Functioning on Impatience
1998 was a seminal year for metalcore. Earth Crisis made their major label debut on Roadrunner Records with Breed the Killers, arguably the first band in the genre to do so; Cave In released Until Your Heart Stops; and The Dillinger Escape Plan put out their second 7”, Under the Running Board, which saw the band move towards a more experimental and idiosyncratic sound; and Botch released their debut LP, American Nervoso. Converge also released their oft-forgotten 3rd LP, When Forever Comes Crashing.
Depending on who you talk to, each one of these bands is considered essential to metalcore for pushing the genre forward in their own different ways. Earth Crisis, for example, set the foundation which groups such as the latter four mentioned could take and revise in a multitude of fashions. With that being said, it’s odd how Coalesce is usually overlooked in discussions of the pioneers of chaotic metalcore. The band had a unique take on the metalcore sound of the mid-90s that, while similar to their peers in Botch and Converge, involved a more calculated approach to songwriting that set them apart from the pure chaos of Converge and the theory-dosed insanity of Dillinger. While their 1997 debut Give Them Rope explored this pinpoint method of songwriting, it’s on the band’s 1998 release, Functioning on Impatience, that these ideas are fully realized.
The record begins in an unusual way for the time period. Rather than exploding into a sonic assault of minor chords and screeching vocals, the first track, “You Can’t Kill Us All,” begins with vocalist Sean Ingram coarsely belting out “what more do you want from me? / some sort of apology? / well I promise that forgiveness is the most you’ll get,” afterwhich guitarists Nathan Ellis and Jes Steinger launch into an attack of stop-start riffing. What’s immediately noticeable is the distinctly southern rock influence tempos that litter the song and record; this is one of the band’s defining traits that set them apart from many a mathcore band back in the late 90’s. When taking into account the wave of southern rock-influenced metalcore that emerged in the mid 2000s, pioneered primarily by Every Time I Die (who formed in the same year this record was released), it’s important to note the potential influence that Coalesce may have had on this genre trend. It’s unclear whether or not these tempos come from any concrete southern influence, but a lot of these riffs are very similar to early ETID, which positions Coalesce as a very important band regardless of intent.
While I’ve gone on about how calculated Coalesce’s songwriting is, it also doesn’t mean that they don’t employ some absolutely insane sections reminiscent of their peers. The first half of “On Being a Bastard,” as well as “My Love For Extremes,” are as frantic as one would expect from 90s mathcore, with spiraling time signatures add a layer of panic (pun not intended) and disorder that manages to make the compositions that much heavier.
The only drawback to the record is that it’s rather short. With only seven tracks (one an instrumental, “Recurring Ache of Monotony Still Running”), it’s extremely short for a release the band considers a full length LP. I’m not sure why the band chose to record such a short release despite having a lot of great ideas, but given the DIY nature of the scene, it’s a possibility they could only afford so much studio time. Despite that, Coalesce are a band that is absolutely worth your time if you crave more of the late 90s math-style metalcore. For the sheer originality that they presented amongst an entire wave of envelope-pushing bands, they are wholly overlooked, and should be given more attention and renown for the influence that they had.
- Cesar G.
Wherein Brian hilariously overanalyzes a subgenre of metal!