Release Date: May 5, 2015
Record label: Deathwish Inc.
We have all had these kinds of conversations before, in unkempt dorm rooms or over a brace of ill-gotten teenage beers: Is Joy Division a punk band? Are the Dead Kennedys punk or hardcore? Are Municipal Waste hardcore or metal? We all have deep convictions on these subjects and we are all empirically, undeniably correct. With their new record Anxiety’s Kiss, Coliseum seek to confuse these musing, youthful debates. Immature punk and hardcore purists might call it apostasy, an unacceptable gesture towards that foul corner of the world that wants more from its vocalists than maniacal screaming or hound-like baying.
Twelve years into their career, Louisville's Coliseum have evolved from hardcore/d-beat heroes into a streamlined, heavy rock machine with a muscular, compact sound. The increasing melodicism and more straightforward structures of their later albums is further explored on Anxiety's Kiss, their fifth LP overall and second for Deathwish Inc. The rotating lineup of the band's early years has solidified into the power trio of founding singer/guitarist Ryan Patterson, bassist Kayhan Vaziri, and drummer Carter Wilson, the same crew who delivered their 2013 breakthrough LP Sister Faith.
The phrase "grown up" often feels like a backhanded compliment when applied to a band or its sound. It praises their current efforts by way of dismissing the steps they took to arrive at that destination. In that regard, Coliseum's progression over the course of 12 years and five full-lengths has been less an exercise in growing up and more one of "growing in" to a sound, one that hits its highest point on their newest album Anxiety's Kiss, which sharpens all of their musical developments into their finest point yet.
One of the many, and varied, horrible things about suffering from anxiety is the way that it destroys stillness. Any softness in a moment of peace or rest is immediately invaded by a shock of nervous energy, like the edges of broken bones grinding together, glass under the skin; there is no way to get comfortable, no way to let go. In their latest release, Anxiety's Kiss, Kentucky noise-wranglers Coliseum have proven that they profoundly understand this kind of disordered thinking.
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.
After a decade together and a handful of lineup changes, it’s startling to hear how confused Coliseum is on Anxiety’s Kiss. At various points in the band’s career, it’s been classified under one of punk or metal’s various subgenres, due in part to bandleader Ryan Patterson taking scraps of each style and piecing them together for his own needs. On its fifth album—and first for Deathwish—Coliseum’s approach has never sounded more cobbled together.