Coalesce - Ox

‘Ox’ is the type of record that I simply cannot stop listening to. It’s a completely addictive and gratifying aural experience, however, when I try to find the fitting adjectives in order to write a clever appreciation that could do justice to the storming potential of the record, my imagination fails roundly.
Long overdue, ‘Ox’ is their first work since the groundbreaking ‘012: Revolution In Just Listening’ and I can safely say it is well worth the wait. The cohesion and intensity the group demonstrates is surprising, as if the ten years that separate the new album from its predecessor never existed and all the line-up problems and breakups that assailed their career were nothing but pure speculation.
On their third full-length work, Coalesce pick up the trademark sound of their previous releases and inject it with a newfound sense for melody and off-kilter nuances. The Kansas-based quartet always had the tendency to defy conventional musical standards, revealing an absolute reluctance in being easily categorised and ‘Ox’ is not exception. Irregular time signatures, dissonant and complex riffs, country-driven chords, odd interludes and strange vocal harmonies abound and puzzle the listeners, without ever falling into self-indulgence. Sure enough, when ‘The Plot Against My Love’ begins, it’s quite obvious that we aren't in for one of those show-off works in vogue these days. Rather than bore the listener with tons riffs and arpeggios per minute, Coalesce strike in a familiar way with the nimble and punishingly effective guitar work of Jes Steineger coupled with powerful and idiosyncratic drum patterns provided by new drummer Nathan Richardson. Bassist Nathan Ellis adds a rumbling distorted bass sound, while vocalist Sean Ingram is his usual self, barking madly and eloquently. ‘Designed to Break a Man’, ‘The Villain We Won't Deny’ and ‘The Purveyor of Novelty and Nonsense’ all segue in a similar mode, downright heavy and intricate, yet incredibly overwhelming.
As mentioned before, there are moments in ‘Ox’ where Coalesce throw in a number of weird details, like the country-tinged start of ‘Wild Ox Moan’ that might seem odd at first listen, but in the end works remarkably well. ‘Come on loyal woman, I gotta hear that wild ox moan’ sings Ingram in a bluesy laid-back tone while Steineger dwells in bluesy-country-twang before breaching into a massive and dissonant mathcore riffage. Then, there’s the deliciously melodic chorus of ‘The Comedian in Question’ with Ingram giving us a taste of his clean singing style. Falsettos announce ‘In My Wake, For My Own’, a theme that has rapidly turned into one of my favourite songs, with a soulful and suffering chain-gang humming.
It’s tough to place ‘Ox’ into a single, all-encompassing style, so let’s just say it’s really damn good. Without any doubts one of the best albums of this year and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t take another 10 years for Coalesce to come up with a new album. (8.5/10)

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