24 August 2014

Coal Chamber - Coal Chamber

Well, I NEVER thought I'd be listening to this again! Prior to just now, the last time I heard this album was in 1999, I'd loaned it to an acquaintance who never gave it back. He did, however, start dressing like a member of the band so I guess it had some impact on him...oh well. However, after picking this up for the princely sum of £1 from a charity shop in Wallsend, I thought I'd give it a spin to see whether or not if time has been kind to it. And has it? We'll find out soon enough...

Released in 1997, it is the debut album by Coal Chamber, a band that had been going for a few years prior. It came at a time when the world was starting to go crazy over KoRn, Deftones, stuff like that. Those bands and this one ended up getting lumped together into what became known as nu-metal, which at that time was merely a byword for any band that played extremely down tuned guitars over the top of hip hop-esque drum beats. However, what set Coal Chamber apart from the crowd was - IMHO - their look. KoRn wore mostly sports apparel (most notably Adidas tracksuits), these guys wore goth/metal clothes and had a fuckton of piercings, hairdyes etc. This would end up being a weapon for their detractors who'd argue a case of style over substance. And while it is true that the band looked like an advertisment for Attitude Clothing (A UK-based clothing company), it was a bit of an unfair generalisation as this album IS quite good, all things considered. Mind, when you see lead singer Dez Fafara in Devildriver, rocking the sideburns and Motorhead tops - it STILL doesn't erase the memory of when he looked like a gothic scrapyard in candyland singing "LOCO!!! LOCO!!! LOCO!!! LOCO!!!"

Dez, eat a Snickers because you look a right clip when hungry. Better?


Anyway, on with the show...

The album cover ran with a common theme amongst nu-metal at the time, childhood imagery which hinted at darker sub-textures. That ice-cream man could've been a murderer or something!

Opening with the aforementioned "Loco", the album gets off to a great start! Fuck knows what the lyrics are about - it's like they've gone for the "White Zombie effect" of stringing together any old bollocks in the hope it sounds cool. And it works. It's the perfect 'metal club' song. Catchy, stomping rhythms, tight bass playing and an excellent riff. Marvellous. However, the same cannot be said of the next song, "Bradley". The intro rips Prong off to such an extent that Tommy Victor should have got a royalty - and it doesn't even sound that good. They've taken the riff from "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" and tried to play it to the tempo of "Whose Fist Is This Anyway"! Mind, the rest of the song..., it's ok, I guess. "Oddity" follows with an atmospheric build-up in which Dez tells us "THIS IS THE WAY IT'S GOT TO BE!!!" before crashing into the kind of riff that KoRn popularised with "Blind". Mind, I reckon they stole that off a Fear Factory song called "Scapegoat" (This was back when Fear Factory were a genuinely great band and not two dicks and a drum machine who are trying to cling to past glories. And I say that as a fan). Again, another great song. "Unspoiled"...good song but we've pretty much hit on a formula. Seems that each song starts off with an awesome riff, verses are basically guitar fretboard wankery fed through an FX unit before resuming a riff for the chorus. Dez, meanwhile, alternates from singing to screaming, a style which has been done to death over the years. He also on occasion does a 'scat' - no, not THAT one - style of singing which consists of a rapid, fast form of delivery. "Big Truck" brings the pace down, slow and lumbering with attitude! Very good.

The next song is "Sway" which starts off with the "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, but we don't need no water let the motherfucker burn, burn, motherfucker, burn!" line which appeared on some rap song, apparently. A really shit band called The Bloodhound Gang also used it for one of their songs. It's another stomper, like "Loco" which would no doubt get you moving in the club or at the gig! Another fine example of a decent riff. "First" is the next song - the pace is slowed down and a low rumbling bass line and drum combo gives way to a roaring chorus. It makes a change to what has been heard so far. Mind, we have had a great time with this album although it's became apparent that the one thing holding it back is the vocals of Dez. Maybe he's found his niche with Devildriver but on here, they don't match the intensity of the music. "Maricon Puto" is one of those noisy samples in between tracks which isn't really worth a fart. "I" manages to restore the balance, even if it's a rewrite of "Loco".

"Clock" follows next and it's another stomper, although the lyrics are bizarre. "Clock - counting all my fears"? Erm..."My Frustration" is basically a mid-paced rant at whatever is bugging the band. "Amir Of The Desert" should have been left on the cutting room floor. It's obviously an in-joke between the band and engineer/mixer Amir Derakh (Who was in a band called Orgy and their singer - Jay Gordon - produced this album) but it sounds like shit as it's not even produced properly. And it may be racist too. Still, the home stretch restores balance - "Dreamtime" being a decent song with a storming opening riff and "Pig" showing some dynamics with it's grinding verses and stomping choruses. Shame about the rubbish pig impressions at the start, even Ned Beatty did better ones in "Deliverance"! The bonus track isn't worth writing about.

Well, there you go. Despite the band polarizing opinions for a long time, my honest opinion is this album is very good indeed. Further releases didn't quite have the same impact and in the end, the band split. Still, this album was good.

Top Track: "First".

8/10 - Oh you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.

You can get this album on iTunes and Amazon (Click).

The Spotify for this album doesn't work but here is the link to "The Best Of Coal Chamber" instead (Click).

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