Sevendust and Coal Chamber at Rams Head Live

One of the perks of fronting a band with goth-leaning tendencies (or Kiss) is the ability to freeze the aging process by slathering on ever-increasing amounts of makeup.  Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara certainly took advantage of the opportunity during Monday night’s performance at Rams Head Live, covering his face in white paint save for a blackened strip across his eyes.

But if Dez looked like the third member of Insane Clown Posse, his band’s performance otherwise remained unchanged, almost as though it was frozen in time since their last tour with the evening’s headliners, Sevendust, in 1998.

Without any new material to promote, the band pounded their way through a thirteen song set that relied exclusively upon their 10+ years old studio output.  The capacity crowd, many of whom were on hand to see Coal Chamber’s first area performance since reforming late last year, were partial to songs from the band’s debut, including Loco, Big Truck, and the set closer, Sway.  As ever, Coal Chamber’s bottom-heavy sound, coupled with Dez’s gravel-gargled screams, played heavier live than on record.  And while Dez has never really gone away, recording and touring for the past decade with Devildriver, guitarist Meegs Rascon and drummer Bug Cox came back with the same stage presence as they did 15 years ago, Meegs glaring dead-eyed at the crowd while Bug broke drum sticks at will as roadies stood by with back up. 

Coal Chamber’s newest member, Chela Harper, must have responded to the band’s craigslist ad requesting a female willing to wear dark makeup and pirouette while occasionally hitting a few bass notes.  A teeny bopper at best during the band’s heyday, she was clearly a hit with the mostly male crowd.

Compared to Coal Chamber, Sevendust’s post-90s output is a study in nu-metal contrast.  The Atlanta, Georgia five piece never went away, putting out 9 albums while consistently touring the club circuit.  With the return of guitarist Clint Lowery a few years back, the original lineup is the same as it was when the band formed in 1997. 

Unsurprisingly, songs from their debut album and follow-up Home saw the most devil horn salutes.  Five of the band’s thirteen song set came from the 1997-1999 era.  While he’s not jumping around the stage as buoyantly these days, singer Lajon Witherspoon’s vocals sounded rich and his gracious stage presence was a sharp turn from Dez’s painted jumping bean. 

The band tore through their 75 minute set, with bassist Vince Hornsby and a hooded Lowery showcasing for the crowd most energetically.  Along the way, they debuted 3 new songs from the recently released Black Out the Sun.  If their sales haven’t kept up since the last millennium, their sound hasn’t changed much.  The only disappointments of the evening were the piped-in backing vocals that were apparent during several songs (note: if you’re going to use backing tracks, at least keep your mouth near the mic when they’re in use) and the band’s decision to close with post Y2K encores on a co-headlining tour whose appeal is clearly nostalgic.  “Bitch,” “Waffle,” or the title track from Home could have sent the fans home happy. 

Still, if you were an angsty, testosterone-addled man child in the late 1990s or loved someone who was, this a tour worth grabbing your chain wallet and plunking down $30.  

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