) magic. While we’re on the topic of Hellhammer, does he take steroids? His ability to play fast for long periods of time with flawless accuracy is amazing and simply adds to the before mentioned “mechanical” feel of the album.
Lyrically the album is great. Maniac’s well written anti-Christian lyrics manage to avoid the slum of more simplistic bands while avoiding the pretentiousness of bands like Deathspell Omega… At least for the most part. At times it does stray either way, particularly in “Whore” (that’s towards the “SATAN, I’M HOME!” side of the spectrum).
Unlike “Grand Declaration of War” or the more recent “Ordo Ad Chao” (which has a lot of “Chimera” sounding riffs on it, something that seems to have escaped many people), “Chimera” is not so much an album that needs to be listened end-to-end to appreciate. Indeed, it’s quite easy to pick out a few highlight tracks from an album which is a consistently great album. “You Must Fall” is an awesome song, beginning with the album’s fastest section outside of “Whore” and progressing into a very “imperial” sounding song. Don’t take “imperial” as an Emperor reference though, because I mean “royal”, if you get what I mean! It’s hard to describe really, but that song in particular is absolutely perfect and one of the first songs I heard from Mayhem. Obviously it made a good impression! “My Death” is also worth a mention and is most memorable song of the album. A mid-paced song filled with chilling chants and evil riffs, “My Death” is the song that best represents “Chimera’s” sound as a whole. Finally, the title track is an amazing way to finish the album, slowly plodding its way to the albums finish.
“Chimera” is an album that kicks some serious butt, there’s no doubt about it in my mind. Ignore the naysayers of this album and listen to it yourself. This is an album that is brutal, yet twisted and is exactly what Mayhem needed after “Grand Declaration of War”. The songs vary in tempo, flit between atmospheric and outright aggressive and yet maintain a sense of cohesion sadly missing from many recent albums. Blasphemer may say he’s disappointed with this album, but he shouldn’t be as “Chimera” proudly earns its spot in the Mayhem discography and even eclipses many of the band’s other releases. "Chimera" ranks as one of my favourite releases in Mayhem's discography, right behind Deathcrush and earns that position for every moment during the album. It isn't perfect, but then, nothing really is (well, very little). This style would be continued in a more un-orthodox manner on “Ordo Ad Chao”, but do not mistake this as a simple embryonic form of that album as this is a full-fledged beast, ready to destroy you and spit you back out into the void.