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Review by Casey Boland

It’s surprising enough that OX (reviewed here) — Coalesce‘s first album in a decade — came close to the brilliance of their late-’90s apex. But then to follow with an EP of leftovers just as good? That’s unexpected, even for a band routinely hailed as progenitors of its virulent strain of hardcore.

As its title suggests, OXEP (Relapse, 2009) is a continuation of OX. Though skeptics could dismiss this as nickel-and-diming by Relapse, the quality of the material refutes such a charge. The songs walk a tightrope between tumbling, teeth-gnashing breakdowns and cerebral, instrumental experiments. Crazed fare like “The Blind Eye” outweighs just about any of OX‘s hardcore moments and goes a step further by incorporating a keyboard. As on OX, the band devotes significant space to flex its experimental muscles. The foreboding “Absent In Death,” for example, moves from quiet, almost country guitars into anguished slabs of heaviness.

What has always set Coalesce apart is their eccentricity. They juxtapose atonal chords with haunting melodies, while inserting rhythms and tempos fit for bruising mosh pits. This EP ranks as highly as any of the band’s much-vaunted earlier output. Coalesce make it loud and clear that they are as relevant to hardcore and metal as they were a decade before.