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No, this album doesn't rule. - 65%

TitaniumNK, April 10th, 2012

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.