As a teenager, Coal Chamber were one of my absolute favourite bands. It’s really not hard to see why. In the age of nu-metal, where there was an expected look and sound, Coal Chamber were truly unique. They had a sound unlike the others – dramatically downtuned guitars, keys and samples, and then Dez Fafara, whose iconic growl seemed more death metal than nu metal.
With their debut album, Coal Chamber were such a new sound to me. It was nu metal, I guess, but it was heavier, darker, and had such an undeniable groove.
But it was their second album, ‘Chamber Music’, where the band really showed how remarkable they were. They leant much further into gothic metal, with keys, strings, synths, and electronic percussion expanding and maturing their sound immensely.
When the band returned with the follow up, ‘Dark Days’, it was like a culmination of Coal Chamber’s journey up to that point. It revived the downtuned nu-metal of then debut and infused it with the gothic elements that they’d utilised on ‘Chamber Music’. It was also a much angrier and heavier album than they had made before.‘
‘Dark Days’ would be Coal Chamber’s last album for a while, with tensions throughout its recording boiling over during subsequent touring.
Coal Chamber split up in 2003, ten years after forming, with Dez going on to find success with Devildriver.
Eight years later, seemingly out of nowhere, Coal Chamber reunited to tour, of all places, Australia (lucky me!). I was able to see them on this reunion, the only time I ever saw Coal Chamber live. I was 25 years old and had loved that band for probably 11-12 years at that point. It was surreal and incredible.
While the reunion was short lived, it did net us a new album. ‘Rivals’ was released in 2015, thirteen years since their last album. A continuation of where they’d left off sonically, ‘Rivals’ is like a spiritual successor to ‘Dark Days’, and angrier revival of all that came before it, with a stronger groove metal element bolstering the sound.
Who knows if Coal Chamber will ever reunite. Their existence has always been one of tension, but that relationship produced hands down some of the greatest music of my formative years. The fact they made a short-lived, bright burning return just to remind us all how incredible they were might just have to be enough for the fans.
And if so, I guess I can make peace with that.
“If it’s meant to be, then set it free…”