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Sunday Old School: Coal Chamber

Has there ever been a time when metal was more at war with itself than the late nineties/early 2000s? After Korn hit the big time, many bands with a similar, though not always identical sound, soon emerged and thus, nu metal came to be. A sub-genre which was largely discredited by fans of "true" metal for its unashamed hip-hop influences, style and perhaps most offensively, lack of guitar solos. Whether you're a fan of the genre or not, there's no denying that nu metal is by now, old school, thus warranting coverage in this very column. This week, we'll be taking a look at one of the earliest success stories of the era, Coal Chamber.

Coal Chamber was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1993 by singer Dez Fafara and guitarist Meegs Rascón, who had both previously been members of the group, She's In Pain. They rounded up the lineup with the additions of drummer Jon Tor, who himself was soon replaced by Mike Cox, and bass player Rayna Foss. Early in their career, the band was dealt a blow when Fafara quit at the insistence of his wife, though he soon returned to the fold, at the expense of his marriage. With the help of Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, the group earned themselves a contract with Roadrunner Records, who released their self-titled debut in February 1997.

The album was a considerable success, thanks in no small part to the popularity of the single, "Loco" and led the band to appear at the inaugural edition of Ozzfest, as well as performing in Europe with the likes of Napalm Death and Machine Head. Though the record was a commercial success, reaching Gold status in the United States, critics were not always so keen, with many comparing them unfavourably to Korn and White Zombie, earning them the derogatory nickname, "Korn Chamber" in some circles.

Nevertheless, the popularity of the band was maintained by hard touring and soon the quartet returned to the studio to record their sophomore album, "Chamber Music," which hit the shelves in September 1999. It was noticeably more melodic than their debut, most likely to distance themselves from the negative Korn associations and featured a cover of the Peter Gabriel song, "Shock the Monkey," with guest vocals from Ozzy Osbourne, who also appeared in the music video for the song. The single was able to catch the attention of more mainstream outlets, who put the track in regular rotation, as well as that of Ozzy's wife and manager, Sharon, who was hired to represent the band for a time, before they parted due to numerous differences.

Following the release of their second album, the band experienced a turbulent time, as Rayna Foss quit to raise her daughter shortly after the recording of their third album, "Dark Days" was completed, in what was a less than amicable split. She was replaced by Nadja Peulen, who had previously filled in for her when absent. That same year, the Coal Chamber seemingly broke up following an on stage fight, in which Rascón hit Fafara in the head with the headstock of his guitar. However, they soldiered on long enough for a tour with American Head Charge before officially breaking up in 2003 after releasing the compilation album, "Giving the Devil His Due."

The Coal Chamber alumnus continued with other projects, most notably Fafara's highly successful endeavour with DevilDriver, but in 2011, the group surprised many with the announcement that they were reforming with the lineup of Fafara, Rascón, Cox and new bassist Chela Rhea Harper, as well as the confirmation that they were working on new material. The reunion was something of a slow burn, primarily due to Fafara's DevilDriver commitments, however they were able to tour with Sevendust and Lacuna Coil, before signing with Napalm Records and reuniting with Nadja Peulen.

Four years on from the reformation, Coal Chamber finally released their fourth album, "Rivals," in 2015, which was more like "Dark Days" than their earlier efforts, but received decent reviews. The record contained the single, "I.O.U. Nothing," as well an appearance from Ministry mainmain Al Jourgensen on the song, "Suffer In Silence." Where the band go from here remains to be seen, with Fafara recently claiming that Coal Chamber "has no place in my life" and that they were on an indefinite hiatus in order for him to focus on DevilDriver. Whether or not they return, Coal Chamber most definitely have their place in the more recent chapters of heavy metal history, albeit one which will be disputed for a long time.

Coal Chamber - "Loco"

Coal Chamber - "Sway"

Coal Chamber - "Shock the Monkey"

Coal Chamber - "Untrue"

Coal Chamber - "Fiend"

Coal Chamber - "Dark Days"

Coal Chamber - "I.O.U. Nothing"

Coal Chamber - "Rivals"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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