“The New Wave Of American Heavy Metal was a marketing trick”: Chimaira’s Mark Hunter looks back on the NWOAHM’S glory days

Chimaira: Mark Hunter, left (Image credit: Press)

Metal Hammer issue 367

(Image credit: Future)

This month’s Metal Hammer cover stars Lamb Of God rose to fame in the early 2000s as part of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal - but what happened to their contemporaries?

In the brand new issue of Metal Hammer, we catch up with some of the leading lights of the NWOAHM including Shadows Fall‘s Brian Fair, God Forbid’s Doc Coyle and Bleeding Through’s Brandan Schieppati to get their memories of being part of the scene and what they’re up to these days.

One of the people we talk to is Chimaira singer Mark Hunter, whose band coined the term “New Wave Of American Heavy Metal” itself. In this extended version of the interview that appear in the magazine, Mark looks back on the rise and fall of the NWOAHM scene, his band’s internal ructions, his gut-wrenching cancer diagnosis, and just why Slipknot’s Clown once charged at him with a baseball bat.

Metal Hammer line break

Chimaira printed “New Wave Of American Heavy Metal” on t-shirts in 2001. Was there really a movement or was it a buzz term?

“It was just a marketing trick. When I bought CDs back in the day, a lot of albums had a tag that said New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and I thought it was really cool. I’d never seen anyone promote themselves that way over here.

“We were working on [Chimaira’s second album] The Impossibility Of Reason at the time and transitioning from the ‘nu metal’ of Pass Out Of Existence. We loved Morbid Angel, Deicide and Suffocation, so being labelled ‘nu metal’ stung a little bit. The marketing around Impossibility… became about being metal and this whole new feeling of it. Coincidentally, a lot of our peers were doing the same thing: they were starting a new feeling, a new movement, themselves.”

Was there camaraderie between bands, or were you rivals?

“Both. When I speak with [Lamb Of God guitarist] Mark Morton, we reminisce on how much we wanted to completely annihilate each other. It drove us to perform better.”

Was the rivalry more intense among labelmates?

“I felt that with Ill Niño. I remember thinking, ‘Son of a bitch! Not another band that tries hard and looks good!’ Ha ha! We were on Roadrunner at the same time and we could definitely see them getting preferential treatment. From a business perspective, Roadrunner were making the correct decision: Ill Niño had radio songs and they could do things with them above and beyond the metal scene. But, at the time, that really ground my gears.

“Slipknot were the most fun I ever had with another band. Clown [percussionist Shawn Crahan] had an aversion to clocks. I was standing side-stage and saw him charging towards me with a fucking bat. I thought, ‘What’s happening here?!’, then BAM! He hit the clock next to me with his bat.”

Chimaira’s fifth album, 2009’s The Infection, was your most successful, reaching No.30 in the US. Was peaking that late a blessing or a curse?

“That was our biggest moment – we were playing in arenas, getting massive tours and getting courted by bigger management – but the slow burn leading up to it had an effect on us mentally. By the time we got there, we were burned out. If it had happened two or three years earlier, we’d have been full of piss and vinegar still.”

Between 2010 and 2012, every Chimaira member except you left. What happened?

“It started with Andols [Herrick, drums]. He’s always had these intermittent issues with health and insecurities about his playing. His performance started slipping. To our fault, we brought it up and gave him an ultimatum, which he didn’t take and just left. [Chris] Spicuzza, our keyboardist, didn’t care for how we handled it. Matt DeVries [rhythm guitar] moved and wasn’t a part of recording The Age Of Hell, so he didn’t get paid for it and got mad. Rob [Arnold, lead guitar] and I weren’t on the same page in the studio.”

Was there backlash from fans?

“Worse: nobody was talking about it. We were out of the [conversation]: ‘Deathcore’s here. Who cares about those New Wave Of American Heavy Metal bands anymore? They’re all breaking up, who cares?’”

You made headlines in 2011 with a tweetstorm about the music industry. Why did you do it? Did it achieve anything?

“I have something called hypomania so, if I get amped up, I get amped up. I let myself get amped up that day. That was just me needing to get fifteen years of anger about the industry off of my chest. Did it make an impact? I don’t believe so, other than opening a few eyes and getting me fired by my manager.”

How come?

“One of my tweets exposed how the business worked for another of his clients. An argument ensued between them, which led to me getting dropped.”

When did you realise Chimaia had to break up?

“Early in 2014. I had to cancel a European tour due to pneumonia: my doctor said I was risking popping a lung. I took away everyone’s income for six weeks because I was sick. Then we had another tour planned and you could see it wasn’t going to be very lucrative. I think the profit was $1,200 a dude for six weeks of work.”

What do you do now?

“I’m a website creator and professional photographer. I’ve always been a film guy so, the first time I picked up a camera, I fell in love with it. I can sleep in my own bed and make good money, but still be creative.”

You were diagnosed with papillary cancer in 2019. How did you handle that?

“During a routine physical, my doctor noticed a large lump on my thyroid. When I hear the word cancer, in my mind, I’m dead. I immediately collapse to my knees, cry and vomit. A day later, I shared it with my fans. That was a great idea: I got a message from a girl who had it at seven years old and again at eleven. It flipped my perspective. It became, ‘Let’s cut this shit out and move on.’”

Chimaira reunited for one show in 2017. Any plans for another?

“We entertained it right before Covid hit. We had some offers in the summer to play festivals but, with all due respect to those generous offers, if we were to come back, we’d do it on our own terms. Unfortunately there’s nothing driving anyone to push the band back into high gear, largely because a couple of us have careers we can’t just walk away from.”

What do you want Chimaira’s legacy to be?

“Full-blown, ass-ripping metal.”

Read the full NWOAHM feature in the brand new issue of Metal Hammer, out now. But it online here and have it delivered straight to your door.

Metal Hammer issue 367

(Image credit: Future)

Metal Hammer issue 367

(Image credit: Future)
Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.