Coal Chamber Rivals

2015 Napalm Records

Diamonds from coal?

Coal Chamber - Rivals


In a lot of ways Coal Chamber were the unsung heroes of the nu metal movement that ruled the mainstream around the turn of the century. Anyone who owned a track suit or red hat at the time can likely hum a riff (if not shout out the primitive choruses) of “Loco” and “Big Truck“. Hell, at one point there was a time Coal Chamber were headlining over Slipknot, however temporarily it may have been.

Unlike their peers though, Coal Chamber weren’t able to parlay their early success into a lengthy career. Rather, they fell victim to the perils of drug abuse and infighting, with their career effectively ending in 2003. A live reunion that occurred in 2011 began the slow resuscitation of the group and a few years later, their first album since 2002’s “Dark Days” is here on our doorstep.

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It’s no slight when pointing out that Coal Chamber were never the most technical musicians. The group succeeded through their spindly atmospherics, bayonet lunge riffs and unhinged aggression—their Marilyn Manson on a Hot Topic shopping spree image probably didn’t hurt matters either.

Years removed from those, ahem, darker days, Coal Chamber return with a lot less baggage, though their road cases haven’t changed that much. The band easily tap back into the well of downtuned chugging riffs that turned their self-titled debut into a gold record. Fafara‘s incandescent rage spills over with hooks big enough to hang your coat on. The drums feel far less anemic than past works and the bass sounds thicker, giving the brittle distortion of the guitars a dependable contrast.

Rather than getting overwhelmed by the gothy atmospherics and what not that crept in later in their career, “Rivals” is a far more visceral beast. Coal Chamber aren’t out to redact or correct their past. The group offer exactly what you would expect from a Coal Chamber album, be it the admittedly dated nu metal aesthetic to the forceful stomp grooves that lead the majority of these songs to completion.

Tracks like “I.O.U. Nothing“, “Empty Handed” and “Over My Head” are a battering ram driven showcase of newfound hunger born from a clearer head. “Suffer In Silence” even has Ministry‘s head commander Al Jourgensen lending some backing yelps. Consistency isn’t guaranteed though as cuts like “Rivals” and “Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets)” begin to demonstrate.

There’s enough moments of dated nu-stalgic quagmire in songs like those to facilitate a kennel’s worth of confused dog looks (think the crooked head tilt made famous by just about every nu metal guitarist.) To be sure, Coal Chamber have returned as Coal Chamber. They didn’t go out of their way to update their sound with modern metal trimmings, instead admirably sticking to their roots, weeds and all.

We may be on the cusp of a nu metal revolution sparked by nostalgia and a generation of musicians who likely spent their single digit years tugging on their parents JNCO’s. But for those of us who lived the era, the sound that Coal Chamber recapture here isn’t likely enough to spark another wave of Ozzfest‘s—though it will certainly bring back some fond memories from them.

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