This review is partially going to be storytime for me. I was recently discussing shameful pasts with a friend of mine, and mentioned how these days a majority of kids from the hardcore scene likely have a swooshy haired emo and metalcore past that they prefer not to discuss. I initially gloated that I was a true metalhead before and after my start in the hardcore scene, but swiftly realized I was subconsciously blocking out the elephant in the room; my foray into the world of nu metal. Nu metal was something I accepted just as much as all other forms of heavy music. At the time, it was still sort of relatively underground, the result of 80’s heavy metal attempting to modernize itself in the mid 90’s. Hours of listening to metal would likely see me range from Hammerfall to Sevendust, and from Cannibal Corpse to Skinlab, with no sense that some of the bands I was listening to would go on to have an enormous stigma attached to them. However, as hard as I fell for the early nu metal scene, few records sucked me in like the first, self-titled Coal Chamber record. Good. Lord.

After first hearing them on the Ozzfest comp cd (as well as Earth Crisis….imagine that), I instantly tracked down that record and fell in love. The stupid, simplistic grooves, the immature teenage hatred of everything uncool (even though singer Dez Fafara was like in his 30’s at the time), and the “I’m so weird and unloved” vibe were too much for me to ignore. If I had owned that record on tape or LP, I’d have worn it out. At the same time, Coal Chamber were basically busy killing the genre before it even had a chance, permanently establishing the third rate Marilyn Manson image as “the” nu metal look. By the time “Chamber Music” came out, the baby wasn’t entirely cute anymore. And by “Dark Days”, I was pretty much fully a hardcore kid who had no time for makeup and shittily braided hair. Dez discovered thrash metal (allegedly, as I recall, from Dimebag turning him onto Celtic Frost), and started the musical abortion that was Devildriver, my should-have-been-future wife Rayna Foss married the dude from Sevendust and left the band, and Coal Chamber was no more.

OR WAS IT? Reunions are all the thing these days, and when I heard Coal Chamber was doing one, I couldn’t help but feel celebration coming from a dark place deep inside my heart. This was one of the bands that defined my life circa 9th grade, and they’d be writing new music, and maybe…. I could even finally see them play! My heart was aflutter…

…until I hit play on “Rivals”. “IOU Nothing” came on, and the romance melted away. “This is abysmal,” I said as I noticed my girlfriend giving the laptop a look that could kill a snake. “Did I really like this band?” I really struggled through this record. I had to take breaks every time I listened to it because the plodding riffs and comical vocals were unbearable after 2 or 3 songs. I remember once hearing that Dez was a big 80’s gothic music fan, Sisters of Mercy, Alien Sex Fiend and the like. Those influences are present and even prominent in some places, but not nearly enough to make the music palatable. Some people may find solace in the fact that nothing has changed musically, but that makes it even worse to me. Goth-type songs steamrolled over with bad crunchy rhythms. Vocals singing words that hint at hating everyone and teen angst, even though they’re sung by someone pushing 50 (this also, conveniently enough, applies to the guest spot by producer Al Jorgenson). No memorable tracks even after multiple listens, and definitely no desire to try to enjoy it.

Well, that is….except for one riff. One lone riff. When “Bad Blood Between Us” came on, I momentarily thought there was light at the end of the tunnel. A completely atypical Entombed-like riff rips through the verses and, honestly, is the only redeeming part of this record. I’m talking a riff that modern hardcore bands would be envious of. How it got there, and how it is the only spot on this record that I found redeeming, we will never know. .5 points for the riff, fellas!

Seriously though, let’s be real, were you expecting this to be a masterpiece?