Coal Chamber – “Rivals”

Coal Chamber – “Rivals” (Napalm Records)

Back in the 90s, when Nu Metal was happening, Coal Chamber were one of its trailblazing bands, bursting out of tinsel town with their own dark, broken imagery to take the world’s disaffected youth by storm. Dyed black hair, heaps of eye mascara, black fingernails – in fact, everything in black – not to mention body jewelry, fetish post punk clothing and another fashion movement was upon us. It almost seemed the antithesis of metal – until you heard the music: moody, out of control and raging in only that manner that pissed off teenagers can achieve, although Coal Chamber would add their own twisted darkness to create unforgettable lyrics like ‘…the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, we don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn, burn motherfucker burn…’! Equally sizzling onstage as off, personal and creative differences would go hand in hand with the band’s success as they seemingly took on Sharon Osbourne as well as each other, leading to firstly bassist Rayna Foss’s departure and ultimately permanent fracture following a fight between guitarist Meegs Rascon and vocalist Dez Fafara during a performance, with drummer Mikey getting fired soon afterwards by the two! The band called it a day in 2003, Fafara moving on to form Devildriver, while the other members floated between various acts. In 2011, it was announced that Fafara, Cox and Rascón would reform the band having patched up personal differences, although Foss, having reputedly now found god, would not be joining them. Her replacement would be her earlier stand in, Nadja Peulen. Since then progress has been intentionally slow to allow further healing as well as Fafara’s commitments to Devildriver. However, with “Rivals” we are finally here after 13 years! Given the band is older, it’s expectedly not a rehash of the 90s, but pretty much how I’d expect Coal Chamber to have sounded today. Fafara’s hoarse, twisted vocals continue – probably made even more hoarser by Devildriver – while Meeg’s unmistakeable demented guitar wails and heavy, shredding riffs are still there not to mention some very weird noise oozing over the numbers. Mikey continues to pound just as angrily as he did before!! However, these days Coal Chamber sound even darker than before, and without sounding insulting to the band members themselves, don’t seem to have gotten over their personality issues (excepting Peulen) as a result of which songs like ‘Suffer In Silence’ (featuring the late but always great Al Jourgenson), ‘I.O.U. Nothing’ and ‘Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets)’ weigh heavily on past emotions and feelings. Still mixed up, yesterday’s tinsel town teens who dreamed of a dark world have now returned with the maturity to make their instability even more disturbing.

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