Abraham & Coilguns – Split EP Review


If you have pretensions to love the underground scene then there is one label that you have to make a part of your life. Based in Switzerland, there are two constants that you can come to rely on with regards Hummus Records. Firstly, the artwork will always be amazing, the packaging hand designed and the overall care put into presenting the music first rate. There are no exceptions – this is a label based on passion first and sales second. Secondly, with regards the music the label puts out, you must learn to expect the unexpected. Always unique, the bands that have released music via Hummus are some of the heaviest, spaciest, aggressively individual bands out there. However, whilst you cannot guarantee genre, you can always guarantee quality and Hummus have yet to put out a record that doesn’t blow you clean away. In short, ladies and gentlemen, Hummus records is one of those rare labels that  places artistic integrity at the core of its being and lets everything else work itself out.

Here we have the 26th release from Hummus records, a beautifully packaged and highly limited split EP between Abraham and Coilguns, both bands that have appeared on these pages before with glowing reviews. Abraham open proceedings with a single song, which may seem rather paltry until you work out that that one song is some sixteen minutes in length. Opening in a spasm-inducing arc of feedback, ‘chasing dragons, chasing light’ emerges from a wall of static and noise to lurch into the sort of Cro-Magnon metal that Mastadon made their stock in trade when they were still heavily in thrall to Neurosis. Based around a percussive assault that sounds as if an epileptic has crawled behind the kit and powered by sludge riffs that sit between the Melvins and the aforementioned Neurosis, Abraham’s sound is powerful, unhinged and unpleasant, and when the track is derailed, the drums vanishing into the ether, the guitars continue to churn and smoulder, relentlessly pouring fourth like lava, obliterating all in their path. Making ‘heavy’ music is, arguably, relatively easy; but making a heavy track that is both artistically and emotionally challenging and spreading it over sixteen minutes, whilst maintaining both a central focus and the listener’s interest, is incredibly hard, and yet Abraham rise to the task with aplomb, and the sixteen minutes of their track will keep you hooked until the last raging beat has faded away like the dissipation of rolling thunder.

In contrast Coilguns have previously had no truck with lengthy compositions (the two-part ‘commuters’ aside) preferring to employ the sonic equivalent of a smash ‘n’ grab as their modus operandi, charging in and leaving you beaten, bruised and bloody before anyone has had a chance to figure out quite what has happened. The diabolical ringleader of the chaos, Louis Jucker, is an uncontrollable nightmare, a flailing, sweaty monster of a man who tears apart live venues like a child might tear paper and whose presence in the studio must surely lead to immense damage bills. Alongside this human whirlwind is the obscenely talented Luc Hess, a drummer whose precision around the kit creates the necessary sonic barrage that keeps Louis at least partially grounded and the equally skilled Jona Nido whose creative instinct is so impulsively strong that it’s amazing he has any time for life outside of music at all. On this recording the core trio are joined by  Matthieu Amstutz who is bizarrely credited as “occult noises, borderline speeches and dancing weirdo” (um, OK…), Chris Johnson on bass and Peter Adams on guitar and the resulting noise is as hectic, as unnerving, as monumental as anything Coilguns have ever produced and yet it is always tempered by a newfound gravitas that will leave you in awe of the tangents the band are now roving off along.

Smash ‘n’ grab is precisely the tactic used on the opening bars of first track ‘drainers’, a furious blast of punk metal that laughs maniacally before smearing its faeces on the wall and dancing naked around its cell, but here the expanded line-up and desire for evolution has led to more light and shade in the band’s sound, the mid-section of this short song a rippling guitar underpinned by jazzy drums and overlaid with all manner of sonic weirdness that feels akin to being trapped in Louis’ brain with only the Joker for company. It is a very different Coilguns to that which has gone before but, crucially, the band have lost none of their power to shock, and the power they wield here is quite devastating. Far removed from their early EPs and the most surprising track on offer here is ‘the archivist’, an eleven minute, slow-burning piece of work that recalls the shift Botch undertook on their final EP (‘an anthology of dead ends’) before they tragically decided to call it a day, and with its raging nervy riffs and syncopated percussion, it is clear that the track takes Coilguns into a whole new area of sonic territory and it is the most obscurely beautiful, unique and mature piece of work the band have undertaken to date. That’s not to say it doesn’t rock – when the riffs come pouring in like molten lead the song takes on the cumbersome weight of a crushing boulder – but here the band’s sonic strength is tempered in a rare display of restraint that makes the heavier passages all the more satisfying when they arrive. It is, without a doubt, a defining moment in the band’s ever-fascinating career and you’ll be cheering its furiously inventive nature as the solos pack up and the music reaches an epic crescendo.  The EP’s final track is ‘levelling’, an aptly titled beast that sees the band let fly the pent-up aggression that must surely have built over the previous track’s eleven minutes, Louis’ roar a thing of unhinged, monstrous, metallic beauty. Feral, ferocious and bloody in aspect, ‘levelling’ is the cathartic release that was needed to close the EP and it leaves you feeling as if you’ve been run over by a truck. At the start of this review we told you to ‘expect the unexpected’ and on this EP Coilguns have forced the listener (whether new to the band or a long-time fan) to do just that. This is bold, abrasive metal with attitude and intelligence and once again it is time to make the case that Coilguns are one of the best bands on the planet right now.

Beautifully packaged, a word must be spared for the artwork of this EP which was produced by David Haldimann (www.facebook.com/davidhaldimannart) whose ambitious and meticulous designs recall the wonderful work of Michael Gira of the Swans. It is this care that goes into packaging that makes owning physical products in these increasingly digital times so desirable, and if you can track down a copy of this release on CD then I highly recommend you do so. However, no matter what the packaging, without the music this release would be nothing, but these two bands deliver a musical experience quite unlike anything else out there at the moment. You’ll hear numerous references from the Melvins to Neurosis and Botch to the Dillinger Escape Plan, but these two bands meld these influences into their own unique tapestry of sound and the result is vital, compelling and exciting. Coilguns and Abraham offer a future away from the shiny, over-played, over-hyped music that fills so much shelf space and finds its ways into every corner of our lives from Facebook to metal magazines. They are the modern day equivalent of the tape-trading bands of the eighties that spurned airplay and singles in favour of creating music that actually mattered. If you love music, real music with a human heart and a relentlessly creative spirit, then this release is for you.

Don’t just take our word for it – check out this release right here:

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