Dead Dead Dead Music
15 March 2012
by Hugh Platt
One of the most maddening things about people’s reactions to side-projects – particularly those involving members of their favourite bands – it’s that people get the huff when said side-projects don’t sound like the band that they’re a side project of. So if you’re expecting Coilguns, a splinter faction of half the current members of The Ocean, to release records that mirror the deep, pulsating progressive post-metal/math experimentalism of their parent band – music that require contemplation, chin-stroking, and overly-wordy genre description on two-bit metal blogs – then you’re going to be disappointed.
Stadia Rods isn’t that kind of record. This isn’t so much an EP as it is an exploding pressure valve.
Stadia Rods is the music that its members couldn’t get away with under their banner of The Ocean. For all of their “main” band’s experimentalist outlook, Coilguns is both more frenetic and more brooding than anything you’ll find on Heliocentric or Anthropocentric. And while perhaps the most immediate sign of this separation in sound is the change in vocalists (for it is The Ocean’s bassist, Louis Jucker, who takes centre mic here), what really separates Coilguns from The Ocean is the intent.
At their most energetic, Coilguns adopt a position akin to that of a scrappier, recorded-in-a-garage Dillinger Escape Plan. Both the EP’s opener, ‘Parkensine‘, and it’s immediate follow-up, ‘Zoetropist’, pile up passages of dischord until a song structure starts to appear, at first seeming more from out of sheer force of will on the part of the participants than out of a pre-arranged plan. The almost-improvised nature of the arrangements, coupled with a firm grasp of exactly when a song needs to be firmed up into something posing an altogether more coherent and heavier, adds to the EP’s manic edge.
Where Coilguns sidestep expectations is when they turn away from mathier rhythms to that aforementioned brooding. The opening minutes of ‘In The Limelights’ could just as easily be one of Mastodon’s proggier workouts from their Crack The Skye sessions, if it wasn’t for an underlying threat that the music seems to carry within it. As the riffs loop, occasionally slipping to allow a manic edge into the fray, but always steadily growing in low-end weight, the lack of vocals merely heightens the oppressive idea of masked and malevolent aggression.
It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? I mean, I’m name-checking bands I really like in this review. That’s got to mean Stadia Rods is a frickin’ masterpiece, right? Well….not quite. What Stadia Rods lacks are killer hooks – particularly in the second half. There’s a lot of very good stuff going on, but when Stadia Rods just needs that extra, little something to coerce you into declaring its magnificence to everyone in earshot, it just doesn’t quite deliver that final push.
Now that’s not saying this factor spoils the EP – it’s still a mighty fine piece of work. It merely makes Stadia Rods a stepping stone towards something greater later on, rather than a perfected final product. This release isn’t getting top marks because of a failure in ideas or in execution; it’s getting a lower mark because if it gets too high a score there’ll be nowhere else to go for when Coilguns – and it’s most definitely a when not an if - produce something even better.
Sounds Like: Snippets of Mastodon and The Dillinger Escape Plan, but with a bit of a lo-fi twist.
Standout Tracks: Parkensine, In The Limelights.
Quite frankly, the run of promo photos that Coilguns’ PR sent us is too good NOT to publish in their entirety here. BANDS: if in future you hope to see coverage here on Thrash Hits, photos of yourselves frolicking with farmyard animals will go a long way to achieving said goal.