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Everyone with a keen eye on the metal underground knows who Coilguns are by now, right? For the uninitiated, the trio of musicians who comprise this unique Swiss act are all full-time members of The Ocean - guitarist Jona Nido, sticksman Luc Hess and vocalist Louis Jucker. The latter also used to assume bass duties in Coilguns but Nido's elaborate rig consisting of multiple amps/cabs and huge pedal board affords him a resonant enough sound to justify Jucker dropping bass guitar to solely concentrate on vocals (and "crowd fighting"). So they're minimalist in terms of personnel but massive with the sound they create. And refreshingly, they're a band that are not only iconoclasts through their music but in the actual creative process itself. Genuine progression is born from risk taking so any attempts at challenging conventions are to be admired, even if the results aren't always as successful as would've been hoped. Fortunately, Coilguns' incessant gambles have always paid off, and the trio can seemingly do no wrong, as has already been evidenced on the three EPs they've released to date over the last couple of years.

'Commuters', their debut album, is no exception and rather than play it safe in any small way (as 99.9% of bands would do with something as important as a debut full-length), they've gone all out to attack conventions through both the creative and recording process with admirable, and successful, experimentation. Recording an album live in the studio (ie. not tracking instruments one at a time) and every song in one take is always a gamble, particularly if you opt for absolutely no overdubs or edits, but this is exactly what Coilguns have attempted (although vocals were recorded separately to the music). The results are astonishing. The songs sound alive, living and breathing, and the music as organic as it'll get - real people playing real music in real time and with a dynamic impetus. It's not been tainted or infected by any degree of post-production polish - even the mixing and mastering (by Julien Fehlmann) has been "approached more like a 70s rock record than a metal album", which is apt for enhancing and preserving the raw energy inherent in the one-take, 'live' recordings.

Music-wise, there's all the discordant cacophony and ferocious heaviness present that we've come to expect from Coilguns during many passages. Each musician compliments the other - Nido's technical riffery and guitar licks are posited over mind-bending time signatures and unconventional rhythms created by Hess' skilled drum work (his fills, often where you wouldn't expect 'em, are, at times, reminiscent of the great Steve Flynn), with Jucker's despair-filled hardcore screams (and quasi-rapping over track two). But with an album's worth of material, it seems Coilguns have at last had the breathing space to expand their creativity and let it flourish in all manner of tangents (and in very natural sounding ways I hasten to add). Take the lengthy down/mid-tempo 'Commuters Part 2' or 'Earthians' as examples - both are based around simple motifs in each track but these are progressed with a jam-like essence over the course of the songs, proving there's a lot more to Coilguns than mere frantic cacophony. Interestingly, three of the album's tracks including the two aforementioned ones, feature four guest guitarists and a bassist, also all recorded live in the studio, so the band's already expansive sound courtesy of Nido's massive rig sounds even more aurally voluminous. He even adds a little Minimoog here and there.

Available as a screen-printed 12" vinyl version (with the choice of three different vinyl colours) and a CD packaged in a six-panel digipak that opens into the shape of an inverted cross, it's fantastic to see extra effort concentrated in making a product that's worth owning in an increasingly mp3 obsessed generation. And, more importantly, the music itself is a sonically scintillating slab of underground metal extremity.
Pelagic Records
Review by Mark Holmes
22nd Feb 2013
1) Commuters Part 1
2) Commuters Part 2
3) Hypnograms
4) Machines of Sleep
5) Plug-in Citizens
6) Submarine Warfare Anthem
7) Minkowski Manhattan Distance
8) Blunderbuss Committee
9) 21 Almonds a Day
10) Flippists - Privateers
11) Earthians
"...a sonically scintillating slab of underground metal extremity."