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Shadow Music Mike Oliveri Review by
Mike Oliveri
Roadrunner Records

First impression on this one is "more of the same." As the first few tracks roll by, it's easy to think they're continuing on with the high-impact metal/industrial hybrid that they used throughout their first album.

But then you get deeper, and you start to realize that COAL CHAMBER has evolved . . . at least a little.

There's still no mistaking the band, especially with B. Dez Fafara's crushed-gravel singing style, but a few of the later songs are more mellow, with a surreal, haunting quality to them. Examine especially "My Mercy", a macabre love song featuring Aimee Echo (formerly of HUMAN WASTE PROJECT, joining Hero) and E. Blue (Sire Records) as guest vocalists. With more straight guitar work and less grind, and some soothing bass work by Rayna Foss-Rose, it provides a short reprieve from the relentless earlier tracks that is calming and beautiful in its own dark way. Echo also appears on Burgundy, another song that backs off a few paces and has more effects in the background and features some of the more poetic lyrics on the album.

Of course, if you enjoyed their first album, you'll get into "Entwined" and "Feed My Dreams", which are strong with Dez's signature up-and-down cadence: he'll do a verse of straight singing before breaking into a deep, snarling chorus backed by heavier music.

This album also features a cover song with a major guest star: Ozzy Osbourne. I guess having Sharon Osbourne as your manager has some great benefits, eh? In this new interpretation of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey" (which is pretty damn cool) Ozzy picks up the main lyrics, and Dez provides the backing vocals and his sinister, coarse singing on the choruses sets off Ozzy's distinctive higher singing.

Like the first album, CHAMBER MUSIC is very well-engineered, especially considering the relentless bass the band uses. Cheaper systems would ordinally lose their clarity, becoming muddy or buzzy, but the notes remain clear and sharp even in my mediocre Sony mini-rack system. Incidentally, the band did not include the "candid tracks" of jamming and conversation this time around, and they left mixer Amir Derakh alone (he was undoubtedly the subject of the short "Amir of the Desert" track on the first album).

On a sidenote, if you've got the first album and looked at the band picture you, like me, may have taken a look at guitarist Meegs Rascon and drummer Mike "Bug" Cox and thought "Man, these guys look 12." Well, this time they look closer to, oh... 14. Fortunately, Rayna still went without the extra black makeup and looks like quite the cutie.

Does it matter what they look like? Of course not. But do yourself a favor and catch these guys live. The studio stuff is good, but nothing conveys their music better than a live show. Dez is a great front-man who the crowd always responds to, and even after seeing them three times I look forward to the next time they hit Chicago. Sure, they open for the big guys for the time being, but they are much more than a beer band.

If they continue on the slowly evolving trend, these guys will be great. Dez has shown some range in his songwriting and singing, and I hope he will continue to use it. For now, though, I still have to wonder a little if they're going for hardcore just for the sake of hardcore. I give this one three skulls.

Perplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex Skull

This review copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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