So, as luck would have it, I was approached by Phil Stiles one fine afternoon with an offer to listen to the debut Final Coil album. As you may have guessed, good reader, I immediately snapped up the chance to listen and review it. After all, it would be rather churlish of me to refuse the opportunity, given my previous reactions to their material, Closed to the Light and Somnambulant, was rather effusive in my praise of them. Full disclosure here, I am virtual friends with Phil and was given a free copy of the album virtually in exchange for an honest review. Please see below for said honest review.
Corruption – The album opens with a sinister muted riff before hitting you in the face with a wall of guitars, bass and drums. This then transforms into a second powerful distorted riff which pounds along, before changing and drifting into a more melodic pace. Although drifting is probably the wrong word to use here, it’s more changing tracks whilst still at full speed.
There’s no real let-down at all, no moment of quietness, even during the verses. It’s clear to see that the vocals have been polished and refined during their time in the studio, marking a noticeable departure from previous albums, and it’s one that should be appreciated as Stiles has grown in confidence with singing. There’s still the trademark twang at times, but these vocals are definitely more developed, along with the guitars.
Speaking of the guitars, there’s a rather nice solo toward the end of the song. If you were looking for the old coarseness of the fuzzy distortion from previous FC efforts, then you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it’s been replaced with a more cutting guitar tone, and the mixing and mastering on this particular record ensures that it stands out from the rhythm guitar, rather than potentially being lost in it. For an opening track, Corruption is both a familiar reminder of where Final Coil have been, and the new, sleeker direction they’ve opted for.
Dying – Reflecting the more melodic tone that FC adopted throughout their previous efforts (see also: Lullaby, Dissappointment from previous EPs) the second track, Dying, continues the album. Think Metallica around the Load/Reload era, mixed with a smattering of early 90s grunge, and you’ve got an idea of the sonic landscape of Dying.
It’s a mostly quiet song after the opening Corruption, with a powerful build up to a muted sonic crescendo. Yes, that may seem paradoxical, but it makes sense when listening to the song. Some rather sleek bass underpins the entire song, with the drums making a rather powerful but not overstated rhythm section. The guitars play off each other throughout the song, and ensure that it remains an interesting take on a more melodic tone. Unfortunately for me, it’s one of the weaker songs on the album until the end.
Alone – The intro reminds me of a slower System of a Down song, with some rather neat guitar work that builds up as the intro progresses. The guitars manage to progress into the verse with no distinct point of change, making this an interesting facet of the song.
The vocals, again, have shown an upgrade in the level of refinement, as has the mixing of the guitar levels, retaining a much more polished feel than before. Additionally, there’s a lot more harmonisation in the vocals than has been in some previous efforts, showcasing the wider range of genres and influences that the band are noted for.
The song continues through a solo that showcases everyone’s talents, whether it’s for a tight rhythm section or for taking the spotlight, before returning to a chorus and then that ubiquitous riff that really does remind me of a System of a Down song.
You Waste My Time – Four songs in, and we now enter the more experimental phase. The quiet, foreboding synth intro slowly fades in manic guitar wailing, before adding in a pulsing riff and rhythm part as the song builds up into a pounding anthem.
It’s on songs like these that Final Coil aren’t afraid to experiment with something out of the ordinary and meld it with multiple genres, as the guitars and synths are more akin to a heavier version of something from the Life on Planet 9 discography, before abruptly diving into a metal breakdown, which then slows down back into the ethereal landscape the band have been creating, and then starting to build up again. This is the kind of song that forces its listeners to stay on its toes to avoid being caught out by either the quietness or the harder sections.
Towards the end of the song, it breaks down into something more akin to a Cooper Temple Clause song, the vocals and guitars and drums howling out in anger, and I’m betting this would be a good song live to get the crowd going.
Myopic – Myopic is one of those songs that does feel like a throwback to previous FC efforts, possibly not being out of place on the Closed to the Light EP. Crunchy guitars thrash around the twangy vocals, less refined and polished this time around than some of the other songs on the album, with the addition of wah guitar making a distinct tone throughout the song, especially during the solo.
As previously stated, this is very much a classic Final Coil grunge song, so if you liked the band on previous efforts, this will definitely fit within your tastes. It should also work well in live situations.
Failed Light – At over ten minutes long, this is definitely the beast of the album. It’s also a great showcase of the bands modern prog influences, nodding furiously at Tool, mixing it with a smidgeon of Pink Floyd, a touch of mid-era Anathema, some Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree, and blending it all together. At a point in the song when most other bands would be winding the song down, the intro finishes and the vocals kick in.
