Napalm Flesh: Chimaira Interview

Posted October 13, 2011 in

This week, Napalm Flesh brings you headstrong darkness by way of Mark Hunter of Chimaira. We speak of the abyss, their tour in support of new album The Age Of Hell (which stops at In The Venue on Tuesday the 18th), and his recent Twitter marathon about the state of the music industry. And as always, loyal minions, we have some web-exclusive reviews for you, links to streaming music and our list of this week’s can’t-miss live metal happenings.

Streaming music:
Giant Squid - Cenotes (Reviewed in next week’s blog)
The Living Fields – Running Out of Daylight
Wormrot – Noise EP download

This week in live mayhem:
On Friday, October 14th, Raunch Records will host The Fucking Wrath, Come On Die Young (interviewed in this month’s issue) and locals IX Zealot. The show starts at 6:00 PM and is free, but donations for the touring bands are highly encouraged.

On October 18th, Chimaira and supporters Impending Doom, Revocation, Rise to Remain and Doom will be at In The Venue for “The Age Of Hell” tour. Doors are at 6:30, and tickets are $15.

The Complex is hosting Immolation (also interviewed in this month’s SLUG) with Jungle Rot and Gigan on Thursday, October 20th. This is a 21+ show, tickets are $15 and doors are at 7.

Looking ahead to next Friday, October 21st, South Shore Pub and Grill welcome Polkadot Cadaver at 7pm. Tickets are $10 and this is a 21+ show.
Also on the 21st, hardcore punks Bane and guests Defeater will be at The Complex; tickets are $12, show is at 7, and all attendees must be at least 10 years old.

While not a concert, we know our metal fans love their horror: Don’t miss the X96 Movie Horror-Thon at Tower Theater on Friday, October 14th from 11pm-7am. For $15, you get “An American Werewolf in London”, “Suspiria”, “Re-Animator” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (original). Tickets at the Broadway Theater box office!


Chimaira’s work is almost a reflection of their band name: an amalgam of brutal music that draws from numerous sources to build one fantastic monster. They are not afraid of experimenting, of growing and adapting, or of pushing through darkness that would collapse lesser bands. For over ten years, they’ve maintained their status as one of the guardians of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. In the last twelve months, they’ve faced huge obstacles and lost half their members. Instead of crawling home defeated, the three remaining members soldiered on, spent eight weeks in the studio and emerged with new album The Age of Hell. Napalm Flesh had the honor of speaking with lead singer Mark Hunter about the trials and tribulations the band has faced in the name of creation.

SLUG: Your site describes creating The Age of Hell as “hell bent on birthing what anyone else would have aborted.” Tell me about those eight weeks: what the atmosphere was like, what kept you going on the darkest days, where were you finding inspiration?
Hunter: You’re hearing it more and more from artists all over that the industry is a difficult place to bed doing business in. We definitely felt the brunt of that, the effects of the economy as well. A lot of bands have been going through some difficult times. We required a little reorganization and unfortunately we had to deal with a bit of a lineup change. At the same time as negative as that was, it was a positive to keep the wheels spinning and kind of injected the energy needed to go forward and make the album that we wanted to make, and here we are, going up the roller coaster hill again.

SLUG: So you guys went into this with a positive mindset and not viewing it as a setback?
Hunter: 100% yes. People who’ve followed the history of our band have seen us go through quite a few setbacks and that we’re not the ones to throw in the towel so easily and this situation is no exception.

SLUG: With only three of you, and having not written within this dynamic in the past, what surprised you in terms of what you guys came up with? Did you bring out things in each other’s writing that perhaps would have stayed hidden were there two or three other cooks in the kitchen?
Hunter: It was definitely a challenge taking on more than one role, and it was also exciting as we were writing a lot of the material on the fly, so we had no idea what it would sound like at the end, kind of like a thrill ride. Holding on to the edge or your seat, hoping it turns out good. I don’t know that it was all too different than how we’ve written albums before, in the sense that Rob and I have always been the core songwriters, but it was definitely different in terms of Ben coming in as a drummer and taking on more responsibility. I guess we’ve always been kind of known to put a lot into the songs, sometimes there’s not much room for the other guys to put stuff in. There was definitely an openness this time. I don’t know where the openness comes from, maybe it’s more of a fight-or-flight response, an adrenaline rush.

