Review Summary: The most pleasant surprise of 2015
Nu metal was the last time heavy metal evolved. This new genre was the wagon that heavy metal rode to break away from the traditional formula. Just the same, it was the perfect opportunity for Rap, funk, electronica, hip hop, punk and gothic to reach the huge heavy metal and rock audience, especially the younger kids. The energy, the rhythm, the danceable tunes slowly became a valuable weapon to reach the mainstream.
It was the perfect wedding, it was the new punk. Pick up your instruments, color your hair, pierce anything that can be pierced and start a band. Sing about your personal problems, like Nirvana did. Be rebellious against your peers and society just by shouting loud and rapping along, like Rage against the Machine. Be cool like Korn or not be, like Coal Chamber
. The band that -back in the day- everyone hated.
The reason fans picked on Coal Chamber was not their appearance. The woman playing the bass was hot, so no reason for hating there. The live shows were bombastic; the guys gave the fans an honest adrenaline run for their money. So what went wrong? Coal Chamber was a rather mediocre band music-wise, which got bashed because of their personal relations with Ozzy and Sharon and mimicking Korn. Right time, right place, the band will say. A musical bubblegum, a fraud, the embodiment of dufus nu metal, the haters will say. Songs that fade away the moment they end. Maybe earlier. And now they came back, so let the hating begin. Or not?
Coal Chamber return almost 12 years after their last record and this feels like a debut. Or better yet, like the cover suggests, Coal Chamber has been invoked from the dead. So can CC hold its own in the current metal scene?
Hell yes! “Rivals”
is a fine modern metal album that can be heard by almost everybody that enjoys good-energetic-groove-extreme metal music. The songs are short, just two of them run over 4 minutes, but hit you right in the face. The dry – industrial at times- production adds to the rawness of the sound. Coal Chamber is playing fast with aggression, but with an overall sense of melody that runs through the compositions, a formula that creates a subtle antithesis. This sense of melody, in the form a catchy chorus or a guitar layer underneath the rhythm riff, mellows nearly all the songs in a sneaky way. Only the song “Rivals”
abandons the aforementioned formula, for a slower, harder and doomier approach that really is the highlight of the album.
The vocals play a huge part in the variety of the album. Dez delivers a unique vocal performance and proves that he is one of the most underrated growlers out there. His vocal lines are intense and imaginative, powerful yet full of theatrics. The vocals are more mature than the first three Coal Chamber albums and much more varied than his Devildrider days. Having listened all of his albums, this is his finest performance, as he elevates the album to the next level. Listen to “Suffer in Silence”
, where Dez’s voice is accompanied by the demonic Al Jourgensen. The screaming here is phenomenal, totally punkish.
But Dez is not alone in this. Meegs, who is a rather limited guitarist, gives his all in the album. Although the CC’s trademark rhythm riffs are present, his overall approach is cleverer than ever. The simplistic riffs are supplemented with breakdowns, melodic parts and changes in rhythm, making the songs memorable. To my surprise, there are some really good lead guitar parts too. “Bad blood between us”
, holds its own against any. “Wait”
left me blinking in amusement, almost thinking that this will serve as CC’s credential to a respectful band status. Having said that, Meegs will always be the weakest link in CC. His playing is distinguishable, but Rivals is as far as he can go. Well, at least, I’ll be surprised if he ever surpasses this album.
The rhythm session has always been the core of Coal Chamber, the driving force. Unsuspectingly, the bass is not so dominant in “Rivals”, as in their previous albums. The drums are much more dynamic this time, making a true statement of good effort, as in “Another nail in the Coffin”. Although there are some bass-y nu metal moments like “Worst enemy”
and “Over my head”
, these are the most monotonous parts of the new album. Overall, it seems that Coal Chamber tried to avoid the standard nu metal formulas and sound more like a straight metal band, which suits the new songs nicely.
Instinctively, I drew comparisons with two former well known albums. First of all, Rivals reminds me of Korn’s Untouchables
. It was a big step for the A.D.I.D.A.S. boys, where the band’s true talent came to fruition. The same thing happens with Rivals. The new album sounds mature, not ashamed for its past and very fresh, combining all the good CC parts and leaving out the rubbish. The other album I connected Rivals to, is The Hunting Party
. Linkin Park’s last album sounds like a prequel to Hybrid Theory and so does “Rivals”. It is an album that is not tamed by the nu-metal madness, focusing in good songs rather than trends. I think that after THP, it is becoming a trend by veteran bands, to put out an album to their full potential.
In my book, Coal Chamber was never a joke, although I can understand the hating. It was a band that had a really good album or two inside them and Rivals is one of them. I didn’t except an album as good as Rivals, so who knows, maybe they have another nasty surprise waiting for us in the corner.