Coal Chamber (+ Soil, The Defiled, Dope)
The Ritz, Manchester
If it hadn't been for the last minute replacement of American Head Charge with London's The Defiled, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was 2001 all over again. Thankfully though it isn't, and despite the periodic desperate gasps of Fred Durst's Limp Bizkit it's the underrated stars of the “nu-metal” movement are coming back and hitting harder than in their heyday. Tonight is primarily about Coal Chamber and their mighty new album 'Rivals', but it's also special for the fact that the reformed and revitalised Dope are making their first UK tour in their history.
The 5pm doors opening is a little unusual, especially as it isn't until 6:15pm that Dope finally take to the stage. But soon the wait is a distant memory as the band launch into a fast and frantic set. The music was tight and the adrenalin was high as they reeled out classics such as 'Violence', 'Fuck Tomorrow', 'Die Motherfucker Die', and 'Addiction'. Interestingly though there was no sign of their most recent release 'Everything Sucks' and the dropping of their cover of Dead Or Alive's 'You spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)' in favour of Billy Idol's 'Rebel Yell'. But nonetheless the crowd were into it and the band could hold their head high.
Next up were The Defiled. The electronic tinged metal of the London quartet seem like a good match on paper. But despite the few hardcore fans that had pushed their way to the front, and the crazy shenanigans of keyboard player The AvD; their efforts fall flat before the majority of the crowd. Perhaps it was the aftermath of Dope's heartfelt madness still buzzing in the minds of those who had waited over a decade to see them. Or perhaps it was their lack of stage presence. But either way it wasn't really the band's night and they come of a superfluous to the rest of the line-up.
Soil were next to hit the stage to a sense of anticipation. It's a strange choice of support as the Illinois natives are no strangers to headline performances in the UK. The post-grunge meets nu-metal purveyors of the overplayed 'Halo' whipped the crowd into a frenzy despite not really doing anything at all. The return of original vocalist Ryan McCombs following a stroke late last year obviously made it a special tour for the band and their hardcore fans. But objectively it was a lacklustre outing that would have only satisfied long-time fans. They reeled out the fan favourites such as 'Pride', 'Breaking Me Down', 'Unreal', 'The Hate Song', and of course the inevitable rendition of 'Halo' that saw McCombs wander through the crowd, with the set rounded off with a cover of Ram Jam's 'Black Betty'. The fans were evidently loving it, but it was hard to see why.
Finally after a decade away it was time for Coal Chamber to return. Dez Fafara, hardened by years on the road with Devildriver slips comfortably back into his role as frontman for the nu-metal pioneering band, and brings the fury. The band open the set unexpectedly with arguably their best known cuts 'Loco' and 'Big Truck'. It's a ballsy move that leaves you wondering where they can go from there as the crowd collectively loose their shit from the off. The band answer the speculation with a heavy and aggressive set that sees classics like 'Fiend', 'Dark Days', 'I', 'Clock', and 'Not Living' with new cuts 'I.O.U. Nothing' and 'Rivals. They don't bother with leaving the stage for a rest before the encore and play straight through to get as much in as possible... it has after all been a while... before closing out the night in style with 'Oddity' and 'Sway'.
Coal chamber have matured, and are just as tight and crazy as ever. Even those in the crowd who had primarily come for other bands on the bill found it hard to resist the mayhem as pits opened for every song and crowd surfers poured over the barrier. For long time fans it ticks all the boxes and for new fans it was a perfect introduction as to why they had such a cult following in the 90s and early 00s. Let's hope they stick around long enough to come back.