SLUG: What can fans familiar with your catalogue expect from The Age of Hell? Did you employ any new instruments or techniques?
Hunter: I think it’s on par with a lot of the older material, I think there’s a familiarity that it is Chimaira you’re listening to. But I also think we’ve progressed as musicians and songwriters as well. This album is pretty diverse compared to our last album, which was very focused on just being really heavy and sludgy. We’ve done our best to expand our sound and brought in some new elements like saxophone, and we actually used a lot of vintage keyboards as opposed to the past where it was via computer and digital keyboards. We used a lot of cool toys, even some pop-synth. It was fun playing with all those toys. That’s where you can really find the most creative freedom is in that world, because you’re creating stuff that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before and that’s my favorite part. It was exciting to be heavily involved with that.

SLUG: Creativity coming from an emotional place, with what you’ve been through with this band, especially the last year, has it affected or changed the way you write your music?
Hunter: I think that we keep the spirit of past members with us, and the class that they brought in. But we always change as individuals, changing with the times, and as much as you remain the same different parts of your life will influence how you write. It could be what you’re listening to, could be your attitude towards life; so I think we’re just different humans even though we’re the same, it’s just capturing us at different points at time.

SLUG: Are there talks of keeping your touring musicians as part of the band, or do you have another plan of attack on rebuilding?
Hunter:  I think we’re just taking it day by day. It’s so difficult to look forward. What’s the old saying… “When you look in the abyss it looks back.” It’s definitely the abyss at this moment. Which is exciting in its own right, but we just take it day by day and see how this goes. But everything’s been great, it sounds so fantastic in rehearsal. This was the first time a band had played “The Age of Hell,” “Clockwork,” “Losing My Mind” off the new album, and they were perfect right off the bat. It was really nice to just all get together, haven’t seen each other in months, haven’t ever played the songs together and boom, we just clicked. That’s a first in the history of this band. As bleak as things look sometimes, you have to find that diamond in the rough, as they say.

SLUG: How is Age of Hell being received from your perspective so far?
Hunter: I feel really good about it. The fans seem to be excited with the new material, I’ve seen a lot of activity on Twitter and Facebook, hoping that we’re playing a lot of the new material, so that’s a good sign. To be this late into the career and still be able to put out albums that fans are enjoying is positive. A lot of times bands run out of gas, they get 5 or 6 albums in and you’re just like, “Man, they just need to stop”, and I’m glad we’re not perceived as one of those yet.

SLUG: There’s been some awesome buzz around your Twitter feed the last few weeks, with you doing some marathon discussions about the industry. What started that whole dialogue? It seems to be getting mostly positive response from folks who appreciate the transparency.
Hunter: I think a lot of people are thankful I said something, whether they share the viewpoint or not is irrelevant. Where it really truly stems from is that we have mastered the technology to communicate at the speed of light around the world and we use it for vanity and to show each other what we eat, and I think we’re missing the point. The deep interest in it comes from that. The humorous interest that sparked it that day was not being able to listen to Cannibal Corpse on Spotify, and that was an important topic in the industry at that moment and so it just set off this rant.

SLUG: With that knowledge and clear passion for the industry process you have, do you see yourself taking any backstage gigs in the future? Manager, producer, record label beginnings, etc…
Hunter: I’m exercising my options at the moment. I’m currently helping out a group from Cleveland called Ohio Sky, they’re in a space-rock realm—not so much metal, but I think metal fans will enjoy it if they want something diverse that still has balls. So I’ve been helping them out for a year and helping them bypass a lot of the steps that are really unnecessary. I could shave off about two years of guessing right off the beginning on the first day. Out of my experience I can just give them that knowledge. Having lived on the road I can help them maybe avoiding making silly mistakes.

SLUG: What change or adjustment do you say the music industry MUST embrace or die?
Hunter: I don’t care. I hope it dies. I don’t mind, we don’t need them. The artist does not need it, not with the technology we have now. Actually we could use them, the ones who are going to work and make it more of a fair deal, that’s what really needs to happen. There are some labels that do 50/50 deals and that’s cool. I know a lot of it is 360 deals, and unless you’re Jay-Z I really don’t see a point in it.

