Final Coil – The World We Inherited


Leicester prog trio, Final Coil, are the best promoted band in the English underground. Whether that’s self-promotion or the backing of PR agents, there’s no doubt that this group believe in their purpose. A read through their Bandcamp page suggests them to be boundary-pushing visionaries who hold the future of rock music in their grasp. Pretentious they are not. Passionate and earnest they are. Now signed to Sliptrick records for album number three, they have the dauting task of following up their 2019 masterpiece, The World We Left Behind for Others. As if to commemorate a quarter of a century, they travel back to 1999 to look to the future for musical inspiration. It’s a journey that will leave you perplexed and pleased at the same time.

As a band that spent so much of their time examining the melancholy past, Final Coil change their narrative in The World We Inherited. Of course, it’s a future that holds little hope if we continue our current trajectory. You can guess the lyrical themes – manipulative media captured by corporate interests, atomised societies, planetary despoliation, fraying of the democratic process, identity politics as an internecine struggle for resources. Those enamoured with the trio’s expert blend of Alice in Chains, Pink Floyd and Tool on their last record, will wonder what happened to Final Coil in the first half of this LP.

Clearly, the trio have much to disturb them about the future course of Western societies. Fingers dare not soften the main piano sequence of the opening title-track with sentimental notes. Phil Stiles stays within a rigid baritone voice from the back of his throat as a crunchy guitar sample echoes in the background like an outside force trying to get into the room. It’s a triumph of suspense as a segue to ‘Wires’, where bass and drums cooperate like mountain rescue agents approaching a critical situation from different angles. Yet the guitars seem reluctant to join them in this fearless expedition. Phil Stiles turns his volume mic low to project his louder moments. There’s no doubt this is a prog record – you feel like your body will disobey your mind and do things against your will. An extended middle-eight of blockbuster drum movements and ambient guitars aims to create a pathway to the chorus, but it’s not clear if there is one in this song. The guitars seem determined to frustrate your desires for a tangible riff to cling to for navigation.

By contrast, the muscular riffing of ‘Chemtrails’ reminds you what Tool were once capable of in their heyday. There’s a deliberate obfuscation in the chorus with yobbish backing vocals as loud as the lead pipes. Therapy? are more of an influence here in the vocal phrasing and power of the guitars. You can stomp to this rather than levitate, yet they follow it with an attempt to capture the anxiety of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ on ‘By Starlight’. You can hear a claustrophobic presence underneath the unconvincing vocal melodies, but it’s a relief when the distorted guitars seep into the mix like a slow flood. This album is not at the level of their 2019 opus. What is the direction of this song? Where does it go?

Though moodier than its predecessor and less likeable on first listen, The World We Inherit spurs you on to press the ‘play’ button again to check if you’ve missed anything. Grunge and post-rock combine in a reverberating harmony of echoing voices in ‘The Growing Shadows’. Again, the band are not inclined to give you the riffs you want. Instead, the guitars are like fire-fighting instruments struggling to extinguish a blaze. Why does this music seem shapeless? Is this what makes it so intriguing? There’s no denying its immersive qualities. Listen to the dark foreboding of ‘Stay with Me’ as the synthesisers ponder in the background like generals in a war cabinet. Phil Stiles’ vocals are more lucid in their delivery here but still reluctant to break out. His acoustic guitars pluck like judgements on humanity in ‘Purify’. Faint melodies ring from the strings as if soundtracking the regrets of the past. This is what isolation sounds like when a survivalist believes their prophecies.

You don’t need to read the lyrics to understand that we’re living on borrowed time. The creepy dissonance in the hanging guitar passages play tricks on your mind in ‘Out of Sorts’. Since when did this record assume the tone of ‘The Fragile’ by Nine Inch Nails? Competing layers of distorted chords make special pleas for relevance. Calling the penultimate song ‘Humanity’ and internalising your fears of a bleak world into an ironic form of self-loathing is exactly what Trent Reznor does as an artist. As he realised in 1999: the way out is through…

The most misunderstood social science term of the late twentieth-century provides the title for the closing track. Final Coil use ‘End of History’ as a mournful piece, where unpretentious guitars harmonise, and dual vocals join like independent light sources focusing on one object. A snarling misanthropic voice like Ministry’s Al Jourgensen darkens the last quarter of this record, yet it showcases a new side to the band that never materialised in their earlier work.

The World We Inherit is a literal step forward for Final Coil, but it’s a world where the authors realise their fears of a step backwards for humankind. You can find many of these dark prophecies in modern rock and metal, and this one is nuanced and multi-dimensional enough to retain your attention.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 16/01/2024

Record Label: Sliptrick Records

Standout tracks: Chemtrails, Stay with Me, Humanity

Suggested Further Listening: Therapy? – Suicide Pact – You First (1999), Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1999), Ministry – Dark Side of the Spoon (1999)