A few eyebrows were understandably raised when, against all likelihood, Coal Chamber announced their return in 2011 for what seemed like a handful of festival appearances, seemingly to give fans the send-off they never got after the band self-imploded nine years before.
After all, Dez Fafara has spent the intervening decade all but papering over his time as frontman of the ‘spookycore’ crew by forging a more credible career and winning over metalheads in their droves at the helm of pit-merchants Devildriver, seemingly never looking back. However, with grievances laid to rest and the positive reaction garnered by the reunion shows, new material was always going to be the next logical step./o:p
But despite Dez’s recent output being consistently high, you’d be forgiven for thinking the worst from a band responsible for 1999’s dreadful Chamber Music. Whether you were a fan looking forward to a comeback or a casual observer expecting the worst, Rivals is much better than anyone was anticipating./o:p
Right from the off, the adrenaline-fuelled I.O.U. Nothing’s undeniable groove quickly banishes memories of the brittle Korn-esque riffs of their earlier material, with Dez picking up where he left off with his trademark growl losing none of its punch.
Continuing the vein of 2002’s solid Dark Days, that dispensed with a lot of the daft aesthetics of their first two albums, both Bad Blood Between Us and the Al Jourgensen-backed Suffer In Silence deliver the kind of simplistic but infectious riffs that could have easily filled dancefloors at the turn of the century, with the painfully raw emotions and lyrics giving all members a chance to exorcise their demons.
After an awkward start, the self-explanatory The Bridges You Burn reaches to another full-blooded crescendo, and the crunch of Light In The Shadows is underpinned by familiar melodies, before the title-track builds on sinister foundations to reach a defiantly boisterous chorus. Miguel Rascón’s trademark creepy guitar tones feel dated but they’re backed by enough metallic force to stop Rivals from becoming a pure nostalgia trip, and though there are repetitive themes, one-dimensional tempos and indistinguishable riffs on the likes of Wait, the thunderous production and irrepressible energy keeps the album ploughing forward.
Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets) sees some more home truths laid down, before the bouncy riffs of Empty Handed finishes proceedings in fine style. It remains to be seen whether this will be the start of a new path for Coal Chamber or the final chapter before Devildriver picks up where it left off with last year’s Winter Kills.
It’s apparent that Rivals was an album the four members of Coal Chamber had to make for both the fans and, above all, themselves, making it a triumph regardless of how it turned out. And though it may be far from perfect, Dez and co can surely be proud that not only is it their best album to date by quite a considerable distance, but it will undoubtedly prove a great deal of people wrong.
FINAL VERDICT: 7⁄10
RIVALS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE A RELIC FROM THE NU METAL ERA. WAS THAT ONE OF YOUR MAIN AIMS?
“We didn’t want to make a throwback record. All of our peers are releasing the same record over and over, and it’s disappointing. But when I heard the music Meegs was writing, I thought, ‘This is fresh!’ That’s how I felt when we were writing the first Coal Chamber record. That’s why nu metal is called nu metal! It had a lot of different influences, but we’ve moved forward with our sound.”
DO THE NEW SONGS BLEND WELL WITH THE OLD STUFF WHEN YOU PLAY LIVE?
“The old and the new stuff tends to blend, because of where my voice is now. We start with Loco and Big Truck, so two songs from the first record and then a new one and people go just as nuts for the new songs as they do for Loco, so that’s really been an awesome pleasure.”/o:p