Originally, this was supposed to be American Head Charge instead of The Defiled, but the band which always seems to be plagued by personal troubles had to pull out which dented the appeal of the night for a fair few people I know… Still, the main reason for going along of course was Coal Chamber. Fresh off the release of their fourth album “Rivals”, the first they have recorded since 2002’s “Dark Days”, the Nu Metal legends were back with a point to prove!
The 5pm start time was a little odd and the fact that the first band weren’t on until 6:15 was annoying but given that I missed out on seeing Coal Chamber live the first time round, my inner 15 year old was happy to put up with this slight inconvenience. After the obligatory pre-gig pint or three, it was time to see how 2002 sounded in 2015.
Dope were up first. This was the first time the Nu Metal with Industrial influenced Illinoisan four piece had toured the UK and to mark the occasion they had some special tour merch which was clearly aimed at teenagers or people my age wanting to relive their teens with the slogan “Can’t Spell Fuck without UK” across a British Flag on the back. Comical merchandise analysis aside, there was quite a buzz in the Ritz for when Dope hit the stage. Their music was quite chunky sounding, utilising the heaviness added by their down tuned guitars and they got people moving. Vocally, it wasn’t that good but that didn’t bother the fans in attendance who were in full voice for songs like “Fuck Tomorrow” and their cult hit “Die Motherfucker Die” which got a decent sized pit going. Sadly, instead of playing the Dead or Alive cover (You spin me right round), they played their version of the classic Billy Idol track Rebel Yell. It was at this point I had to stand there and cringe as the vocals were weak and it just lacked the kick which Rebel Yell needs to be effectively delivered… Even I could have sang Rebel Yell better and there’s footage on YouTube from a Bloodstock karaoke performance to back my bold claim up! Overall, they were received well by the majority of those in attendance but they just didn’t do it for me. Still, it’s one band from my teenage years I can finally tick off the list!
The Defiled were up next and my run of avoiding seeing them live over the past seven or so years had finally ended. If it wasn’t for the fact I was there on reviewing duty, I would have spent their entire set at the bar. There was minimal interest and investment from the majority of the crowd. Only those drunk enough not to care, or the army of fanboys/girls in attendance seemed into it, given that some people round me were exclaiming that this was worse than last time they’d suffered them live, whilst others seemed more interested in reading my scribbles about the gig up to that point from over my shoulder than actually watching the band! Like an Emo version of Motley Crue but with keyboards, it was just… Urgh. They keyboard player tried to give some stage presence to the band by swinging his keyboard round and holding it up above his head more than he actually played it and it didn’t wash well with the crowd. The only thing the four piece had going for them was that at times, there were some chunky sounding riffs and groove but that really is it. All I have left to say is fucking American Head Charge!
Soil on the other hand were nothing like that. Much like before Dope, there was a real buzz and sense of anticipation for the Nu metallers and initially I didn’t get why. I’d heard a few songs off of their debut album “Scars” and seen them live at Download 2006 when Will Smith’s wife joined them on stage to murder ‘Halo’, but everyone kept saying the same thing, including my better half who spelt it out for me – It was Soil with Ryan McCombs, the original vocalist for the band. It was also significant as back in November 2014, McCombs was hospitalized following a stroke in his sleep, so for him to be back fronting the band which made him known and to be performing again it was special for him.
As soon as they came on stage the reception was great. The crowd were fully engrossed in it and the energy of the band was good to see. With a great sound and a real pounding groove fuelling them, it’s exactly how I remembered Nu Metal sounding from the small handful of bands from that genre I caught 10-12 years ago. Getting a better reaction out of the crowd than Dope and The Defiled put together, Soil had everyone in the palm of their hand. Playing favourites “Pride”, “Breaking Me Down”, “Unreal” and the fan favourite “Halo”, there were hardly any people standing still in the venue and the odd but interesting choice of playing their cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” as their set closer was well received too. It’s the first and possibly only time I will have ever tried to start a circle pit to that song.
Finally, it was time for Coal Chamber. Right off the bat, they went into “Loco” which caught me and many others off guard given it is one of their most iconic tracks. I would have expected it to be nearer the middle of the set before it made an appearance, but opening up with it was a real statement of intent from the four piece. This of course got the pit into full swing from the off, and it didn’t stop there. Straight into another old favourite, “Big Truck” and then into the first track off of the new album, “I.O.U Nothing”, Coal Chamber were coming out hard and heavy. The detuned riffs, powerful and tormented growls and thunderous bass and drums were spot on. Mixing the old with the new, all the material was well received by those in attendance. “Fiend”, “Drove”, “Something Told Me” and “Rivals” got a great response and their other big hit from the early years, “Sway” which closed the set went down a storm!
In all it was a good night with the exception of The Defiled, but they weren’t even originally on the bill which could have been advertised as “Is it 2001 again?”. Sure, Nu Metal is a thing of the past now with many of the bands from that genre either expanding their sound and going off in a different direction or just calling it quits and making newer bands, but the nostalgia kick this show brought was fantastic. With no one there appearing to be under their early 20’s, this really was a gig attended by fans of the bands who remembered them the first time round. Attended by people who back when these bands were in their prime or just starting out were sporting their Nu Metal band shirts, oversized jeans with chains on and believing the whole world to be against them, it was good to revisit a misspent youth. Sure, Nu Metal may have been mocked then and still is, and it has been supplanted by trends like Emo, Screamo and more recently Djent, but tonight was all about the generation who grew up with it and used it as a stepping stone to discover what we would now call better music with the benefit of hindsight. This was a night for the generation who were genuinely excited when Metallica released St. Anger, only to realise how shit it was. This was a night for the generation who may have been lucky to catch these the first time round, but for a lot of people who didn’t catch them in the occasional festival appearances since their live reformation a few years back, it was a first, especially as far as Dope were concerned. Coal Chamber, Soil and Dope took us back to the early 2000’s and provided an enjoyable night… It’s just a shame that The Defiled had to gatecrash it!