Listening to Chimaira records is like watching Ultimate Fighting champions in the gym. They sweat blood, and they hoist around amazingly heavy stuff. The Cleveland metal champs' fifth album is a heart-bursting workout — from Andols Herrick's trigger-happy percussion to Rob Arnold's grip-and-rip solo on "On Broken Glass" and Mark Hunter's soul-rending howls on "The Venom Inside." Compared to previous records, Infection is half as slow, twice as heavy and three times darker (in no small part thanks to programmer/keyboardist Chris Spicuzza). Hunter's larynx drops to his bowels for vocals that hover in the death-metal range; the screeching destruction of "Coming Alive" could have been called "Dethlok Tribute." Chimaira mastered the advanced metal playbook — but they've yet to contribute anything to it. — D.X. Ferris
Step Into Home (Act II)
Josh Emmet has the keys to a time machine. Using his piano ivories, Below Jupiter's singer can seemingly transport classic rock history into the band's home studio. The trio's second record, Step Into Home (Act II), transmits '70s-fueled rock from the likes of David Bowie and Randy Newman. On "Shine On," Emmet channels Ziggy Stardust into his piano and sings through his muttonchops like a wheezy John Lennon, backed by tambourines, drums and space bass. Act II is focused more on piano ballads than 2007's Step Into Home (Act I), a '60s homage EP you might associate with retro rockers like the Apples in Stereo, but with bigger percussion and guitar. All 12 of these new tunes retain the band's lo-fi production values, with the added benefit of Emmet creating awesomely clever melodies all over his magical keys. — Keith Gribbins
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