SLUG: Tell me about this tour you guys are embarking on.
Hunter: Right now we’re heading out with Impending Doom and Revocation, I’m looking forward to watching their sets. We’ve toured with Impending Doom before but this is the first time I’ve seen Revocation, and I’ve heard some great things. We’ll tour with them for 4 weeks, then jump over with Unearth and Skeletonwitch to finish the States and Canada.

SLUG: What do you think about the current state of metal?
Hunter: Metal has some die-hard fans but I think it’s getting crushed right now by pop and rap. The days of the arena metal show seem over, I’m not going to see many bands play arenas much anymore in the metal world. I still think it will last and it will always have a cult following, I just think right now other genres are doing better.

SLUG: I heard you are quite a reader: what’s the last good book you read?
Hunter: The Harvard Psychedelic Club, it’s a non-fiction story about the Harvard professors from the 60s that were kicked out for experimenting psychedelics for medical purposes. They were kicked out for no good reason and it talks about their role in all of that and how the drugs could have helped society, and how this helped start the drug wars. It shows you the start of all of it.

SLUG: Anything else you want your fans to know before we see you in Salt Lake on the 18th?
Hunter: Thanks for all the support! We’re looking forward to getting back to Salt Lake, it’s been a while, we’re excited to play for you.

Blog exclusive CD Reviews

Roaches EP
Hawthorne Street
Street: 09.27
Aeges = Torche + Coliseum + Sweet Cobra
Featuring members of Undertow and Pelican (among others), Aeges sound nothing like what you might expect. This is thick, dirty rock n’ roll with plenty of swagger and even some pop sensibility. This debut 7” contains only two songs, but it reveals a talented band with a lot of potential. Roaches definitely takes some cues from the doom-pop style of Torche, and the influence of ‘70s hard rock is also undeniable. The title track is a straight-up rocker, fuzzed out and balls to the wall, while b-side “Dirt” slows the tempo and lets the band’s more melodic side take hold, but there’s still plenty of noisy goodness to be found within the song’s poppier confines. As stated before, Aeges’ sound is indebted to Torche, but there’s enough interesting stuff on Roaches’ seven minutes that this band could definitely carve out their own niche given enough time. Snag this one on vinyl and hope that more will come from this promising side-project. –Ricky Vigil

Natural Causes
Street: 10.18
Alarum = Cynic + Atheist + Alchemist + Zero Hour
This Australian based three-piece makes me think that this is what Cynic would sound like if they hadn’t broken up abruptly after their groundbreaking 1993 effort Focus. The crafted songwriting on Natural Causes, the band’s third full-length album, is striking and far from much of the typical prog metal jerking off that may of the bands in the current scene like to overdo and overdo again. “For New Creation” stands strong as not only one of the albums best tracks but just a purely great progged up thrash-jazzy song—it’s one of the few from this latest album that has the ability to stick. Alarum do a great job at blending bits of extremity with tempo change after tempo change, constantly switching the records momentum and gears as well as intermingling the guitar craft with the jazz-fusion styled bass playing offering plenty of atmospheric moments. The album is far from a headbanger, but it works effectively as something to chill n’ groove out too or have almost as some bizarre calming yet thrashing background tunes to pep up the listeners attitude. For genre fans this is a definite recommend—a layered and textured release from three guys playing guitars, drums bass and singing/screaming. –Bryer Wharton

