COASTLANDS // DEATH - BLACK VINYL (LP)
RELEASE DATE: 9th October 2020
Has there been a band that has gone through a more stunning transformation over a period of a few years as Portland, Oregon’s Coastlands have? From their ambient origins to the delicate beauty of To be found to the surprising and thrilling aggression of 2018’s The Further Still, Coastlands has transformed into a beast that looks very little like it did when it first came into the world. On their new record Death, the only thing holding Coastlands back from being called a metal band is that people have grown so accustomed to thinking of them as post-rock. But make no mistake, in its vacuum Death is one of the most exciting and gloriously pummeling heavy records of 2020. Mixed and mastered by Kurt Ballou and Magnus Lindberg respectively, it’s a record of crushing weight and zero compromise. Whereas some bands say they want to explore their darker, heavier sides, Coastlands has dispensed with the talk and thoroughly done that, with spectacular results.
In a way, Death refers to the band Coastlands once was, and signals their rebirth. The addition of drummer Trent McIntyre and bassist Andy Ramirez (who have serious pedigree of their own coming from bands like X SUNS and The Swan Thief) have solidified a fresh iteration of the band that isn’t meant to look anything like the Coastlands listeners are accustomed to from past years. Another interpretation of the album’s title is that it signifies the death of those things that hold you back from life; the band members all looked to use the songwriting process to work through old traumas, unaddressed grief, and to find some semblance of peace with the general fragility of life. Rather than produce something gentle and introspective to navigate this concept, they instead came out with six new songs that crash through the wall and burn everything to the ground. Catharsis has rarely snarled so fiercely. As they say, the light looks twice as good once you’ve been through the darkness, and Death is an album that embraces that darkness while also charging through it in inspiring fashion.
From the first moment of album opener “Abandoner” it is made clear that Death will not be a listening experience with many opportunities to come up for air. Once you’re in it, you’re in it. But that kind of immersion and consistent forcefulness makes for an exhilarating ride. After one gathers their bearings following the initial knockdown, they find that Coastlands has retained their command of melodic beauty even amidst the hellfire raining down around them. “Feverwind” shows the band acutely weaving soaring hooks into the whirlwind of volume and fury that run through the track. Conversely, a song like “Dead Friends” that seems to be heading in a more reserved direction finds its way to a gutturally howling finale that may represent the record’s heaviest passage. Lead single “Lay Waste” proves to be the perfect route to transition fans from The Further Stillto Death, massive and unforgiving yet still somehow approachable. Plenty of bands have used death as an inspiration when writing music, but few have attacked the concept as forcefully as Coastlands does on this record. Bear witness to the death of a post-rock band and witness the birth of something fresh and vigorous that is as captivating as it is ferocious.