Review Summary: Sorry blink-182, this is the comeback of the year.
Ox is Coalesce's first full-length album in ten years, and it rips, and that's basically all you need to know. They've lost nothing over the years, and while it may be misleading to say that they have instead gained a lot, it's not entirely untrue. Coalesce have been pretty highly lauded over the years and with good reason. They've been casually name-dropped in sentences with the likes of bands such as Converge and Botch - bands that are considered to be true pioneers. But even so, it's never really felt like Coalesce have reached the same level of respect that those bands have. That should change with Ox. Ox takes 0:12 and Give Them Rope, She Said and multiplies them by 100. Take the 70s-inspired riffing from Give Them Rope and the chaos of 0:12, and add a myriad of new tricks to keep things interesting, and you've got Ox. Simply put, any other "comeback" albums being released this year should get on their knees right now and suck it.
"Designed To Break A Man" is
designed to break a man, full of bass distortion and mid-paced, powerful drumming, with guitar riffs that channel funk through Coalesce's signature muddy sludge. "In My Wake, For My Own" has a pretty psychedelic guitar intro, wobbly yet still abrasive, and if you think Sean Ingram has lost any of his vocal ability over the years, this song will prove you wrong. Ingram doesn't need distorted production to make him sound intense, but "In My Wake..." shows that it doesn't hurt. And the chain-gang style chanting bridge that leads into a ridiculous outro just might be Ox's best moment. Speaking of which, the best songs are the ones that see Coalesce adding flair to their sound, like "Wild Ox Moan," with its country (!) intro, slide guitar and all. Instrumental "We Have Lost Our Will" is actually quite pretty, with keyboard and xylophone accentuations on top of the acoustic guitar picking. However, it only serves as a brief respite to the madness, as it leads into "Questions To Root Out Fools," with stop-and-go riffs and some of Ingram's most impassioned vocals. "The Comedian In Question" even has some clean vocals, but it's not your typical pussy metalcore singing - it's more of a dirge-like, unsettling moan. The bottom line is that nearly every song features that signature Coalesce sound while adding something new, and because of that, Coalesce have succeeded in every possible way with Ox.
Ox is definitely one of the most impressive releases of the year because Coalesce have managed to add facets to their sound without compromising the respect they've earned over the years. Don't let the album's title mislead you; although oxen are generally seen as unintelligent creatures, Ox is anything but - it houses some of the most well-crafted hardcore in recent memory. And even though oxen are unintelligent, they can still trample you to death. Rest assured, Coalesce haven't lost the power to do that either.