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MUDVAYNE & COAL CHAMBER: Hordern Pavillion, Sydney 16/02/24

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Words by Matt New
Photos By Angie New Photography

Nu-Metal has always been a widely debated genre of music that has divided the gatekeepers of the metal scene. However, in 2024, the importance of these bands that pioneered one of the last genuinely innovative styles of music is finally gaining the respect it rightfully deserves. After attending the inaugural Sick New World Festival in Las Vegas in 2023, I was able to witness the revival of nu-metal firsthand and it truly highlighted the cultural significance this genre has created. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to reconnect with my youth and see two bands, Mudvayne and Coal Chamber, that played a pivotal part in shaping my social identity as a teenager.

Coal Chamber, who proudly hail from East Los Angeles, were one of the first Nu-Metal bands to gain attention alongside Korn and Limp Bizkit in the mid-to-late 1990s. This 4-piece band is incredibly edgy with an amazing groove, making them a powerhouse when it comes to their sonic layout. They were always going to be the perfect compliment to join Mudvayne on their final tour of Australia. Coal Chamber’s stage set was a testament to their vibrant image. Amp cabinets lined with multi-colored LED lights and a “confused” smiley graphic on all the speaker cabinets glowing under a giant backdrop of their iconic logo, which you will see tattooed on frontman Dez Fafara‘s right forearm.

They opened with Loco from their 1997 self-titled debut record, and the Horden immediately went into a chaotic meltdown. This song embodies one of the heaviest and most iconic riffs of the Nu-Metal genre. The band’s energy was electric, with vocalist Dez pirouetting across the stage like a frenzied madman. The most important feature that defines Coal Chamber’s sound is the vast eclectic soundscape and riffs from guitarist Miguel “Meegs” Rascon. In many songs, he seemingly utilized combinations of multiple effects pedals that would create sounds others would fear to attempt. The rhythm section of drummer Mikey “Bug” Cox and Nadja Peulen was monstrous, as they were incredibly locked in and did not falter throughout their 15-song set.

Dez is a captivating character, and at times his bravado comes across as arrogant. However, deep down, he is an incredibly passionate and talented vocalist. His passion and love for this country really shone through as he offered a heartfelt speech about letting go of problems in your life and living in the moment, all while letting the power of music heal the soul. It brought a smile to my face, and my respect for this band reached a new apex. Other songs that really stood out included Big Truck, Dark Days, and their set closer Sway, which signed off an amazing experience with the whole crowd singing the iconic lyrics, “we don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn, burn motherfucker, burn.”

It has been 18 long years since Mudvayne last visited Australia, and their return has been massively hyped for good reason. I remember seeing them at the 2006 Big Day Out in Sydney and vividly recall how amazing they were as a live band in their prime. So, it’s safe to say that my inner nu-metal child was extremely excited to see a band that had such a profound impact on me 20 years ago. A sea of devoted fans roared incredibly loud as Mudvayne kicked off their set with Not Falling. Ironically, bassist Ryan Martinie attempted to leap onto his riser for the first time and missed, resulting in a hard fall on his back. However, being the legend that he is, he immediately got up and continued with the song while his techs removed the riser from the stage.

Mudvayne’s sound is intense and densely layered, incorporating many complex elements. They always stood out from other nu-metal bands because they were unafraid to experiment and had a slightly progressive flavor that I truly enjoy. Their set was dominated by tracks from their album L.D. 50, including Internal Primates Forever, -1, and arguably one of their best tracks, Death Blooms, all of which were featured early on in their set. Death Blooms is an introspective song about the battle of succumbing to illness and the inevitability of death, making it relatable to many. The depth of this band is often misunderstood as a gimmick lacking substance, but Mudvayne’s music has always been emotive and incredibly well written, especially when compared to other bands attempting to emulate their style.

The band is one of the best in the genre, with drummer Matthew McDonough providing primal, metronomic grooves. He adds an amazing layer of flair that highlights his complex style of drumming. Bass player Ryan Martinie, who is arguably one of the most underrated bassists in rock and metal, plays with force and technical proficiency that rivals and mirrors greats such as Les Claypool and Stanley Jordan.

Guitarist Greg Tribbett has a mighty guitar tone and has crafted some of the most brutally creative riffs, although he was not as energetic as his bandmates on stage. Touring guitarist Marcus Rafferty completes the rhythm section, providing additional guitar parts and some incredible backing vocals.

Vocalist Chad Gray took to social media to announce that he would give 150% to this tour and leave nothing behind. His tortured and dramatic performance is always captivating, and he showcases amazing variety with his vocals. His stage presence and banter with the crowd are commanding and entertaining. At one point, he taunted the crowd for throwing detritus on stage, encouraging his loyal followers to kick their asses for him. He also discussed how metal music is the fountain of youth and expressed his joy in seeing parents who got into Mudvayne in the early 2000s attending the show with their children, on their shoulders rocking out with mohawks and facepaint.

Their set included many amazing songs from their entire discography, although it seemed slightly shorter than the one in Brisbane a few days prior, with tracks like Silenced and Under My Skin omitted.

Everything appeared to be going well, but fatigue started to take its toll, causing some minor hiccups. Chad’s vocals seemed to falter during Nothing To Gein, and when the band started one of their most commercially successful singles, Happy?, they were not synchronized initially, sounding like they were playing to different cues. However, they managed to lock back in around the second chorus without stopping or starting over, which is commendable.

The set concluded with their most popular track, Dig, and many people in the crowd were pretending to slap bass, imitating the famous “brr brr deng” meme that we all know and love.

Jokes aside, this song encompasses everything that makes an amazing song: great riffs, catchy hooks, and a clear message, all packed into just two and a half minutes. Throughout the evening, Mudvayne delivered a world-class performance, but it’s evident that the intensity of their songs now exceeds the band’s physical ability to replicate them as they did 20 years ago. I deeply admire and respect this band for giving such a heartfelt effort during their final Sydney performance. I know I will definitely miss the opportunity to see Mudvayne tour Australia again, and I’m sure many metal fans in this country feel the same.

With a handful of shows remaining on this tour, I think it is fair to say you will not want to miss this opportunity to say farewell to this incredible band. So, let’s raise our glasses and celebrate the brr brr deng.

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