Saturday, 30 May 2015

Coal Chamber-Rivals

Well, it's been a long time coming! Coal Chamber have recently revived the band with a new album and a hefty tour schedule! How have the years apart affected the band - if they have at all - and importantly, what does that mean for the sound of the album? We asked Gary Lee to find out for us!

Coal Chamber are back! While that news when it was first announced was likely met with just as much criticism as it was excitement, I can gladly say I was among the throng of excited fans. I was a big Coal Chamber fan in my teens, ever since I heard Fiend on music television I've been hooked. Fiend came from the 2002 album Dark Days which would also contain anthems of my youth such as Something Told Me, Rowboat and Empty Jar. As I began to explore the Coal Chamber sound more, I found a sound that was as frenetic and energetic as it was dark and industrious. I unearthed Loco from their debut album Coal Chamber released in 1997, the video for which was as enthralling as it was frightening.

In same year that Dark Days was released, Coal Chamber and its members began to have their difficulties which lead to a very public display of frustration and lead to vocalist Fafara joining Devildriver, whilst in 2010, guitarist Miguel Rascón and drummer Mike Cox joined together once again in a post-punk outfit named We Are The Riot. Stylistically, Devildriver were/are a heavier sounding band than Coal Chamber, with their sound rooted in death metal and groove metal. Of course this meant that Fafara's vocals tended to be much more aggressive, with Devildriver displaying his hard gravelly growls much, much more.

However, Rascón and Cox continued to ply their energetic trade of bouncy punkish rhythms and big groove riffs in their new outfit. Yet it was done so through a slightly more mainstream vehicle than the dark and menacing tone that I always saw Coal Chamber through.

So how have the 13 years apart affected Coal Chamber? What artefacts are still carried from the musical journeys the members have undertaken since the day of the split? Is the aptly named Rivals a sign of a hatchet firmly buried and the beginning of a new undertaking for Coal Chamber? Join me as I intend to do what I can to find the answers to these questions.

Firstly it is clear just by looking at the track names such as I.O.U. Nothing, Bad Blood Between Us, The Bridges You Burn, Another Nail The Coffin and Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets) that both personal and collective demons were exorcised in the making of this album. But how does it sound? Well, the album kicks off with I.O.U. Nothing. 

The song was chosen as the lead single from the album, so some of you may have already heard it. But, nonetheless we shall cover it here. The song starts with a grating riff that has a great 'industrial metal' quality to it, as well as sounding somewhat like a metallic siren. Once the drums kick in we are back to the flailing energy we are used to with Coal Chamber; the song has a great 'stomp' to it. However, once vocalist Fafara enters the fray, the song becomes much more aggressive. His gravelly and impassioned delivery reminding me of his Devildriver days, specifically What Does It Take (To Be A Man). That is not to say that it doesn't sound like a Coal Chamber song, far from it, but the band is now the sum of their journey and it is interesting to note where they have come from. In all, the first song does a great job of heralding their return. It is aggressive and bold, yet it has enough of that old Coal Chamber flair to be considered their own. It's as though they broke the shackles of their past and charged back into relevance with a clear message; I owe you nothing for who I was, here is who I am.

Bad Blood Between Us starts with a tense scaling riff, before it is pulled apart by a menacing rhythmic chug. Stylistically, this reminds me of Something Told Me from Dark Days even down to the maddened energy and vocal bounce. Another solid offering. However the next song I want to bring attention to is Suffer in Silence. Not only is it the second single from the album, but it is the first outing of Fafara's twisted, slightly throaty vocal stylings that I have missed since the early days of Coal Chamber. Once again there is the groove and the bounce that has been spoken about in this article already, I get the sense that the energy in this song, along with the memorable and easily shouted "suffer in silence" hook, will make this a live crowd favourite. So, if you're seeing Coal Chamber live at all, watch/listen out for this one! If you're hearing them in the comfort of your own environment, turn it up!

Orion is another twist and turn down the dark end of the Coal Chamber psyche. Fafara's spoken vocals, weaving in and out of a discordant melody and a stuttering rhythm that combines to create a rather unsettling experience. But, this is the kind of thing this album had been missing till this point, so I am glad to see it's return! This atmospheric and disturbing side of Coal Chamber that is exhibited in older songs such as Dark Days, Pig and Sway, is one of the reasons I was drawn into their music in the first place.

From there, the album romps through Another Nail The Coffin, the title track, Rivals, the heavy and thumping Wait and Dumpster Dive.

Over My Head, is a thumping groove driven romper that evokes Devildriver again, as well as older Coal Chamber songs, such as I from the first album, which also features a great Rage Against The Machine style bassline opening. I firmly believe this is another one worth turning up, thrashing out to and enjoying in the physical manner metal music is best enjoyed. From here, the album speeds through Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets) before hitting the ode to the early millennium, Empty Handed. I love the rolling drums and the industrial styled guitar parts in this track, in my opinion another one to look out for!

Overall, I feel this is a fine return album for Coal Chamber and considering the trials and tribulations the band have been through to even make this album, I feel that it should be celebrated. If you were a fan of Coal Chamber then I don't see any reason why you would dislike this album. It builds rather well on the foundation the band built all that time ago. If you never knew of Coal Chamber, then perhaps you should check it out, or perhaps you have already through these videos and such like! Either way, a worthy part of a groove metal fan's collection.

Rivals is available now and is released through Napalm Records.

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

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You can buy Rivals here

Napalm Records

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