After a break, it’s crucial to come back just as strong as before. Following an extensive 13-year hiatus, nu-metal foursome Coal Chamber have returned as rejoicing fans anticipate the release of their upcoming album, Rivals. The band—vocalist Dez Fafara, guitarist Miguel Rascón, bassist Nadja Peulen, and drummer Mike Cox—is a force comprised of musical veterans. This talent and experience shines through on the new record.
Rivals, Coal Chamber’s fourth album, and first since their return, features guest vocals, relentless beats and a promising, fresh sound that builds on the old. Frontman Fafara, also the singer for the metal group DevilDriver, took some time to give a glimpse into the songs, their new sound and how it feels to reunite after 13 years.
Did the band ever worry the hiatus may have a negative impact on the reception of the new album?
I never really considered it. We were gone 13 years, and people were either going to be there for us or not. And it showed when we went out and toured: Australia, Europe and the world, it showed really that people were there for us. That’s why we got together to do a record.
What was it like coming back together after all those years?
That was unbelievable. I mean, how many times do you get the chance to bury that hatchet? To come back to an ex-friend or something that went wayward? We got a second chance at it. I’m appreciative of it, you know? I’m very humbled by it. We managed to bury the hatchet and get down to it, and be artists together and come up with a great record. I’m stoked, for lack of a better word.
The album was produced by Mark Lewis [produced albums for Whitechapel and The Black Dahlia Murder], whom you’ve worked with previously. What impact did he have on the recording process?
I think Mark was the perfect choice. And yeah, I’ve worked with him on several records, going back to the last one we worked on for DevilDriver. I just think he was the appropriate choice. He’s the guy coming up; he’s the producer who can do anything. He makes of the bands that he does sound different from one another, and he really took the time to make this sound different. He took six days just to get drum sounds. The guy is just…he’s a fanatic to making your sound unique. And I really enjoyed working with him and I know the other members of Coal Chamber did as well, and we have a bright future with Mark Lewis. I won’t work with anybody else for either DevilDriver or Coal Chamber.
You recently began releasing webisodes teasing the album’s artwork and tracks. What has the reaction been like?
The reaction has been absolutely incredible. I mean, as an artist you stand back, and you make art for yourself, for your heart, for your band, and then you release it in little things like that clip and it’s just been astounding; the reaction has been unbelievable. We have a secure ring right now where we have people listening to the record and I’ve been waking up to 56 emails a day and it just seems overwhelmingly positive.
What can your fans look forward to in your upcoming webisodes?
Well, if they really listen deep they’ll be able to hear about every chorus and every verse of the whole record. So while we’re talking about things behind it, you’re listening to the record. And we’re going to talk about what it was like recording, where they were at; I was recording in my home studio. Mark Lewis is going to talk. I did a song with Al Jourgensen [Ministry]. He’s in the webisodes talking about working with me on “Suffer In Silence,” the song we did. It’s going to be cool, really cool. And if you keep your ears open, by the time you listen to all the webisodes you’ll be able to hear all the choruses and predominately all the verses from the record so you’ll know what you’re going to go get.
What influenced changes in the band, besides the hiatus, between the last album, Dark Days, released in 2002, and your upcoming album, Rivals?
I mean 13 years, right? There’s a huge difference in how I write, how I sing, how they write, how they sing, how we perceive arrangements and writing the songs. That’s why you’re not going to get a throwback record from Coal Chamber; you’re going to get Coal Chamber moving forward. Somebody said to me the other day, “Hey, don’t forget who you were and what made you special,” and I said, “Absolutely not. But what happens if I throw some new things in there in the mix and make it extra special?” I think what the changes will be, will be accurately heard once you hear the record.
You mentioned vocals and singing are different. How would you say they differ from your last album, or anything you’ve done with DevilDriver?
I think my voice has grown a ton since the last Coal Chamber record and I utilized all of that as well as all of the little, different things I can do with Coal Chamber that I can’t with DevilDriver. With Coal Chamber, it’s just a freeing experience. It was very freeing to do that record because it was like anything goes; there’s actually a line on the record that says, “anything goes.” And that’s pertaining to how I was writing, because anything goes with this record. So I can do heavy, I can sing, I can write, I can do creepy voices, I can do all of those things. So as an artist it was a pleasure to record for something like that.
We had no agenda. It was like, “Let’s go in and let’s make good songs.” It wasn’t like, “Let’s make sure this song can get on the radio,” or, “Let’s make this song sounds like old Coal Chamber,” or any of that. It was, “Let’s just go in and record.” And that was great working with Mark because he got all of our individual nuances, put them together, and we came up with a new sound that I think is so fresh right now. Rather than going in as a late ‘90s-early 2000s band doing some throwback record, we went in and came out with something that I think just sounds absolutely fresh and current and badass. The feedback seems to be incredible so far.
Was coming back with these newer, fresher ideas something you discussed as a band, or was it something that just happened?
Those guys have been musicians for 13 years and so have I, so it’s really easy to go chug, chug, chug, chug. I don’t think we had a conversation. I think we were basically like, “Let’s not have any conversations about anything that we’re going to do.” It’s kind of like painting; just sit down with the colors and go for it. If you have too much conversation and you’re going to have an agenda, you’re going to skew from writing, the recording process, for your fans, for the radio, for any of that, and it’s definitely not what we wanted to do. We wanted to do something for us, from our heart, for the people who wanted to listen to it. That’s exactly what we did.
Coal Chamber’s new album, Rivals, is due out May 19. You can catch Coal Chamber performing at Webster Hall in New York on March 29, Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on April 3, and at Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia on April 4. For more information, visit coalchamberofficial.com.
(Photo by Dan Santoni)