The new album Commuters by Swiss rockers Coilguns is both a daring and original effort, delivering eleven stylish tracks.
It was recorded entirely in one live take (except for the vocals), which is the main reason why it’s such a brave album – but this approach has at times given with one hand while taking with the other.
Coilguns employ a mix of noise rock and hardcore punk, mingled with progressive elements. Commuters sounds like it has taken a leaf out of Sonic Youth‘s feedback book, then scrawled all over it with The Fall of Troy‘s technical and unorthodox style. The result is evident in the unusual song structures, flourished with some fantastic Sikth-esque lead breaks, while retaining a wholeheartedly energetic performance.
I have to admit, upon the first listen, I didn’t like this album very much, but it’s really grown on me. I think the main reason for this is the troubling sound quality. Recording an entire album live is so bold that it borders upon a suicidal disregard for production values, which waver between excellent, and drowned in noise – to the point of incoherence. At the same time, I’m sure that most of the songs include additions that were thought up on the spot, and this improvisation keeps a fresh feeling running through the album.
So although I have an incredible amount of respect for the album, as it delivers all the energy of a live performance, I can’t help feeling that the album could be a lot more slick. But I’ll get back to the positives in this album, because it really doesn’t deserve all that much stick. To start with, the guitar player utilises a “ridiculous amount of guitar and bass amps, cabinets and a huge custom pedal board” [sic] in order to fill the place of the bassist and another guitar player. Bearing in mind that he does all that live, that’s impressive. Very impressive.
The song writing is fantastic, and the live approach does have its benefits – songs merge into each other easily, giving the whole album an organic feel as it thrashes its way towards the finale. The rawness of the record is fantastic when it doesn’t descend into too much noise. It’s a fine line to tread, but most of the time the risk pays off, and Coilguns‘ performance is, on the whole, astoundingly good.
Below is my favourite track off the record. It’s a grinding monstrosity of a song, and it’s fantastic. Featuring guest vocalist Keijo Niniima, this is ‘Minkowski Manhattan Distance.’ Please note that the sound quality seems to have suffered from being uploaded to YouTube. The album version is a lot better!
This track only shows off one side of the band’s sound, and they’re not a one-trick pony by any means. They produce a diverse assortment of songs, which ranges from heavy metal, to punk, to the wonderfully dark ambient atmosphere of ‘Blunderbuss Committee.’
Coilguns have a great avant-garde approach, which sometimes suffers from the nature of their live recorded album. Commuters is generally a sensational album, and the band should be applauded for their courage to take the risks they have, even if the result is not always successful. The more I listen to it, the more I enjoy it.
Coilguns have made a resounding contribution to progressive rock with this album, and Commuters remains intriguing, listen after listen.