COALESCE – Ox (2009)

Coalesce - Ox It’s been ten years since Coalesce’s last album, 0:12 Revolution in Just Listening. A lot has happened to the hardcore scene since then. The Dillinger Escape Plan, for example. Also, too many Hatebreed albums. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is the simple, declarative power of a two-minute beatdown. This is the medium Coalesce worked best in; that they managed to cram such unorthodox, complex songs in such a short runtimes is merely icing on the cake. Given all this, I’d be laying if I didn’t say that Ox feels like a bit of a letdown. The band don’t sound any worse on their first album in a decade, but unfortunately, the material on Ox doesn’t stand out, either.

I lay most of the blame for this squarely on the album’s production. The songs lack punch and depth; they sound flimsy, as if you could blow on them and they’d evaporate into a stream of angry dust or something. Furthermore, the band seem to have turned their apparent contempt for the hardcore formula into one itself. All the songs blend into each other, and you’re not left with any sort of lasting impression of an album as a whole, but instead, only of one long, repetitive track. There’s nothing wrong with repetition, but I’m of the opinion that there’s little room for it in the hardcore medium. If you’ve got sixteen different two-minute sections, make them count. Don’t retread your steps needlessly – in the end, that last bit is all I really got out of Ox, and it’s a damn shame, because I know the album could’ve been so much more.

Coalesce’s impact on the hardcore scene is undeniable, but you wouldn’t guess it from listening to Ox. The album doesn’t sound like it towers above some of the band’s newer contemporaries, it sounds as if it belongs amongst them. This isn’t a bad thing, but I expected more. And expectations are a bitch – just ask Jamey Jasta.

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