So, having gotten my grubby mitts on an advance copy of Somnambulant by Final Coil, I’ve been listening to it a lot lately whilst trying to write this review. The main problem, if you can call it a problem, is that it is surprisingly organic and fluid, and as a result, I keep hearing new things with every listen of the album. New parts leap out and grab your attention with every play, making it an EP that’s hard to categorise with just a few simple words, so I’ve done a track-by-track review instead of an overall review. Let’s get things started…
This Love (Part One) starts off with a fairly growly acoustic guitar riff that manages to channel an underlying sense of sinister menace at the same time, a theme repeated in the lyrics and vocals throughout the song which can be accurately described as a wailing counter to the low guitar. It’s a definite testament to their grunge heritage, but with the introduction of a distorted guitar in the background, the song starts to shift to a more prog-based style. The full prog transformation is completed with the addition of a flute solo at the end, which surprisingly manages to blend in well with the rest of the song and doesn’t feel out of place. A great opening song and a surprisingly good introduction to the EP, as the later tracks will show.
The next song, Myopic, opens again with a heavy acoustic guitar riff, which gradually becomes heavier until the guitar itself seems to be trying to reach distorted guitar levels of epic rocking. The riff becomes suitably minimalistic, which fits with the tone of the song well when the vocals kick in. A nice multi-layered harmony section provides a counterpoint, before Phil Stiles’ vocals howl in with “I know what you’ve wanted from me” in a suitably dark tone. Like with This Love, there’s a nod to their dark grunge heritage in the vocal style, and despite the lack of distortion, Myopic is suitably heavy and dark. Of note are the pre-chorus vocal harmonies before the chorus kicks in, which are a great contrast to the sparsely layered guitar tracks. What’s also interesting is that despite the lack of layers, this song feels suitably menacing and thick is one word I could use to describe it.
Three kicks off with a fairly bright and cheery acoustic riff, which showcases more of the prog-rock style that This Love showcased towards the end of its tenure. Phil’s vocals are actually bright and relaxed, as opposed to the normal dark style, and it’s fair to say that this is probably one of the more experimental Final Coil songs. Warm chord progressions and a lushly bright acoustic guitar meld together with what sounds like a fantastic little Ebow guitar solo. Definitely one of the highlights of the EP, and shows that Final Coil are not only highly capable of dark grunge but can reverse it flawlessly and create a bright song without it sounding out of place.
This Love (Part Two) opens with the same acoustic riff and another flute solo. Despite me not actually enjoying flute solos too much, this one works well in context. Once the solo dies down however, we’re definitely in Final Coil territory with “So here we go this final time” being snarled out above the acoustic riff that permeates This Love, and distant but extremely heavy distorted guitar. And then when you start to get settle down in the song, it abruptly picks up in pace, and starts experimenting with different acoustic melodies whilst bitcrushed drums and distorted guitars kick in. Brilliant stuff, as when a song comes in multiple parts, there’s always the chance that it’ll repeat itself, but Part Two really stands out on its own. A second flute solo abruptly gives way to a distorted guitar riff, perhaps a nod back to Final Coils roots, before what I can only describe as Porcupine Tree-esque reverb guitar kicks in for a far-too-short solo, and then the distortion riff takes over again with drumming providing a suitably destructive counterpart. More vocal harmonies, showing that Styles’ has taken lessons from Myopic and another lush guitar solo fade out to the simple acoustic-and-flute that were prevalent at the start, and by the end of the song, the listener is left feeling like they were taken on a journey of discovery. Despite the different sections, there’s no sense of chop and change, they all blend in well together, giving the listener a workout as the song progresses. A great middle point to the entire EP showcases Final Coil’s wide range of influences and styles.
Demons showcases a nice blend of distorted guitar and acoustic, with a thudding acoustic riff in front of a howling distorted guitar to start with. The song strips away to just the acoustic and Phil’s subdued vocals add a touch of quietness to this song. There’s a sense of bleakness throughout the song, with the acoustic guitar managing to go through quiet despair as the riffs continue to explore new territory. Phil’s vocals are a great counterpart to them in this song whilst still adding to the quiet despair through the song, and there’s a bit of a nod and wink to Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral towards the latter half of the song with vocals being a homage to The Becoming. The drums come in sounding a little weak compared to the rest of the song, but the guitars try to overlay the weakness. There’s definitely more than a little hint of NIN throughout the song, but this just adds to it, rather than detracting from it.
Feeble Minds (Quiet) is probably my favourite song of the entire EP. A warm keyboard tone and quietly bitter vocals interplay with each other at first, before quiet drums and a beautifully simple piano melody kick in. This is definitely one of the most experimental Final Coil songs, and is hauntingly bittersweet, with lyrics such as “Bodies rot from within, find a future I can hold, my past is already cold, and this is all, all I ever have, don’t waste your life in looking back”. Unfortunately there’s just one downside to the song, and that’s the wandering guitar solo that pans from ear to ear – it just doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the song in my opinion, though it’s fair to say that sometimes you have to gamble and risk it, even if it doesn’t play out. Some of the keyboard and piano reminds me again of Nine Inch Nails, namely material from the Still album, which again doesn’t detract from the song. An absolutely gorgeous piano solo with fadeout from the warm keyboard from the start of the song brings the song to an end a little too soon.
Lullaby starts off with acoustic guitar that can be described as Porcupine Tree-esque, this time from the Signify era. The flute makes a reappearance before Phil’s vocals kick in, and with some suitably groovy yet subdued bass in the background, this really does feel a lot like a prog-rock number. Synths add to the prog-rock and experimentalism of the song, although I feel like they could have been utilised more to greater effect. However, more piano adds an extra layer during verses as well, and during the middle of the songs, the synths make a reappearance, along with a distorted guitar solo with a tone that really wouldn’t sound out of place in either 90s Britpop or a mid-era Porcupine Tree song. The entire song seems to have been designed to showcase a more experimental style, and it works surprisingly well with a lot of lush and dense layers for your ears to pick through and enjoy finding new snippets and sections with every listen. There’s a rising crescendo of noise which slowly obliterates every single instrument, until at last the song ends with just noise hammering your eardrums before dying away quickly.
Overall, this is one of my favourite Final Coil releases. They’ve dared to be different and to be experimental and not pigeonhole themselves with this release, and have avoided the trap of making the same album over and over. They’ve definitely outdone themselves with this EP, and with only a few minor complaints throughout the entire thing, my only major complaint is the lack of more songs on this EP. When that’s the major complaint, you know you’re onto a winner with this. And considering that it’s available for an extremely cheap price on the Final Coil Bandcamp page, you really need to go and get this as soon as possible and have it enrich your life.
Review by Jamie Rowell
Check out the album here: