"Bands today are tapping into kids' emotions and using them, using their souls for their own gain. Sure, I care about record sales, but not if I have to exploit my fans to get them. I want to empower my fans and give them wings of metal and steel, wings to help them fly over this world we're in right now.
This is a crazy world, and a little bit of empowerment can go a long way." So says Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara, further proving that in the depraved world of hard rock and heavy metal, we can rest assured that some things never change. Sure, the horrific charm of new release Dark Days shows a marked maturity over the more simplistic grooves of his band's 1997 debut and the more self-inflated sounds of their 1999 follow-up Chamber Music, but that sonic growth spurt couldn't hamper the force that has driven Coal Chamber since their inception practically a decade ago.
"The kids are really the only reason we play," agrees drummer Mike Cox. "Sure, the easy answer is that it's for the love of music, but if it weren't for the kids and the fans, we wouldn't be out there." "It's really easy to make a kid cry and bum them out about their life when they're locked in their room. "Those emotions are easy to tap," says Fafara of the lyrics that bog modern metal, "but it's much harder to get a kid into a heavy band, get them to come to your show, get them involved in the pit, see them fall down, and watch them get picked up by the other kids and actually feel like they're a part of something for the first time in their life."
The frontman remembers what it feels like to be a part of something bigger than the constrictive glare of the world around us. He lived it, and heavy metal was his escape. "It's really too easy to breed self-doubt and self-hatred, but it's harder to breed self-confidence and power into kids. That's where I want to go." If you were there when Coal Chamber first burst to prominence little more than five years ago, you remember the one word that the band kept repeating, "Longevity”.
Arriving on a heavy music scene when there hardly was a heavy music scene, Coal Chamber were at the forefront of what is now called the nu-metal movement. They bled heavy metal heroics with hip-hop-laden rhythms and the guitar-driven ferocity of Miguel Rascon. They were leaders in the first wave that helped create the modern metal scene and let nothing get in the way of the longevity that fueled their music. In 2002, that word not only bears repeating, but actually means something more to the Southern California quartet.
"We're looking at the long term. The one thing that I'm most pleased with about Coal Chamber is that we can back up our album sales as a live draw," says Fafara. With three albums under the band's belt, they're one of the more veteran acts on the modern hard rock circuit, and that fact isn't lost on them. "We wanted to do something that stepped out of the box and was diversified with this album, something that was raw and inspirational, something that isn't in the mainstream right now.'"
The results are profound, as Dark Days strikes the nerves like an air raid, a sonic landscape of turbo-charged guitars and throbbing bass lines, laid in a wake of penetrating drums and razor-sharp, iodine soaked vocals. Coal Chamber have expanded on their song writing abilities by putting together an album that melds thought provoking lyrics with their signature sound to construct songs that sound just as raw and energetic live as they do recorded.
"I started building a home studio and writing demos on my own, and when we got together, parts would start bleeding into other parts and they'd all get bastardized," says Rascon of the writing process that led to Dark Days. "It was more a case of people doing things on their own than on the previous records. Everyone has the advantage of home studios, and it was a lot easier for us to write that way. Although we were individuals in the development stages of the record, we came together as a group to record the songs. It was a different way to do things, but what came out was killer. It was a very tough and fatiguing record, and we were meticulous in a lot of parts. We did a lot to make sure that we don't sound like everyone else. It was a hard record to make, but it was satisfying in the end."
"We're a rock 'n' roll band, and we still have rock 'n' roll problems, and to say that we're all diverse isn't even the beginning of it, but that diversity is the character of this band, and that's all we care about at this point," boasts Fafara. "Everyone's got such a unique style at this point, that when we come together that's what makes Coal Chamber what it is. We're such different people, it's crazy, but the music, especially on this album, was on point and we did what we had to do."
Even the recent departure of founding bassist Rayna Foss-Rose (who chose to leave the band to devote her full attention to her young daughter) can't distract from the results that the quartet had when they wrote and recorded the songs that comprise Dark Days. "We wanted to make an album that you can listen to ten years from now and not have pigeonholed in any kind of scene, an album that, ten years from now, will still hold its valor and strength."
From the electro-driven pulse of the haunting "Fiend," to the bitter, personal scorn released on "Friend," there's not a track on the album that doesn't embrace the band's goal of being "hard hitting, forboding, simple and grooving." The combination sounds basic enough, but until you've basked in the rapture of "Glow," there's no telling what you've been missing. Close your eyes, and picture Fafara, Rascon, Cox, and returning bassist Nadja Puelen (who filled in for Foss-Rose when she took a maternity leave in 1999) the way they intended the music to be, "Live”.
"Before we just wrote songs, but now our songs have to work live," says the frontman. "I'm a really humble, down-to-earth guy, but I will say this 'Live, we're hard to touch.' We were trained by going on the road with bands like Black Sabbath and Pantera, bands that it meant something to go onstage before. It's about hitting that stage and delivering it to the kids."