Review Summary: Quietly and calmly, Coil unravel themselves, and we are forced to watch the beautiful horror.…And the Ambulance Died in His Arms
is a live album recorded near the end of Coil's career. The album displays the turmoils the band was had been facing the last few years in a rather raw fashion. Band members Jhonn Balance and Peter Christopherson had ended their long time relationship and Balance had developed a strong addiction to alcohol. Many of Coil's performances at this time had to be canceled because of Balance's inability to perform or because he did not show up at all, making improvised song structure on Ambulance an alluring rarity.
This album does not display anger, but rather a much more horrifying coldness. After the first song is finished, Balance speaks to the crowd, saying, "We're doing a quiet set today. We've had too much shouting over the past year." This statement sets the mood for the entire album. The performance is frightening, minimal and dark, yet extremely passionate and even showing a bit of hope.
Jhonn Balance's vocal performance is an absolute highlight. Most of the vocals are improvised, starting with ritualistic moans and shrieks on Snow Falls Into Military Temples
. Vocal lines are repeated to mesmerizing effect, and slowly transform as songs progress. From any other mouth the lyrics would sound like mad rambling; but from Balance, the lyrics sounds like prophecies. The lyrics shine brightest on A Slip in the Marylebone Road
; a surreal tale involving a meeting with an angel, and The Dreamer is Still Asleep - The Somnambulist in an Ambulance
, which is a twisted recreation of a Coil classic.
Just as significant as the vocals are the contributions Peter Christopherson, Thighpaulsandra, and Tom Edwards make to the performance's dizzying soundscape. Many different electronic devices and synthesizers are used to revisit familiar themes throughout Coil's discography. The Triple Suns theme, found on the Ape of Naples, makes an appearance multiple times on Ambulance, but never loses its horrifying grace.
…And the Ambulance Died in His Arms
can be considered a partner album to Coil's final work, the Ape of Naples. Both are difficult albums, displaying cold minimalism, ominous vocals, and some of the most intimate and beautiful music of any electronic artist. Ambulance gives off a much rawer and personal of view of Coil's tragic ending and is a must for any fan of the band's studio work.