For Fans Of
The list of achievements in the Dez Fafara archives is enough to make any musician twinge with envy. He’s toured the world with not one, but TWO successful bands. He’s collaborated with metal demigods like Phil Anselmo (Pantera), and the one and only Ozzy Osbourne. Not to mention casually lending his name to over 10 major soundtracks. By any means, he boasts a musical CV that proves that this is a man who knows what he is doing, someone who can be trusted to create albums which are passed down from one generation of metal head to the next, albums which will echo into musical eternity. Hence our expectation before spinning Rivals, the first Coal Chamber record for 13 years. And hence our subsequent disappointment when, after multiple careful listens, and convincing ourselves that ‘This is Dez maaan!..”, we have to concede that Rivals simply missed the mark.
All signs pointed to this being a cracking release. The band’s performances as a newly reformed unit in 2011 blew punters away, and Fafara’s assurance that the album would feature “killer riffs and big hooks”, as well as a “refreshing sound” made Rivals one of the most anticipated albums of 2015. First single and album opener ‘I.O.U. Nothing’ certainly sets the stage. With a punishingly heavy opening, the song erupts into an anthemic, fist pumping chorus. “I owe you nothing/ you get nothing that I owe you”, roars Fafara. ‘Suffer in Silence’ is also a pleasing cut, with a vocal feature by Ministry front man Al Jourgensen stepping the song up a gear. Drummer Mikey Cox uses this track to display his appetite for groove, particularly evident as the band kicks off the introduction. Cox plays with a hypnotic feel throughout the record, a true disciple of the drummers most hated, yet most essential axiom: Keep It Simple Stupid. ‘Bad Blood Between Us’ displays Cox‘s talent for almost disco feeling grooves, while the opening of ‘Another Nail’ reminds listeners that, seriously, he can play. Really REALLY play.
Despite this, the rest of the band is unable to conjure the same energy and drive. Metal is a genre that can be dominated by a need to display technical prowess- a habit which can be detrimental to the music. Rivals, however, moves in the opposite direction. The riffs, which guitarist Miguel Rascon provides, are all promising in their own right, but when combined into songs, the final product is stale. ‘Bad Blood Between Us’ and ‘Light in the Shadows’ both detract from the energy and angst offered from the first number, with both songs wearily dragging their feet, unable to produce any moments of interest. ‘Bridges You Burn’ tries to lift the tempo, but after an enthusiastic, if not slightly cheesy “Let’s go!”, the song descends back to the same predictable mid tempo groove, with each doomy riff trying to copy its predecessor.
‘Wait’ offers a moments respite with a major toned chorus, before it to retreats to a grey, dark pocket of industrial fuzz. Fafara’s vocals have moments of excitement, but all too often get bogged down in mid-range grunts, failing to convey any sense of anger or resentment. This is most evident album closer ‘Worst Enemy’. “I hope you fall on your fucking face”, snarls Fafara, no doubt in an attempt to instil menace. However, the delivery lacks any sense of conviction.
Rivals has been an album a long time in the making. 13 years between drinks is longer than the lifetime of most bands. But despite the time spent apart, in side projects, touring the world and living life, Coal Chamber has failed to deliver what was promised. Aside from a few promising moments, rather than offering the promised “refreshing sound”, Rivals is the sound of a band well past their used by date.
An album which has its moments. But these are precious moments to hold onto. At 14 tracks, two of which are seemingly pointless intermissions, Rivals is a struggle to listen to start to finish, and certainly does not reflect a band in good form.
1) I.O.U Nothing
2) Bad Blood Between Us
3) Light in the Shadows
4) Suffer In Silence
5) Bridges You Burn
7) Another Nail
10) Dumpster Dive
11) Over My Head
12) Fade Away
13) Empty Handed
14) Worst Enemy