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Coal Chamber

Coal Chamber

1997

Yeah, sure, it sounded similar to Korn, but CC had their own unique twist to the Korn sound, a gothic twist (I believe the term was "spookycore" back in the day). While Jonathan Davis had some serious personal issues to vent about, Dez just sounds like someone who should be locked up in a mental institution in a straight-jacket.  That was his appeal, and it worked for me, and Coal Chamber arguably had a better groove than Korn, and that, along with the cathartic blast-beats of delightful down-tuned riffage, are what make this album so awesome.  There is an incredibly intense, explosive brooding energy to CC's style of alternative-metal.  It's not really Nu-Metal because nothing here is radio-friendly or accessible.  Too heavy and psychotic for that, and that's another plus for the album.  It's still fun, it still kicks ass, and I still find it satisfying to listen to for old times’ sake now and again.

8.5

Chamber Music

Coal Chamber

1999

This is the album where most people wrote-off Coal Chamber, and while it's certainly not as good as their debut, I enjoyed most of it back in the day.  It's really not that bad, but it sounds like they're trying to be something they're not here, and it doesn't always work.  At the time, I gave them kudos for expanding their sound, and found several songs on here to be pretty satisfying and enjoyable, but in hindsight, it seems like a weak attempt to garner a more mainstream audience due to the popular trends at the time.  What made Coal Chamber so appealing was the fact that they were distinctly not mainstream, their gothic style, their deranged, maniacal, and frantic sound.  I liked that they were freaks that could lay down some seriously wicked down-tuned grooves and explosive build-ups.  Here they go for more traditional songs structures (verse/chorus/verse), and throw in synthesizers here and there...basically this was a reaction against being called korn-copycats, but man, they were the best korn-copycats ever, and I liked them significantly more when they were delivering their own version of that sound.  That said, although I practically never listen to this album anymore, I still find it interesting, and honestly it has its moments.  It's kind of creative at times...kind of...for so-called Nu-Metal, you could do a helluva lot worse.

7.8

Dark Days

Coal Chamber

2002

Arrving 3 long years after the generally disappointing Chamber Music, Dark Days was an attempt at a return to form for Coal Chamber, and while it was a step in the right direction, it unfortunately does not live up to the band's semi-classic self-titled debut.  They try, and it's certainly heavier and darker than Chamber Music, but at the end of the day it feels a bit too forced, and is ultimately kind of disappointing.  That said, it's certainly entertaining, and Dez's antics are a bit amusing at times.  The groove is there, the energy is there...but something still seems missing...hard to put my finger on it...maybe it's a reflection of the fact they were about to break-up due to internal strife/pressure/etc.  As I mentioned earlier, it was a step in the right direction, and perhaps their next album would have been a better realized version, but they never got that far unfortunately.  It delivers the goods for the most part, but leaves you frustrated that CC were never able to reach their full potential as a band...oh well...

7.9

Rivals

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Coal Chamber

2015

Out of all the so called “Nu-Metal” bands that sprang up on the late 90s, Coal Chamber were always one of my favorites. Their self-titled album had probably the most infectiously dark groove, rhythm, and atmosphere to it, making it a delightfully psychotic and downright fun listening experience.

Their ability to create a build-up in a song and have it explode into a cathartically intense rhythm and groove, the type of thing that was impossible to not move your body violently to and compelled you to leave your feet...that was their calling card, and they executed it to near perfection on their 1st album. I also appreciated their alternative tendencies and their willingness to experiment sonically, which they did with mixed results on Chamber Music. And on what appeared to be their last album, 2002’s Dark Days, they went back in a heavier direction but kind of forgot the element of suspense and surprise that made their self-titled album so much fun. But Dark Days did retain Coal Chamber’s demented personality for the most part, and while it was also somewhat disappointing, it was unmistakably a Coal Chamber record through and through, for better or worse.

Once the band broke up later that year, no doubt sensing the trends at the time, Dez put together a heavier, significantly less interesting band by the name of DevilDriver. This band emphasized strength, speed, and intensity over groove, rhythm, and hooks, and for the most part, sounded like complete feces, along with 99% of all the other “heavy” bands of the past decade who have been in a proverbial pissing contest to show who’s the heaviest or the fastest, but end up all sounding depressingly the same.

When Coal Chamber reformed and decided to record their new album, the influence of this hookless, grooveless, rhythmless, one-speed “metaller than thou art” style has unfortunately infected Coal Chamber’s sound on Rivals. In a nutshell, Rivals sounds a bit too much like DevilDriver, which means they just go about the same generally up-tempo speed the entire time, rarely stopping to take a breath, or to inject any sense of dynamics into the band’s sound. Mike helps instill some semblance of groove on a few tracks, but the pace of Meegs guitar playing (which kind of abandons his unique style) just keeps things uneventfully chugging along, and Dez’s manic, chest-thumping vocals prevent any sense of atmosphere/variety from ever developing here. I liked Dez when he’s acting like a mental patient that should be placed in a straight jacket, but here he’s doing the macho metal-guy thing, screaming pretty cliché lyrics for big dumb primate “metalheads” to shout along to. Remember “Clock”? “Row Boat”? Those songs don’t make any effing sense, and that was the beauty in them. I miss the insanity, the deranged vibe that made Coal Chamber somewhat unique. I also miss their alternative/gothic tendencies, and the sonic experimentation that were integral to the band’s sound, but that’s essentially gone here too.

And that’s because, as the end of the day, Dez is a “career” metal guy. He’s a professional. He does what’s popular so he can keep the money flowing in. I can’t say I blame him, he’s got a family to support, so this is his job, but he just goes with whatever trend in heavy music is popular at the time. He certainly did that in the late 90s, he did it with DevilDriver, and he’s doing it again with the reformed Coal Chamber. He doesn’t have the balls to make a Coal Chamber record that’s true to the band’s sound. He talks about “moving forward” but how can this album be considered moving forward if it sounds like 90% of all the generic metalcore garbage that’s been “popular” for the past decade+?

Mind you, this review of coming from someone who values alternative tendencies and experimentation in music more than heaviness. It’s not impressive for a band to merely be genericly heavy, you have to be interesting too. It takes balls to deviate from the stringent and misguided standards of heaviness many so-called “metalheads” cling to, and it’s clear that as a whole Coal Chamber is either unwilling or unable to truly move forward as a band on Rivals.

6.4

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