The most surprising thing about the fourth Coal Chamber album isn’t how good it is after 13 years apart but actually how much it still sounds like Coal Chamber. With frontman Dez Fafara leaping into the decidedly more heavy Devildriver, guitarist Meegs and drummer Mikey Cox experimenting with new genres for We Are The Riot and bassist Nadja Peulen branching out with the symphonic industrial cabaret of Vera Mesmer, Rivals could have been a disaster or a masterpiece. Luckily, it falls in the latter category.
Then there’s the stellar Mark Lewis (Devildriver, Cannibal Corpse) production which is fantastic. Crisp, biting, and on point from the moment “I.O.U. Nothing” blasts forth, like an updated version of “Loco” but even more anthemic. And it keeps getting better from there without rehashing any of that old magic. Instead, Coal Chamber in 2015 have some new magic to share with the masses.
The aforementioned “I.O.U. Nothing” is the perfect reintroduction with a singular Rascon riff guiding the way for Cox’s ridiculously solid beats until Dez chimes in and Nadja’s low end rounds out the quartet making the first track synchronicity at its finest. “Bad Blood Between Us” piles on a heavy, phat groove before Meegs switches from an intricate lesson in musicality to one dirty mother of a monolithic riff and that synchronicity from the previous track follows once again (And throughout Rivals).
The album is also significant for being the first proper Coal Chamber release to feature bassist Nadja Peulen who more than earns her recorded keep on tracks like “Light In The Shadows” and “Suffer In Silence” featuring the one and only Al Jourgensen (If I have to name which band he belongs to then you’re reading the wrong blog). If you’re looking for some CC musical expansion then tracks like the mystical “Orion” or industrial feedback-laden crunch of “Dumpster Dive” are sure to turn longtime fans heads. But if you’re looking for consistency then songs like “Over My Head”, “Empty Handed”, and the thrash meets nu-metal bliss of “Another Nail In The Coffin” will more than meet fan expectations