Coal Chamber, live in London

Support: Soil, The Defiled, Dope

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Having ragged the fuck out of our flux capacitor and hit 88mph, we’ve apparently landed in the late nineties; Coal Chamber are finishing a largely sold-out sweep of the UK with a headline slot at Koko and everyone’s really, really excited.

Turns out we are, in fact, in 2015. There are sadly no hoverboards in sight, but there is a new Coal Chamber album. More on that later, though – Dope [9] are on their first UK tour ever and they’re making the other bands shake in their New Rocks. It’s not clever, it’s not complicated, but it’s so fucking fun; Edsel Dope brandishes his guitar like he’s just caught it from the ocean, forcing meticulously tight industrial metal onto a crowd that demands it. Die Motherfucker Die chugs along and coaxes the kung-fu loonies into the pit, while a riotous cover of Rebel Yell gets even the most jaded, balding cynic at least mouthing the words. Please come back, Dope. Please.

The Defiled [7] are – to phrase it politely – the most ambitious band on the bill, so it’s a shame that Stitch D’s guitar sounds like it’s being dragged through a pot of gravy. Aside from this minor niggle, the London mob plough through deep cuts taken from 2013’s Daggers – in particular, No Place Like Home is an absolute rager. Running In Circles, a thrashy yet inherently catchy number from their forthcoming EP, gets the audience – yep, you’ve got it – running in circles. As I Drown ties everything up and the AvD smashes the living piss out of his keyboard. Success.

Soil [6] start off a tad flat as they grapple with complacency – punters wage war to this barrage of brutality but it’s all very one-dimensional. That being said, it gets a bit tighter and infinitely more enjoyable as the set progresses. Unreal is a certified tune; vocalist Ryan McCombs goes walkabout and slums with the audience during Halo and Mitch Gable bashes the drums to Black Betty sporting a rather lovely bra on his head.

And then there is darkness. Loud noises. Members of Coal Chamber [8] appear on stage one by one. Loco. Palpable joy exudes from the crowd: a mish-mash of miscreants who missed the band the first time round or have just refused to give in to peer pressure and listen to ‘proper’ metal. To witness a sold-out 2015 audience scream ‘Don’t fuck with me!’ until the room’s collective larynx threatens to burst really is something else – it’s like watching your dad and his mates get together and quote Monty Python for an entire hour.

Screens project grotesque, horrible images as Dez Fafara commands the crowd with that irreplaceable scream and his old-fashioned microphone. Of course, he whips out that even stupider megaphone – this time adorned with shiny lights – and keeps things fresh even when, on occasions, the repetitive nu metal formulas of Fiend and Big Truck become apparent.

The new stuff sounds ridiculously current, mind. When Coal Chamber rip into I.O.U Nothing and the title track of this month’s comeback album, Rivals, Meegs seems to get that extra bit angrier when pumping out the riffs; Mikey Cox somehow gets even more mental behind the confines of his drum kit, systematically thumping away like a toy soldier. The creepy Californians were never known for their song-writing prowess – because it was, er, horrifically inconsistent– but Rivals is the most musically competent thing this band has ever produced. It’s not a throwback. It’s evolution, baby!

He might have gained stacks of metal cred with DevilDriver, but Dez clearly still loves Coal Chamber. He’s smiling his arse off for the whole hour he’s on stage, constantly thanking the crowd. As Sway demolishes Koko (the roof isn’t on fire, though) and London sings its little heart out one last time, we head back to the Delorean safe in the knowledge that everything is in its right place.

Alec Chillingworth

Alec is a longtime contributor with first-class BA Honours in English with Creative Writing, and has worked for Metal Hammer since 2014. Over the years, he's written for Noisey, Stereoboard, uDiscoverMusic, and the good ship Hammer, interviewing major bands like Slipknot, Rammstein, and Tenacious D (plus some black metal bands your cool uncle might know). He's read Ulysses thrice, and it got worse each time.