Thrash Hits

September 29th, 2011

Is this Coal Chamber reunion a sign that we should all just give up?

Earlier this week it transpired that Coal Chamber were reforming to play some reunion shows. It turns out Hugh Platt has an interesting angle on why this is so much bullsh*t.

Coal Chamber promo photo 1997 Thrash Hits

Back before Thrash Hits existed, I sometimes moonlighted as an occasional crew member for a low-budget (and now defunct) music TV channel. I mainly helped out on location shoots – generally as a grip, occasionally as a soundman, and more often than not just as a general fixer. Back in late 2007, when DevilDriver were headlining the Islington Academy, we rolled up a few hours before the doors opened, ostensibly to shoot a few interview pieces with Dez Fafara, which is how the issue of Coal Chamber came up.

Interestingly, it wasn’t us or Fafara who brought it up. Until recently, Fafara has seemed (somewhat understandably) embarrassed by his “spookycore” past, going so far as to wear those huge, leather wristbands that cover his Coal Chamber forearm tattoo since even the earliest days of DevilDriver’s career. No, it was one of DevilDriver’s crew who brought up Coal Chamber. A crew member who happened to be holding the video camera. Now I’ll admit that my recollection of the following conversation is muddied both due to time passed (this was back in 2007) and beers consumed (it took place after the show, where we had gone backstage to collect the camera equipment we’d stashed in a storeroom), but it went something along these lines:

DevilDriver Crewman: “Yeah, we’re thinking about a whole Coal Chamber DVD retrospective. All the videos, some live stuff, some never-before-seen behind the scenes stuff – y’know, a proper full-on package!”

Me: “But who the fuck is gonna want to watch a DVD about bloody Coal Chamber? Nah mate, fuck that

After that, the crew guy fell quiet, and left us alone. And yes, I felt like a bit of a prick. Had I been tactless? Yes. Rude, even? Undoubtably so. It hadn’t been a planned sleight – it had just slipped out. I’d knocked back a fair few pints over the course of the evening, and my don’t-say-that-now-you-fool filter was on the blink. Bear in mind, that back in 2007, there wasn’t this ironic groundswell of nostalgia for awful nu-metal bands that has crept in over the last year or so. It appears my sentiments were shared elsewhere too – no such Coal Chamber DVD ever surfaced.

So what’s changed in just four short years to make a Coal Chamber reunion not only a concept that isn’t mocked by all and sundry, but one that people of otherwise sound mind will happily pay up their own money to go an witness? I’m referring, of course, to the news that emerged this week that Dez Fafara, Mike “Bug” Cox, and Miguel “Meegs” Rascón are to perform as Coal Chamber across the five dates of this year’s Soundwave festival in Australia.

I guess Soundwave offered Fafara a paycheque big enough that he couldn’t refuse. Let’s make no mistake here – Fafara is very much the guy who green-lit this re-union. It’s not as if Cox or Rascón have got much on their To-Do lists right now, and whichever young, female stand-in the reformed Coal Chamber recruit on bass (and I do wonder why neither Rayna Foss or Nadja Peulen are returning?) will just be hired help. Certainly DevilDriver’s latest and decidedly-average album, Beast, underperformed sales-wise in comparison to it’s superior predecessor, Pray for Villains, but did it do so badly that Fafara needs some Coal Chamber dollars to pay the bills? I’m not the world’s biggest DevilDriver fan, for sure – they’re a functional, capable, groove metal band who’re ultimately relatively easy to ignore if such things get your kvlt heckles up – but even they are several steps above the chugga-chugga-wooooaaahhh represented by Coal Chamber. Why is this reunion happening?

First, we need a little context. If you’ve read even a handful of music blogs before, chances are you’ll have read a post by someone pondering the effect the internet has had on music scenes – or more specifically, how it has condensed them. Nowadays the ability for a band to upload a song to Soundcloud and have people on the other side of the globe listening to it before lunchtime has resulted in “scenes” being played out almost before they’ve taken root. By the time “scenes” are reported upon in magazines, their Tumblr memes have already been re-blogged to extinction, their Twitter hashtags have already dropped off the trending topic radar, and Facebook walls of the bands that make-up the “scene” have degenerated into bickering by fans about how they liked the band’s early work (i.e., last week’s song) better than this new shit. But what’s this got to do with Coal Chamber, a band who’s rise and demise took place while Lars Ulrich’s crusade against Napster was still a thing?

The other side of this shortening of collective attention-spans has been an equivalent reduction in the elasticity of nostalgia. What in the name of flying fuck do I mean by the term “elasticity of nostalgia”? In simple terms, the length of time it takes for people to become nostalgic about old bands is getting shorter. Much, much shorter – look at the almighty kerfuffle that Download Festival kicked up when they announced System Of A Down as one of their 2011 headliners. SOAD had only been on hiastus for about five years, and during that time, thanks to Scars on Broadway and Serj Tankian’s solo efforts, it hasn’t been as if the band had dropped entirely out of the public eye. Yet the news of the band’s resurrection was most definitely greeted with a near-ridiculous level of excitement. Nostalgia, quite literally, is not what it used to be.

But does this mean that ironic nu-metal re-evaluation really reached the point where people want to hear that awful cover of ‘Shock The Monkey’ all over again? Well, given that there’s a good chance that you clicked that video near the start of this article, the sad truth is that the evidence is pointing towards “yes”. Coal Chamber’s resurrection certainly won’t be the last such reunion, because of the sweet money that festival bookers offer for them. Festival bookers love reunions – in an age where the internet picks apart any line-up confirmations within seconds of their announcement, reunion bands present a ready-made pre-established-name that can not only attract the money of “nostalgic” fans (older and with more spending power than they ever had during the band’s initial run), but that of kids wondering just what all the fuss is about. But you know what? I’d quite like future generations to be saved from knowing what the fuss about Coal Chamber was about.

While it’s been a common theme whenever yet another band announces their reformation for the internet to collectively raise their arms, to wail “enough is enough!” into their Twitter feeds, and feign indifference or hostility to the very concept of the reformed band in question, Coal Chamber represent the ultimate nadir in this trend. Was there ever anything of any substance to Coal Chamber? Yeah, we might’ve had a friendly scuffle to ‘Loco’ as teenagers down the local rock club, or even got a little hot’n’heavy with our girlfriends of the time while the local meatheads bellowed “The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire!” across the dancefloor at each other during ‘Sway’. But if you think long and hard about it – or for those of you with truly iron constitutions, actually go and listen to those Coal Chamber albums again – those are shitty memories from a shitty time, rooted in some truly shitty songs. So let’s make this Coal Chamber reunion the last of the nu-metal “nostalgia” trips, okay?


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