Friday, June 12, 2015

Coal Chamber: Rivals (2015)

Regression and Defense, Or: Nostalgia Is Big Business These Days

I've recently begun lifting weights with my neighbor on a regular basis. The stereotype these days is that dudes listen to Godsmack when they're lifting weights, and that's not far from the truth. You see, he likes a lot of the stuff I was listening to 12 or more years ago. We take turns in control of the music, but I'm conscious of what he wants to hear, so I only occasionally slip in some Amon Amarth or At the Gates. For the most part, it's like I'm listening to my music library as it existed in 2002. Would I rather be listening to Evoken while I lift? Yes, but revisiting Coal Chamber is fun, too.

Dez Fafara is the artist who grew up with me for a time, but he stopped growing a while ago. Now he's reunited with Coal Chamber (and put out the record on Napalm, no less), and it's like they haven't missed a step. You could mix the songs from Rivals together with the ones from Dark Days and you'd have a hard time figuring out which was which.

To my metalhead allies out there, I'm going to need to defend Coal Chamber. Yes, they're a nu-metal band. There's no question of that. But among nu-metal bands they've had a special appeal to me. Normals had the idea that even nu-metal was too aggressive and scary; the reality is that if you listen to a Korn record you're going to hear a lot of slow and emotional stuff. But with the possible exception of Slipknot, Coal Chamber were the scariest-sounding of the nu-metal bands. Iowa aside, Coal Chamber were also the most reliably aggressive. In other words, they're at the opposite end of the spectrum from Spineshank.

The other major part of their appeal? They always had the most infectious riffs. It's almost impossible not to bob your head to Coal Chamber's rhythm. Well, that is, for the most part. Because as with all nu-metal bands, there are the good songs and then there are the rest of them. That hasn't changed.

It's dumb, meat-headed music, completely lacking in nuance or genuine "artistic" merit. And it's pretty much hit-and-miss. But the good songs are also really fun, and it'll be nice to add a few of them to my lifting playlist.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars (final score reduced to correct for nostalgia error)

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