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Coliseum
Anxiety’s Kiss Dean Brown , April 29th, 2015 11:34

Coliseum's founding member, Ryan Patterson, has done an excellent job evolving his band from their blitzkrieg hardcore punk beginnings to the alternative rock/post-punk powerhouse that stands before us on Anxiety's Kiss, their fifth full-length and first for Jacob Bannon's Deathwish label.

Since 2010's House With A Curse, Patterson's approach to writing music combined the sounds of 80s British post-punk and goth and 90s American alternative rock, while the D-beat-driven punk fury that characterised No Salvation was toned down in all but spirit. Obviously with these changes greater emphasis on melody manifested, and the pairing of Patterson and producer J. Robbins (he of Jawbox fame) developed a dynamic relationship, one that carried through to the band's exploration of the many forms of duality on 2013's Sister Faith.

Robbins is back again for Anxiety's Kiss and he knows exactly how Coliseum, in their present state, should sound. He makes sure the right level of grit is maintained while accentuating the various instrumental shades and gutsy vocal hooks that have made their way into the Louisville, Kentucky trio's music over the past five years. Robbins has been key to capturing Patterson's recent vision (they have known each other for over a decade), and since anthem 'Blind In One Eye' – a song Robbins provided backing vocals on – was released in 2010, Coliseum have been turning heads inside and outside of hardcore, punk and metal, with their name even being bandied about in indie rock circles. Due to industry uncertainties, however, it's unclear whether Anxiety's Kiss will provide the real breakout moment for Coliseum – although that doesn't appear to be the band's main focus; it seems as though they just wanted to write another collection of strong songs to allow them to get back on the road to win fans the old-fashioned way.

There are many stylistic similarities between Anxiety's Kiss and its predecessor, and so both albums completely complement each other when played in sequence. But do not mistake this connection for complacency; it's quite the contrary: Coliseum have settled into a songwriting groove with a sound they're comfortable in and as a result, the high quality of the music speaks for itself.

For the second studio album in a row Patterson's rhythm section is comprised of childhood friends – bassist Kayhan Vaziri and drummer Carter Wilson. The musical understanding both players exude has made Patterson's job much easier since they linked up prior to Sister Faith. On The Cult-esque opening cut 'We Are The Water' and the anthemic rush of anti-reunion racket 'Drums And Amplifiers', the infectious magnetism of their interplay is magnified tenfold. Throughout the album, bass-lines grind like 80s Killing Joke and the punchy drums are deep in the pocket, allowing Patterson's guitars to flit overhead with hardcore chord progressions, chugging alt. rock charges, slick post-punkisms, and expansive, atmospheric flourishes; all of which contrast well with his unruly vocals on standout songs such as 'Course Correction' and 'Wrong Goodbye'.

Within the style of music Coliseum have made their own, there's great variety to be found as each song transitions to the next, covering a multitude of obscure and well-known influences. For instance, 'Comedown' is bucking Fugazi-founded hardcore with a noise-rock edge, and there are faint nods to The Cure's dark-cast melodicism on 'Sunlight in a Snowstorm'. Coliseum also manage to retain your attention when they slow down during 'Driver At Dusk', with poetic wordplay akin to Lou Reed and a gruff spoken-word delivery that sounds Tom Waits-inspired, backed with shimmery guitars that sparkle way off on the horizon. But even when you pinpoint musical signposts like those, you never feel as though the band are using their inspirations as a crutch to write songs – and that's what has made Coliseum so interesting to follow since 2010: they're never too transparent in their appropriation of sounds.

Like Sister Faith, there's a maturity to this album amongst its tales concerning the sinister underbelly of love, lust and attraction, characterised best by centrepiece 'Dark Light Of Seduction' and the vampiric metaphors found throughout the smouldering haze of 'Sharp Fangs, Pale Flesh'. It's interesting that Sister Faith's 'Love Under Will' has acted as the gateway between that album's mature sound and what you hear on Anxiety's Kiss. It was a recorded moment where you could feel Patterson had total confidence in his band-mates, and because of their unshakeable foundations, he could experiment with different textures and work on strengthening his vocals to add more depth.

Maintaining such inter-band respect and using shared confidence as a tool to write songs has now made Coliseum one of the best rock bands currently operating within our realm. They are an act equally capable of ebullient musical gestures, deep-set melancholy and hard-hitting aggression, and one well-versed in harnessing different hues of introspection. So if there's any justice amongst the wolves of this industry, Anxiety's Kiss will be the record that will garner this humble band the respect they so justly deserve. But if it doesn't, you can rest assured Coliseum will continue to hammer and hone their craft, to satisfy themselves first and their dedicated fanbase second.

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