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. To a certain degree, it’s a welcome change. 2013’s Sister Faith was consistent, but the album’s constant stomp made it blend together after 13 no-nonsense tracks. On the flip side, Anxiety’s Kiss never settles into a groove, both for better and for worse.
It’s not surprising that Coliseum would begin to slip into post-punk territory, as many hardcore bands—most notably Ceremony—have been making that same shift in recent years. The germ of this sound was first heard on 2010’s House With A Curse, a record that dropped Coliseum’s chaotic D-beat leanings and replaced them with moody atmospherics. It was even apparent on Sister Faith if you strained to hear the keyboards and synths buried in the album’s mix. Of the 10 tracks on Anxiety’s Kiss, only a handful have commonality with the Coliseum of yesteryear. “Sunlight In A Snowstorm” would fit nicely on the shelf alongside House With A Curse’s bass-driven mysticism, while “Drums & Amplifiers” sounds both like the band’s motto and a lost single from Sister Faith.
As Anxiety’s Kiss attempts to break new ground for Coliseum, the band stumbles over its own feet. “Wrong/Goodbye” is too short to build any real momentum, with Patteron’s doubled vocal lines feeling stilted and distant. It’s not the only song to befit such a description, as “Dark Light Of Seduction” feels like an album closer tossed in the middle of the record, and “Driver At Dusk” is Patterson reaching for Nick Cave but not fully grabbing hold. Some tracks successfully mix Coliseum’s past with its present, as “Comedown” bathes Patterson’s chugging guitar parts in mechanical effects, and his earth-shaking bellow sounds as if it was recorded while he was submerged in a swimming pool. These moments prove Coliseum’s post-punk fascinations weren’t unfounded: They just don’t always land.
It would have been easy for Coliseum to rest on its laurels after a decade proving itself in the worlds of hardcore and metal, but Anxiety’s Kiss proves the band is happier offering stylistic U-turns. Beneath all of the album’s foreign effects, there’s still Coliseum banging away on drums and pushing riffs with amplifiers: If only all those studio tricks hadn’t made the album feel so disjointed.