Whenever AMG Industries receives a promo package from an unknown act, it invariably hails them as the next big thing or a breed apart from the usual metallic fare. It’s a natural thing to do from a marketing perspective, but how many bands have a hope of living up to that kind of hype? When the promotional materials accompanying Final Coil‘s debut, Persistence of Memory curiously refrained from such workmanlike braggadocio, it caught my attention. Rather than waxing on about impending superstardom, the PR material spoke of emotion, beauty, depth and musical substance. Nicely played, folks. That got me to spin your promo and here we all are. Taking cues from several genres, Final Coil has a healthy appreciation for Tool, which they marry with a large grunge influence and a steady stream of post-metal and alt-rock ideas. That’s quite the flavorful combination to be sure, but can these British upstarts make their mötley stëw sing for its supper?
Opener “Corruption” comes out of the gate aggressively with thick, burly riffs that remind me longingly of the late, great Only Living Witness. When the vocals come in, they walk a line between Maynard Keenan (Tool) and Andy Cairns (Therapy), which is a respectable line to meander upon. It’s a heavy enough song, but it’s the emotional payoff and genuine accessibility that make it stand out. This is almost radio-ready material and it grabs the listener quickly with its groove and dark, forlorn vibe. “Dying” immediately shifts gears for an approach right out of 1991 Seattle. This is Alice in Chains through a dirty looking-glass with more than a little Porcupine Tree and Nirvana gnawing at the frame, and as such it works quite well. The Kurt Cobain-esque vocal delivery is quite palatable and conveys a satisfyingly downbeat mood. The delicate guitar work woven through the song is an added boon, emparting a dreamy but dark intrigue. “Alone” takes this style and runs with it, incorporating a stronger Tool influence and this too comes up roses.
The band remains hard to pin down through much of Persistence of Memory, jumping their style around to create diverse moods and atmospheres. “You Waste My Time” adopts an alt-rock approach closely related to vintage Therapy – instantly digestible and emotionally charged. They load the song up with offbeat, ear-catching guitars which percolate just below the straightforward vocal harmonies, creating a weird dichotomy that trips up the brain and compels replays. “Lost Hope” explores the doomier side of things with a sound that’s a dead ringer for the mellower moments of Rapture, thereby ensuring my appreciation.
Things peak mid-album with the 10-minute epic “Failed Light.” Stretching the length way out gives the band time to explore their post-metal and post-rock sides with lots of moody, melancholy noodling and emotive refrains, some of which recall Katatonia and Ghost Brigade. It’s an unhurried tune with hypnotic, expressive and beautiful guitar exposition and while it probably doesn’t require the full 10-minutes to make its point, it’s an enjoyable piece of music I find myself returning to again and again.
As compelling as some of Persistence of Memory is, it’s not without problems. There’s a nagging tendency to take an effective verse and repeat it ad nauseum, as in “Myopic” and “In Silent Reproach.” There’s also a marked absence of self-editing prowess, as several songs would work well as 3-4 minutes vignettes but run over 5-6 minutes and lose steam before expiring. When both issues collide within the same song, the wreckage isn’t pretty (“Spider Feet”). Elsewhere, “Moths to the Flame” feels a bit under-cooked, awkward and amateurish.
The vocals of Phil Stiles can also be problematic. Though he has a good tone, he rarely alters his delivery, which can start to feel monotonous and whiny after a while. A second vocalist adding some harsh accents would be a big help, but any kind of vocal diversity would be an improvement. The vocal shortcomings often put the burden on the guitars to keep things entertaining, and luckily, Richard Awdry and Stiles are gifted string slingers. They drench the album in wave after wave of tasteful harmonies, trance-inducing noodlings and off-kilter flourishes. They’re capable of putting the metal pedal down on heavier cuts like “Corruption,” but they’re at their best when dabbling in more introspective and melancholy soundscapes.
This was a tough album to score, as it has some dizzying highs and semi-crushing lows. It’s very close to being a breakthrough debut, but can’t quite get there. It’s obvious there’s a ton of potential here, and if the band can tighten up their writing, they could actually be that next big thing we hear so much about but rarely encounter. Warts and all, Final Coil is definitely a band to watch closely in the future. I suggest checking this out.