THE WALKING DEAD
AFTER A BITTER BREAK-UP MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, COAL CHAMBER HAVE MANAGED TO SHIRK BAD BLOOD, AVERAGE SONGS AND MODERN RECORDING TECHNIQUES TO CREATE A POWERFUL NEW ENTRY TO THEIR CANON: RIVALS.
It’s 2003. You’re the singer in a world-beating alternative metal band. You’re 10 years and three albums deep into your career but the rest of your band is barely functional and strung out on hard drugs. What do you do? If you’re Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara, you turn around and start all over again at age 37. You kickstart a little metal band called DevilDriver and go back to cramped vans and grueling tours. Many successful albums later and now a major force in modern metal, your old band starts calling. They want to get back together. Do you answer their call to action? Well, not at first, as Fafara explains. “Not a lot of people know, but we were talking back in 2006 about getting back together. In 2009 they gave me two demo songs. I laid some vocals on them and stuff, but when I listened back to it, it really sounded like older Coal Chamber and I really didn’t want to be a part of it. And I don’t think they did either.” And just like that, one of the biggest reformations from the heyday of nu metal was put on ice. It took a call from Australia’s Soundwave Festival for Fafara to even consider re-entering a room with his former bandmates. “I said, ‘Okay, let’s not even talk about music; let’s just get out on the road’,” he remembers. Stumbling across guitarist Miguel “Meegs” Rascón toying with some new riffs on the tour bus, Fafara realised what it would take to get a new Coal Chamber album into action. “What he was writing was fucking good. He said, ‘I’m just writing music for me, I’m not really sure what it’s for’. I said, ‘If you have to not think about Coal Chamber at all and just write music to come up with music like this, then do that; don’t even think about Coal Chamber’.” In 2003 when recording wrapped on Dark Days, band members weren’t even talking to each other and the mutual hatred was strong. How does it come full circle to the point where Fafara, the man who had to go out and build a new career on his own, is actively encouraging the recording of a new Coal Chamber album? “Well they haven’t done hard drugs or the things that’ll take us down in a long time. We were hanging out one night after a tour, I think after Soundwave, and I was looking at these guys in a totally different light. These guys were mature, writing mature music. They’re handling themselves like pros. All we do is laugh and carry on like kids – we could barely get things done in rehearsals. We were just laughing and cracking jokes just like the old days. It felt good. “Somebody said to me, ‘Why did you do it? Why did you get back together?’ and I said because otherwise I’d have regret. I know you’ve seen that ex-girlfriend or that ex-best friend at a club, or that ex-boss walk by you at a lunch table, and you know you just wanted to say sorry or get up and say something but you just didn’t, you’ll have to live with that regret for the rest of your life and I wasn’t willing to do that.” Being a frontman for two metal bands might seem a touch redundant, that is until you hear how vastly different the two projects are in 2015. Unlike DevilDriver’s precision metalcore sound, Coal Chamber’s new Rivals album is loose and raw, and strangely for a resurrected veteran band, refreshing. They did what for many metal players would be unthinkable and ditched the click track, an industry standard for making sure the music aligns perfectly. “I can’t spend two hours creating the perfect chorus, then cut and paste it throughout the song. I’ve got to