Five Serpent’s Teeth
Street: 10.18
Evile = Forbidden + Prong + Cowboys era Pantera – Phil Anselmo + James Hetfield
Leading the ravenous pack of “thrash revivalists” (when will bloggers stop inventing terms?) is West Yorkshire’s Evile. Having earned their stripes with stellar barnburners like Enter the Grave and Infected Nations, snagged critical accolades from metal mags, and withstood the tragic passing of bassist Mike Alexander, it’s resoundingly safe to interpret newest offering Five Serpent’s Teeth as Evile’s triumphant and highly anticipated move forward. While it curtails every thrash calling card, blitzkrieg riffing, mach-ten velocity and occasional mid-paced mosh, a leaden crunch permeates these songs, endowing them with gravity and maturity. Matt Drake’s vocals maintain a low register, mid-paced but confident (and drawing a few comparisons to late era ‘Tallica), and despite any purist punk posturing inherent in the genre, Russ Russell’s crystal clear production uncovers a ferocity and immediacy that simply ravages. Per usual, Ol Drake’s leads prove heady album highlights, alternating between weighty chugs and dazzling fret finagling. “Origin of Oblivion” is a raucous shout-along mosher with as much Manowar swagger as S.O.D stomp, “Long Live New Flesh” is a competent helping of Puppets-esque thrash and “In Memoriam” is a moving and atmospheric tribute to their fallen bassist. References to …And Justice for All may seem imminent (and the title track follows the “Blackened” trajectory fairly well) but Five Serpent’s Teeth is a solid hunk of brit-thrash, well played, unique and worthy of the admiration of headbangers young and old. –Dylan Chadwick

One For Sorrow
Century Media
Street: 10.18
Insomnium = Amorphis + Dark Tranquillity + Katatonia
Isomnium encompasses true melodic death metal and doom—and one could even find a bit of gothic elements in the album’s nuanced keys. The four members that make up Insomnium have been at their craft for well over a decade now and really haven’t created a lackluster record. The songwriting snaps into place at every turn; even with the bulk of the songs being in the highly melancholy realm, the album isn’t one that’s going to send listeners running for Prozac. The myriad of melodies performed make for some astonishingly memorable tracks, be it in more epic territory, where “Song of the Blackest Bird” and “Lay the Ghost to Rest” truly shine, or more abrupt, heavy territory on melodic cuts like “Every Hour Wounds”—which sounds like it could’ve come from Colony/Clayman-era In Flames—or “Meandering Through the Shadows,” which contains an introductory lead that slices through any mediocrity for which one might be looking. This is one of the great occasions on an album where no song contains less worth than another. –Bryer Wharton

Junius / Rosetta
Translation Loss
Street: 09.27
Junius = City of Ships + Caspian
Rosetta = Isis + Year of No Light
It took a while, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that we’re living in a post-Isis world. That band’s use of space and weight in aggressive music did a lot in shaping my current taste in music, and their influence remains abundant in the realm of metal and beyond. This split features a track apiece from two bands who borrow from the Isis template, but are expanding upon it in their own way. Junius opens the split with “A Dark Day With Night,” which is a perfect title, considering the balancing act they pull off with the song. It is crisp, yet trippy--the guitarwork alternates from constant, near-staccato riffing to sparse (yet thick) passages, and though the vocals of Joseph E. Martinez are clean (and very well sung), there is an ever-present layer of fuzz and echo, creating something simultaneously dark and light. Rosetta contributes “TMA-3,” a song that is more aggressive than Junius’ half of the split, but a great complement to it. “TMA-3” builds and builds and builds--nearly every segment of the song initially seems intense, but is  comparatively tame next to the segment that follows it. This split does exactly what any split should: It makes me want more from both of these bands. -Ricky Vigil

Street: 09.27
Rwake = Integrity + Kongh + Eagle Twin
Casting Little Rock’s Rwake into the narrow southern/sludge milieu has always been selling them a bit short, and their uncompromising experimental pretense takes acrid form on their newest offering Rest. Sure, the band’s got a foot planted firmly in the doom-metal assembly book, opening with the haunting acoustic loop of “Souls of the Sky,” before belching into the mammoth riffing of “It was Beautiful but Now It’s Sour.” Still, gargantuan cuts like “Was Only a Dream” and “An Invisible Thread” (the album highlight) undulate and coil, transmogrifying to their own circuitous melodies, ghostly and haggard as they unfold, slithering in and out of staid heavy metal territory and into something more ethereal. It’s the atmosphere, the ever-changing sonic geography and those wailing sandpaper vocals (which may be the ragged southern counterpart to Humanity is the Devil) that sets Rest apart from its standard contemporaries, it’s an album unquestionably resolute in its ominous destiny, but willing to take all the unorthodox side-roads to get there. Chilling though they may be, these hearty compositions, like self-contained albums themselves, possess a warmth and intrigue as compelling as they are overwhelming. Remarkable. –Dylan Chadwick