Review: Coal Chamber – Rivals (2015)



Coal Chamber – Rivals (5/22/2015) – This week I am so pleased to bring you Coal Chamber’s newest release, Rivals. The release of the album marks the end to Coal Chamber’s thirteen year studio hiatus. Rivals is a thirteen track album. Whether the number of songs was intentionally meant to correspond with the number of years Coal Chamber was out of the studio, or whether they were correlated simply from happenstance, I cannot say.

What I do know is that Coal Chamber has not only tied in long-term fans through their classically defined Nu-Metal sound, but they have also attracted new fans as they’ve moved away from some of their more cliché’d features.

Each of the tracks are packed full with invigorating beats interrupted by unweilding chords and a palpable, pulverizing snare.  Frontman Dez Fafara‘s singing and growling variations  throughout the album are unlike anything we’ve heard from him in previous works. Rivals brings forth a much welcomed evolution, not just a mere comeback, for the aging Coal Chamber.

About to fall out of the consciousness of most young adults, Napalm Record’s release of Rivals has come just in time to create a name for Coal Chamber yet again in the minds of older fans as well as the younger generations. Full of growling vocals and married to dark, yet comforting lyrics as well as jazzy backbeats, Rivals combined those sounds with a plethora of catchy sing-along choruses.

Songs like the album’s first single, “I.O.U Nothing,” assists in easing the transition from one’s expectations of Coal Chamber’s sound to acceptance of their progression. The track, “Another Nail in the Coffin,” reminds me of the sound of Rob Zombie, or rather his brand of music being laid out to pasture.

Meanwhile, a dark introduction, odd screaming vocals, and bass guitar inspired by Korn’s, “Fieldy,” gives tactility to the album’s namesake song, “Rivals.”

There are however, a couple of short one or two minute songs that I don’t feel really fit the album like, “Orion,” and, “Wait.” Without those couple of unusual breaks, however, this album might run together so smoothly that one song would flow right into the next without a warning. I also found myself somewhat annoyed at the length of the album, even with thirteen songs Rivals seemed a tad too short for a full length album, in my opinion.

I strongly recommend listening to Coal Chamber’s new album on a set of noise canceling headphones. At the very least, in a space where you can turn the radio up and listen closely. With lyrics that are genuine, relate-able, and simple enough to remember, but which bring with them more comprehension skills than a magna cum laude at an ACT exam; you will need to hear this album repeatedly to get the full effect.

Rivals has quickly become a favorite release of Spring in 2015. The new album has been growing on me since the second or third listen; first listen I was a bit taken aback by the differences in 2015 and 1997 Coal Chamber. “I.O.U Nothing,” is the closest thing to the old Coal Chamber sound on the new album. It speaks of the moment when someone is fed up with someone else and any ties are severed between them. In “Empty Handed,” the final song on Rivals, one can clearly spot industrial influences together with a tantalizing guitar build up, and the bold statement, “I regret nothing I’ve done.”

Coal Chamber seems to be sending out a message about radical self-acceptance and self-care, in the only way a metal band knows how; through angry music. Rivals upon the first listen, hearing a big and unexpected transition was a bit of a shock. Through each successive round of the album that I sat through, I became more and more enraptured by it.

Rivals, for having a couple of senseless tunes such as “Orion, which I admit was in fact above my head in multiple ways, and “Wait,” which paradoxically is one of the shortest tunes on the album, doesn’t receive a perfect score.  However, Rivals is an album that clearly has it’s own merits and is totally worth checking out, and might I please also mention what an honor it is to have reviewed this album built by an influential band in my personal arsenal of musical heritage.


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