Black Antlers

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Available only on dates of Coil's Even an Evil Fatigue tour in 2004, Black Antlers is a stopgap release that consists of early studio and live versions of songs that were being worked on for the next official studio album. Due to John Balance's accidental death, most of the tracks on Black Antlers would become final yet unpolished versions. Sounding particularly unfinished is the opener, "The Gimp (Sometimes)," a ballad that never quite comes together over its 11 minutes, failing to mesh the dark, ambient instrumentation with Balance's beautiful and haunting vocals. The second track, however, "Sex with Sun Ra (Part One: Saturnalia)" is a classic late-period Coil track. Balance intones a fictional tale of a conversation between himself and the free jazz legend over a pulsating backing track punctuated by bell tones and sparse industrial percussion. "Wraiths and Strays (From Montreal)" is the highlight of the album, a twisting, slithering, pulsating beast of a track that interleaves Thighpaulsandra's keyboards with Balance's cut-up vocals to hallucinatory effect. As the tempo of the piece increases, the percussion becomes more frenetic and varied, the background squiggles become more aggressive, and the song sounds like it is chasing the listener down a dark alley. It is worth noting for the budget-minded fan that Black Antlers shares all of its track listing with another Coil release, Selvaggina, Go Back Into the Woods, and the live versions on that album are for the most part the superior. While there are some excellent songs on this album, on the whole, Black Antlers doesn't make an appropriate introduction for the uninitiated. For the faithful though, this is a near-great effort from the sorely missed group of alchemists who called themselves Coil.

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