By Kyle Harcott
Is this what happens when hardcore grows up?
It took a few listens to grow on me, but at first I could scarcely believe I was listening to the new Coliseum record – one of my most anticipated releases of the year. It’s no surprise Coliseum’s been evolving steadily since their inception – this became much clearer on 2007’s No Salvation album. Even still, that disc was rife with the hardcore trappings that birthed the band in 2003. Here, on the ambitious House With A Curse, the band’s first record on new label Temporary Residence, Coliseum seem to have outgrown that tag, as if H×C was just some kids’ stuff they messed around with for a while. If I can analogize further, if early Coliseum was Black Flag, House With A Curse is definitely Minutemen.
But it’s not just a healthy evolution that calls up the Minutemen reference to mind; Ryan Patterson’s voice, heard much more clearly here, definitely recalls some of the late D. Boon’s best vocal passages. This is especially true on the lead tracks “Blind In One Eye”, and “Everything to Everyone”, which, I’ll be damned, are catchy as hell – definitely not something I expected from the same band who put out the blistering Goddamage. “Crime and the City” and “Cloaked in Red” also show a side of Coliseum we haven’t seen yet, and for some reason, I kept thinking of a slightly-less-pissed-off Unsane hanging out with the Jim Carroll Band. “Perimeter Man” with its steady groove and chanted outro had me entranced, Patterson evoking Lee Ving in his poetic bark. His vocals have never sounded more personal here, and it shows in the raw honesty on tracks like the lush “Isela Vega”. “Statuary”, too, has an unhindered beauty to it, echoing Dischord-era ‘emo’ (you know, before it became a dirty word synonymous with guyliner and fucked-up haircuts). The first half of the disc almost serves as an intro to the second half, where the songs get exponentially more intricate, intimate and involved.
I would be remiss in not mentioning the entire band here (rounded out by Mike Pascal on bass and drummer Carter Wilson), because the three of them are really firing on all cylinders with this record; it’s clear everybody is pointed firmly in the same bold new direction. The immense J. Robbins production goes hand in hand with the heartfelt, clear-eyed songs Coliseum have written. And maybe it’s Robbins’ influence (I doubt it), or maybe it’s the move from Relapse to TR, but there’s a strong sense of the late-‘80s, early-‘90s post-hardcore movement permeating HWAC, and to my ears it’s a welcome influence. Truthfully, even when they were bashing through their earlier fullbore efforts, Coliseum always stood out with memorable songwriting, but what they’ve accomplished with this record really is stunning. I get the feeling Coliseum’s going to catch a few people by surprise with this one, but also that once listeners get past the initial shock, most will appreciate this for what it is: An evolved and mature post-H×C record of the highest degree.