Written by: AP on 26/06/2009 01:01:12

Despite the huge impact exerted by Coalesce on the experimental hardcore scene, it isn't a name that usually rings any bells. And it's not just because of the esoteric nature of the genre, unapologetic and merciless in its approach to music, but also because the band has always preferred to remain rather an acquired taste; because they walk the talk and refuse to compromise their surgically honed sound. There simply is no other band that sounds like Coalesce and now, ten years since the release of the band's last album "0:12 Revolution in Just Listening", they have resurfaced to unleash one of the most interesting (and surely anticipated) records of the year: "Ox".

But that the hype surrounding this release was next to non-existent is no surprise considering the band's tumultuous past, what with your standard in-house feuding, financial troubles and intermittent bouts of members leaving and rejoining because of religious differences, not to mention the scores of other (often seminal) projects its members are and have been involved with, not least The Get Up Kids or the cryptic solo project Reggie And The Full Effect which some readers here are bound to be familiar with. People simply lost faith in Coalesce convalescing and who can blame them? But from the unexpected often rise the greatest of surprises, and fortunately "Ox" delivers a first-class slap in the face of these non-believers.

No quiet instrumental intro; but the monumental weight of the bass guitar accompanied by Sean Ingram's abrasive roar are what meet you when opener "The Plot Against My Love" rolls in like a right hook to your temple, and from there onwards it's much like a backstreet beating. Seriously, the volume of these songs is immense - and much of that owes to their slow tempo. But first and foremost it is Jr's extraordinary and, dare I say it, unparalleled drumming which ties down the melodic dust from Jes Steineger's guitar work (which deserves a paragraph of its own) and gives the album its raw force.

What's most intriguing about the "Ox" experience is that unlike most textbook stuff that spins in my drive, Joey Sturgis has been kept at bay and instead every instrument enjoys equal prominence in the mix. That means nothing goes unheard, which is paramount given the mathematic nature of the music, quirky and playful as often as it is heavy and uncompromising. Just listen to the Western intro in "Wild Ox Moan", the strange, acoustic interlude "Where Satire Sours" or the schizophrenic vocal/guitar work in "In My Wake, For My Own" just to name a few examples. Even more novel is the fact that most of the guitar work on "Ox" appears to have been completely improvised on-the-spot ("By What We Refuse" in particular bears proof to such claims).

And yet as mentioned in the lengthy preamble, there is no chest full of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow for Coalesce because most listeners will dismiss it as pointless noise. After all, Coalesce once helped pioneer the 'mathcore' genre and "Ox" is retrospective in that respect: nothing has been compromised, and the band strives to please only itself. Indeed, if your foot is not already firm in this genre, "Ox" is not the place to start. It is difficult and frustrating to listen to, but when it reveals itself, and it will reveal itself to the patient, its intricate structure and the sheer amount of detail in each song become almost overwhelming.

Download: The Plot Against My Love, Wild Ox Moan, In My Wake, For My Own, By What We Refuse

For the fans of: Botch, The Chariot, Converge, The Dillinger Escape Plan

Listen: Myspace

Release date 15.06.2009


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