After originating "spooky core" -- an angry blend of metal, mascara, and melodrama -- Coal Chamber became so good at it, it scared away much of its audience. Though the L.A. ensemble hit gold with its eponymous 1997 debut (which was originally slammed by critics for borrowing Korn's distinctive downtuned rumble), Coal Chamber suffered a severe sales slump on its much more progressive sophomore effort, Chamber Music. The album was so stoned on blackened, avant-garde pop that it even included an ill-advised cover of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey," with Ozzy contributing vocals.
Still, Chamber Music was clearly a creative step forward for Coal Chamber, and its jagged melodies and symphonic underpinnings established the band as one of the few neo-metal acts bold enough to really test its fans. Unfortunately, those fans weren't up to the challenge, and though Chamber Music debuted higher than any other Roadrunner record had at the time, landing in the top 25 on Billboard, it quickly lost momentum. Band tensions climaxed, and Coal Chamber pulled off 2000's Tattoo the Earth tour amid speculation that a breakup was imminent.
But while bassist Rayna Fosse-Rose left Coal Chamber earlier this year, she stayed with the group long enough to see through the making of its latest, Dark Days. Due in May, the album has already stirred up a lot of talk, both for its delayed completion -- it was originally scheduled to hit stores in September -- and for the band's choice of producer Ross Hogarth, who's best known for manning the boards for Mötley Crüe. Coal Chamber's upcoming stint on the Jaegermeister tour is meant to test the waters before the album's release. Will the group continue to push the bounds of its sound? Or will Coal Chamber revert to its more simplistic origins to appease its followers? Be afraid.