Coal Chamber’s sophomore release.
Dez Fafara – Vocals
Meega Rascon – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Keyboards
Rayna Foss-Rose – Bass
Mike “ Bug" Cox – Drums
3.El Cu Cuy
6.What’s In Your Mind?
8.Shock the Monkey
11.Feed My Dreams
16.Anything But You
Coal Chamber fits the mold of Nu Metal pretty well. Though I’ve always seen the “genre" as basically a catch-all term for mainstream Hard Rock/Metal acts appearing from the mid-to-late nineties, those who would have you believe Nu Metal is its own genre have plenty to argue for here. After all, we see the fusion of heavy, down-tuned riffs with hip hop elements and simplistic music. Is this a bad thing, a weakness on Coal Chamber’s part? I think not. After all, Dream Theater fits the mold of Prog Rock pretty da[font=]mn[/font] well, too. And Coal Chamber isn’t a band-wagon hopper in my mind. They were one of the original Nu Metal bands to become popular, along with Korn.
Now, am I going to claim that this is an amazing album? No. But I will say that the simplicity of Coal Chamber’s music works, and this is a fun album to listen to. It’s really heavy by Nu Metal’s standards, with crunching, lurching guitars and aggressive vocals. Dez Fafara has a unique vocal style, and here he comes up with some very satisfying melodies, and some surprisingly strong vocal sections run throughout. One thing that bothers me about this, though, is that what seems to set this release apart from anything else put out in the mainstream hard rock scene is the vocals—not the instrumentals. A lot of the guitar riffs could easily find a pleasant home on a Korn or Ill Nino album.
Some of the highlights:
The album starts off with an interesting, mellow-dark string arrangement on Mist
, which blasts straight into a fast-paced single note guitar riff and some nice sinister vocals from Dez on the next song, Tragedy
. Weird vocal harmonies in the chorus are the highlight of this song. Untrue
begins with a nice, reverberated clean riff and bass groove before exploding through the speakers with an ultra-chunky and brooding riff, and the pre-chorus builds great suspense with Dez screaming “You’ve been untrue, I’ve seen it before and I see it again," before going for the insanely infectious chorus melody, with the guitars forming a nice backdrop for the melodic section. The lyrics seem to be about an untrustworthy significant other or friend. Not Living
is perhaps the best song on here, with a good heavy riff then a nice break of clean guitars before a palm-muted buildup in the verse and a good, intense chorus. Working like a spring, it builds intensity and releases it at the right times. Burgundy
is an interesting piece with female backing vocals during the verse of some vibrato guitar effects, and baritone singing.
After that point, the album begins to lose steam. I’ve highlighted the good songs from the first half of the album, but I’m afraid not all is well even in the beginning. El Cu Cuy
and What’s In Your Mind
are pretty average at best, and Shock The Monkey
is a downright laughable affair (which features Ozzy Osbourne on vocals). The closing song, Anything But You
, is a slow, melancholy song that is one of the best on here, breaking the monotony of the last half with a good bass intro and atmospheric, Korn-like guitars. Entwined
is also worth a mention, with evil guitar riffs and very sinister-sounding chorus that builds up to a big ending.
The good part:
Okay, so the formula gets old after a while. Chunky riffs abound the second half of the album, and the lyrics are quite predictable, the bass is consistently solid, and the drums are pretty basic…nothing to write home about but not horrible either. There’s more to like about this album than just raw heavy rockin’. Underneath the surface of the distorted wall of guitars, thumping bass, and angsty vocals lie some hidden treasures. Keyboards abound, and though they’re dwelling underneath the darkness, they’re there and they add some good atmospheric textures and nice arrangement details. Josh Abraham and Troy Van Leeuwen (A Perfect Cirlce) provide keyboards for the album, and guest appearances from Orgy’s Jay Gordon (Burgundy) and Amir Derakh (No Home, Notion) as well as DJ Lethal all add some nice color sprinkled throughout the album. Anything from percussive synths to keyboards and freaky sounds come from these collaborations, and it gives the album a good layered, dark feel. Guitarist Meega Rascon also has quite a few soaring guitar parts that add more color to his intensive, heavy guitar chunkage. CHeck out My Mercy
for a song that is really enhanced by the keyboards; they add a great atmosphere and mood to the song, and make it a stand out on the record.
Throughout Coal Chamber’s entire ill-fated career, not much growth was seen. They never managed to separate themselves from their drop-tuned guitar sound and angst, although it never seemed like they were trying to anyway. Overall, though, Chamber Music is a scattered and somewhat uncohesive record with too many average moments and not enough good ones. They would follow up this album with their final and surprisingly superior album, Dark Days
, which is less varied but more cohesive, dark and overall stronger.
If you’re not a fan of Nu Metal, this certainly won’t change your mind. If you happen to like Nu Metal, then you should consider this. If you’re a Coal Chamber fan, then I recommend it highly. I like it, because it's dark and brooding music that's not too complex, and it fits certain moods. This is the kind of album you can blast in the car stereo, roll down the windows, and enjoy a ride with your friends.