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Though the subgenre title of “Nu Metal” often times, causes veteran metal fans to cringe, it was still a huge part of the 90’s metal scene and brought us a number of great new acts. Born in the scorching heat of California, the world was introduced to bands like Korn, Static X and of course Coal Chamber. Thanks to Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, OzzFest and Dee Snider’s Strangeland, word of Coal Chamber spread and it was backed up by a high-energy show. Sadly by 2003, tempers flared beyond repair, bridges were burned and Coal Chamber came to an abrupt end.

Until Now - Coal Chamber returns, 12 years later, with their 4th album “Rivals,” released by their new label, Napalm Records. With grudges quashed and bridges rebuilt, Coal Chamber reunited for multiple festivals and tours before entering the studio to record with “DevilDriver” producer/engineer/mixer: Mark Lewis. Original members Dez Fafara, Mike Cox and Miguel Rascon are joined by bassist Nadja Peulen, who Coal Chamber fans should recognize from back in the day. The fiery redhead has actually played bass for the band longer than any other woman, but this marks the first time she’s recorded with them.

So with these ingredients mixed together, are metal fans simply being given a generic walk down memory lane with a nostalgic Nu Metal sound; absolutely not. Like a fine wine, Coal Chamber has aged perfectly. But what makes “Rivals” such a great offering to metal fans is it isn’t perfect. And that’s the point of rock and roll. It needs to be raw and real. And this album is as harsh as the bar rail whiskey.

“Rivals” takes the band in a new, louder and more aggressive direction without losing the spark that made Coal Chamber who they are. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though, because if you examine the band’s progression from their safe and most radio friendly offering of “Chamber Music”, to the edgier and more guttural “Dark Days”, Fafara et al, have clearly been on this path for quite some time. And the same evolution in the band’s sound that occurred between their 2nd and 3rd albums has occurred tenfold on this new 14-track offering.

The album kicks off and goes straight for the jugular with the high octane single “I.O.U. Nothing” and from there, the adrenaline and the aggression continue with each song. Dez’s voice is as heavy as ever and DevilDriver fans can either appreciate what he is doing with Coal Chamber or they can go cry about it in the comment section of YouTube videos. Personally, I am a fan of both bands and what Coal Chamber has done with “Rivals” is they have combined the best of both worlds. No, this is not DevilDriver. This is Coal Chamber - a faster, edgier and with the times, Coal Chamber. Besides, Uncle Al Jourgensen makes an appearance on the song “Suffer in Silence” and though Al might be a crazier version of his former crazy self, his voice and Fafara’s voice compliment one another beautifully.

Album highlights: “I.O.U. Nothing”, “Suffer In Silence”, “Light in The Shadows”.

Ryan M. Andrews, HMS

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