Throughout the song, the guitars remain crisp, whether distorted, overdriven or clean, and it’s great to hear a band not being afraid to work on their sound. Guitar work is reminiscent of the tone found in Ashes Divide mixed with a grungy edge at times, before returning to a crisper sound. It’s a lush sonic soundscape built up throughout the song, reflecting a lot of the influences of the band without sounding like a rip-off of any of them, and it works well.
Spider Feet – Spider Feet does have the unenviable task of following up Failed Light, and unfortunately it doesn’t quite manage it. It’s one of the more experimental songs off the album in terms of riffage, starting off with a quietly muted pitter-patter riff interspersed with thrumming clean guitar, which eventually breaks down into a metal meltdown. The crushing riffs here don’t hang around for too long, before ending up back with the quietly muted riffs, and it’s this play throughout the song that brings it to a wailing guitar solo that plays back and forth between the guitar works from the two guitarists.
The vocals themselves are heavily harmonised, lending an interesting aspect to the song not found in a lot of other Final Coil songs. Unfortunately, there’s just something missing from the song, or more likely, it’s slightly out of place on the album, coming after the prog behemoth. Either way, this is one of the more solid songs on the album, but it doesn’t quite reach the top tier.
Lost Hope – Again, reaching into the melodic bag for this song, Lost Hope is a reprieve from the fast riffing of previous songs. Slow and stately are words that could be used to describe this song, but don’t mistake that for being sedated. This song is anything but sedate as it slowly builds up to a pathos-filled crescendo. Again, the guitar work is incredibly crisp, and the keyboard work at the end is a nice call back to the Somnambulant EP.
However, probably unintentionally, the vocals do remind me a bit of early to mid-era Oasis, being reminiscent of Noel Gallaghers at times. Perhaps it’s due to the softer nature of the song, but it’s a fine chance for Stiles to exercise his vocal range, which he does so. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, this is one of the more interesting songs off the album.
Moths to the Flame – Moths to the Flame is another call back to previous Final Coil material, featuring more of a grunge style to it. A clean lead guitar interweaves its way across a distorted rhythm guitar throughout the verses, before the chorus swells to the forefront with a wall of distortion.
Guitar solos divides the song up into distinctly different parts, as after the first solo ends, the slower part of the song, sounding very akin to Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, begins to rise, before the grungey guitars kick in again, and another solo closes the song off with a rather different soundscape than the rest of the song.
In Silent Reproach – Heavy, pounding riffs dominate this song, once again showcasing the heavier side of Final Coil. The guitars are suggestive of Blue Stahli, without the electronic synths to back them up however, and the general atmosphere is that of classic Final Coil.
Unlike some of the previous songs where the guitars were crisply mixed, the lead guitars do have a habit of falling into the background at times on this song, which is a shame as they do sound to be doing interesting things which are kind of overridden at times by the rhythm guitar. Especially towards the end of the song, which showcases the more experimental and more manic parts of Final Coil, which is a slight shame.
Alienation – Alienation crossfades in nicely with the end of In Silent Reproach, and is one of my favourite songs off the album. It’s one of those songs that definitely shows the band have sat down and thought how they want to cap the album off. The sleek direction that they’ve chosen for this album is continued on this song, and the prog-esque guitars blend in well with the synths that they’ve chosen to either reverberate or pulse in the background of the song.
It’s also a stylistically interesting choice, as it’s quite an ethereal song that slowly builds up and up throughout the song without actually delving into the fully metal side that one would expect from Final Coil. Instead, a rather jangly Riverside-esque solo gives way to a nice three-part harmony of guitars, before swelling into an epic solo which gradually fades away to a quiet end to the song, and to the album.
It’s certainly an interesting choice to end the album on, and it’s also possibly my favourite song off the album. But then again, with quite a few solid contenders there and not many weak songs, it’s hard to pick any one favourite from it, as the album does proudly wear its influences on its sleeve without carbon-copying any of them with the selection of songs here.
I like the album. A lot. It’s a lot more polished and refined than previous offerings, and it shows a lot of band growth over the years, allowing the band to meld together multiple genres into a coherent, crushing album. If you like your metal with tinges of prog rock, grunge and other genres, and a lot of nods to influences, then you could do a hell of a lot worse than acquiring this album.