Coilguns – ‘Commuters’ Album Review


Coilguns have released some spectacular records in the past but on this, their debut full-length album, the band have surpassed even their own lofty standards both musically and artistically. Cased in a stupendously sumptuous digi-pack with artwork by the pleasingly mysterious Spitzhorn, the album itself is on a black disc that only serves to heighten the feeling that Coilguns are in this business simply because they love the art of making records that matter to a small (but rapidly and deservingly expanding) audience rather than for any spurious remunerative motivations.

The album was cut live (with only some mini-Moog and guitars overdubbed, the sleeve proudly proclaims) and whilst it sounds admirably raw, such is the complexity of the music on offer that you can’t help but be left in awe of a band that can unleash such dynamically thrusting hurricanes of sound without the benefit of modern studio technology, particularly on mind-blowing works such as the mind-expanding eleven minutes of swirling, distressing psychedelic paranoia that is ‘Commuters part II’. Indeed, the only argument necessary for this being an essential addition to any self-respecting music fan’s collection is the opening two part ‘commuters’, a daring, bold opening suite that eclipses Coilguns’ previous work with its intelligent, electrifying arc crossing the boundaries between apocalyptic post rock and Neurosis-esque sludge with an absolute disregard for the terrifying psychological effect upon the listener. ‘Hypnograms’, by contrast, is an atonal, hyper-short piece that sounds like a drunken Jello Biafra jamming with Kurt Cobain and the Dillinger Escape Plan. It segues directly into the relentlessly brutal ‘Machines of sleep’ , a track that cruises in on one of the best riffs Coilguns have ever written whilst Louis Jucker just keeps getting better on vocals, his enraged, vitriolic roars a harrowing assault on the senses that twist and turn as the music grows increasingly agitated. ‘Plug in citizens’ is a short, cyclical beast that tears holes in the modern lifestyle and then ‘submarine warfare anthem’ is spewed forth like so much toxic sludge into a primary school playground, drenching the unfortunate recipients in evil-smelling and corrosive filth.

As the band’s taste in esoteric titles continues unabated, on ‘Minkowski Manhattan distance’ they unveil a track that is a complex battery of twisted art-punk riffs played at the speed of light, scarifying vocals shot through with blood and bile and a percussive assault that threatens to break down the boundaries between dimensions. It is another unnervingly ambitious and complex work that would be all the more surprising if Coilguns didn’t feature members of The Ocean, one of the finest exponents of progressive metal on the underground scene today. Even so, ‘Minkowski Manhattan distance’ is a powerful, intelligently written work of art that recalls elements of DEP, Botch and Converge and spits them out in Coilguns’ own, uniquely sordid manner. It. Is. Fucking. Immense. After so brutal a piece, it is time to slow down and take stock. ‘Blunderbuss committee’ opens with a sinister riff (courtesy of the distressingly dextrous Jona Nido) that is drawn straight from horror movie territory and develops like a condensed version of Pig Destroyer’s ‘Natasha’, the beauty of the melody offset by the minor key embellishments that sets the stomach aflutter in anticipation of the horror lurking, unseen, but hinted at, around the corner. That horror transpires to be ’21 Almonds a day’, a track that waits a moment before unfurling a full panoply of Miles Davis-inspired jazz drumming, trippy riffs and brutal screams with which to batter the unfortunate listener into submission. It is unutterably heavy, and yet picking it as a highlight is pointless – when every track is a highlight you just have to throw up your hands and declare the whole album utterly essential. ‘Flippists – Privateers’ is the sound of rage filtered and captured in its purist form: just listening to it is exhausting; and then the final track, the eight minute ‘Earthians’ roams into view, with Luc Hess’ remarkable drumming skills very much to the fore. It is a track that builds at a leisurely pace,  each separate elements adding to the dynamic tension and drawing you further into Coilguns’ heart of obsidian darkness.

What more is there to say? This is, without a doubt, Coilguns’ masterpiece. If I was to compare it to Converge’s Jane Doe and Dillinger Escape plan’s monumental ‘Irony is a dead scene’ in terms of the sheer weight of invention then you may get some idea of the beautifully unique, utterly monstrous sounds that Coilguns have crafted. It is the music of fear, loathing and aggression and yet also the music of three musicians united in a common love of creativity and adventuring within the world of sound. It is hypnotic, mesmerising and appalling and once you’ve hooked yourself there is no turning back. For those new to the extreme music that Coilguns create, it is the perfect doorway to expanding your interests and your sonic palette; for those who are already life-long adherents to the world of Botch and Converge then this is an essential evolution in the genre started by those bands. There is no weak moment here, no moment of tedium – it is simply an amazing album and it is, without doubt, an early album of the year. There will likely be no finer extreme record this year – Coilguns have created a benchmark by which all other bands will be judged and, in years to come ‘commuters’ will take its place as a true genre classic and a remarkable achievement for those who understand that music is an all-consuming art from that can be life-changing for those that hear and understand it. ‘Commuters’ excites the senses, makes you feel alive and inspired and I can think of no greater tribute to pay this stunning record – it is truly flawless.

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