Textured Aggression

It’s the sound of friction, of frayed nerves, black skies and white knuckles.

And it comes from Cleveland, a town of deep grays and callused hands, broad shoulders and the sunny disposition of an undertaker.

Yeah, Ohio metal troupe Chimaira seems sufficiently angry, with a dark, dense rhythmic thrush abetted by an undercurrent of doleful electronics, forest-thick guitars and a possessed-by-demons vocalist who sounds as if he could spit pea soup in your direction at any given moment.

But for these dudes, the pathos isn’t just for show.

Upon releasing its third, self-titled disc in 2005, a caustic firestorm of knotty thrash riffs and raw-throated bloodletting, the band split with its drummer and longtime record label, resulting in plenty of real life angst.

“The relationships were certainly hurt during that time period,” guitarist Rob Arnold confesses, chatting before a recent show in Minneapolis. “Some guys were at wit’s end. It was really just a strain on everything, where we were kind of thinking, ‘Could this be the end? Are we getting tired of it?’ ”

“The band started to deteriorate a little bit,” he continues. “We weren’t really getting along with our drummer at the time, Kevin Talley, and with Roadrunner (the band’s former label), we felt held back.”

All that tension is painted across Chimaira’s latest album, the seething, galvanized “Resurrection,” in big, bloody broad strokes.

The disc sounds like a band clawing its way out of its coffin, with the group having reunited with original drummer Andols Herrick and scored a new label deal with Ferret Records.

“We’re kind of past the point where a struggling band thinks, ‘All right, is this it? Have we gone over the hill and we’re on our way down?'” Arnold explains. “We realized that we’ve made it in a sense. We’re doing it for a living now, people know the name.”

And just what does that name imply?

For this bunch, it’s manic aggression with an emphasis on nuance and texture. The band employs a full-time keyboardist/sound effects manipulator who adds a sort of noisy depth to Chimaira’s repertoire, filling any crevice in the band’s catalog with pockets of enveloping sound.

This creates a bleak, perpetually shifting backdrop for the group’s brusque metal, which pairs dueling, high flying guitars with a vengeful lyrical fatalism.

Frontman Mark Hunter mostly sings of alienation, being dead inside and the occasional horror flick — one of his favorites is “The Shining,” and Chimaira seems out to match that film’s claustrophobic atmosphere at times.

“We’ve always been a very layered band, we’ve got six members and we want to try and have everybody stick out as much possible,” Arnold says. “We’re into real in-depth compositions, trying to tell a story with our songs. In terms of the production, we’re there for every little thing. Mark and I listen to every note, we sit there for 12, 15 hours a day for two, three weeks while mixing the record. We’re definitely perfectionists. We put a lot into it.”

Still, having come of age at the tail end of the nü metal era in the late ’90s, when bands such as Korn and the Deftones paired a bottom-heavy rumble with radio-friendly melody, the band was continually pressured by its former label to try and add some harmony to its tunes in hopes of scoring a breakout hit.

Chimaira resisted, and this ultimately played a big role in the two sides parting ways.

“I’m glad we stuck to our guns,” Arnold says. “It isn’t easy to just pop out a radio hit. Radio bands are radio bands for a certain reason, because they write that type of music. But we’re an extremely brutal metal band that’s best at writing brutal metal songs. Even if we tried to pull the wool over the peoples’ eyes and write some radio song in an attempt to blow up, it just isn’t true, in my opinion, and therefore isn’t going to be as good. We realize we’re on a slower train, but we’re constantly moving forward.”

Chimaira has settled comfortably atop the second tier of nouveau American metal bands, occupying a space that bands such as Testament and Overkill did a few decades ago.

And that’s fine for Arnold, an easy-going metal lifer whose band is as devoid of frills as the setting from which they sprang.

“When I would stare at the Metallica and Megadeth poster on my walls, I would say, ‘Man, I want to do that,’ ” Arnold recalls of growing up a metalhead in the Cleveland suburbs and eventually realizing his dreams of becoming a full-time musician. “We do all right, fortunately. I’m not digging ditches or working at Pizza Hut any more.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0476.

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