Coalesce - Ox (Relapse/Riot)

Coalesce are by no means the world's most prolific band, but their fan-base is considerable and with the release of fourth album Ox, I suggest that their following is set to increase.

You get no warning with Ox. After a brief moment of calm, intro song The Plot Against My Love quickly annouces the arrival of frontman Sean Ingram's painfully harsh vocals, and maniacal patterns from skinsman Nathan Richardson. It's complete off-beat mayhem that staggers seamlessley into The Comedian In Question, which includes a dramatic vocal melody that hovers on the fringes of doom more than the good old metalcore tag.

Five minutes into this fucking rampage of an album, the lads kindly chill it out a bit with Wild Ox Moan, a Southern bluesy number in which we get a bit of rocking-chair-on-the-porch relaxation before Ingram's vocals shoot us in the knees with gran' pappy's blunderbuss.

It all gets a bit 60s horror with When Satires Sour, a song that sounds like the score from a Herschell Gordon Lewis bloodfest, but as with all down-tempo elements of Ox this doesn't last and we're soon thrown back into a fit of insanity. This album demonstrates how Coalesce cannot be pigeon-holed. The least creative box is hardcore, the most accurate fit is mathcore but there are elements of groove and thrash throughout Ox that make this album virtually impossible to classify.

I never thougt I'd say this but the sheer ferocity of Coalesce make the likes of Throwdown and Hatebreed sound like The Bee Gees. Clearly there's some synergy with Dillinger Escape Plan but to be honest, DEP have never greased my pole. Songs like The Purveyor of Novelty and Nonsence and Dead is Dead show a frankly unrivalled intelligence to Ox and I really struggled during most songs not to set fire to my own flat in a fit of angst. Combine this with the completely unintelligable In My Wake, For My Own and you genuinely feel like these guys have fucked you in the brain.

Ox is uncomfortable listening. There's a hollow simplicity to each musical element of Coalesce that mesh together to make one of the most complicated albums I've ever heard. They don't rely on breakneck speed kick drums or five-minute shredding solos and the vocals are simple yet ferocious. At barely half an hour in length, you simply cannot listen to Ox once; there's too much to it. I listened to it four times in one day and each time I had a different response to the songs. It's not always fire and brimstone; there are moments such as We Have Lost Our Will, whereby you can feel despondancy and disappointment - in what I don't know, but, fuck me, it's there.

Ox is an album you feel more than just listen to. The complexity of the structures mean it's impossible to know where the songs will go next. Imagine doing eight shots of absynthe and smoking a massive joint in your mate's garage during an earthquake whilst solving quadratic equations. That's how listening to this album feels.

All I can say about Ox is come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.

Coaelsce's Ox is out now on Relapse/Riot.