Musically, stylistically, lyrically, structurally, thematically.....no UK band in the last thirty years can even scrape the surface of what Coil has contributed to the contemporary music industry. You just can’t make an argument otherwise, and believe me, I thought good and hard about that sentence before I wrote it. While their influence is exceeded by many (unfortunately Coil’s remarkable power was eclipsed only by their mystery), their incredibly varied and routinely ingenious catalogue of music, life-changing live show, and perhaps their most impressive accomplishment of all, allowing the concept of music videos to be seen as a valid form of artistic impression (their video of 'Tainted Love' is on permanent display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York), has left them in the company of no one. Yet for all intents and purposes, they are still relatively unknown.

Truth be told, a band of Coil’s magnitude really requires a more comprehensive piece then the one you’re about to read, as every album represents a vastly different sound/phase in the band’s career, but for the sake of a pragmatic introduction to those not quite attuned to the psychosis that is Coil, I’ll stick with one record, their final offering, 'The Ape of Naples'.

To be clear, Coil defies traditional definitions, but if one was forced to classify their musical style at gunpoint, chances are that poor soul would put them in the ‘industrial’ category. That’s fair, I’m not a huge fan of that classification, since so many mindless industrial acts rose to prominence in the mid-late nineties strictly through convenient association to mainstream aggro-industrial acts like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. I can totally understand, therefore, if you have a knee-jerk reaction to such a classification, but please try to understand the fact that Coil is only an industrial band from a literal definition standpoint, not through expedient affiliation.

Truth be told, their discography is notoriously wayward, filled with drastically altering styles and textures, often uprooting each other in the blink of an eye. To truly experience Coil is to experience everything they have ever released, but for the faint of heart who need a neat, tiny label on their music, Coil’s would probably be of the industrial variety, just based on the fact that music this experimental can really only be accomplished with a wide array of programming that just doesn’t fit within the confines of traditional instrumentation.

'The Ape of Naples' is one of their most streamlined efforts, a unique case of an album being an excellent starting point for new listeners to the band, and a perfectly suitable choice for long-time listeners to hold closest to their twisted heart (I don’t know much, but I do know all pure Coil fans have a bit of lunacy in their souls, call it territorial pissings).

Now, at first listen, 'The Ape of Naples' seems like a relatively straight-forward pseudo-industrial offering that may or may not strike the listener as immediately rewarding (or even worthy of an invested interest on their part) but that’s the real beauty of this album. It’s entirely understandable to hang out on the lunatic fringe throughout the course of the entire record, and that experience alone can be tremendously satisfying, as it’s so good it can even succeed on a shallow, exterior level to those who are content to allow the outer coating of their music prove to be sufficient. As a die-hard Coil fan, I would be morally amiss to stand idly by and encourage such inactive participation in an album that has so much to offer with even the slightest introspection, but I’m just saying that aspect is there, should you be one of those impatient, restless types.

Long-time fans of the band might strongly disagree with me here, but to me 'The Ape of Naples' represents Coil at the absolute top of their craft, which makes John Balance’s untimely death immediately prior to its release even more tragic. Most will try and tell you 'Horse Rotorvator' is their crowning achievement, and while I do acknowledge it’s a battering-ram of an album, a startlingly powerful and seminal effort whose ragged glory is seldom matched by anything on 'The Ape of Naples', I’m not sure it’s as pure a representation of the band as their final official release.

Coil has always been about wild experimentation, with an undisputedly prolific history (especially for a drug-addled electro-act), and the fact that nearly all these sound-trials always cut deep not only on a sonic level, but on a poignant one, might be the most impressive aspect of their entire career, but 'The Ape of Naples' gives us something we haven’t really heard from Coil’s output yet, and that’s a pop album.

Ok, now that’s a stretch, especially considering we’re talking about a record that opens with a bemoaned Balance droning “Does death come alone or with eager reinforcements?” In actuality, it is a typically untamed and berserk effort that permeates through all of Coil’s best work, but on 'The Ape of Naples', all these feral aspects are expressed just as vividly, but within the confines of a more standard, structured musical unit. Consider it post-structuralism filtered through the fanatical entity that is Coil. I’m not trying to over-intellectualize the music here, but to strain this sort of relentless aural madness through fairly customary musical traditions. Having it all work and never clash or gnaw at each other, is nothing short of a monumentally groundbreaking achievement that must be heart to truly be understood/surrendered to.

Most people have this image of Coil being these ultramodern, abnormal, detached, drugged out caricatures of everything serious and bizarre in the industry, with one foot in a pile of skulls and the other in some version of a glitch-laden future, and to some extent, they might be right. John Balance and Peter Christopherson (the core of the group) were really not normal people in any sense of the term, and undoubtedly these characteristics made 'The Ape of Naples' a legitimate possibility in theory, while their ruthless and unfettered devotion to the unknown allowed their swan song to succeed on merits far beyond lethally successful experimentation.

One would be hard-pressed to find anything in the band’s catalogue, much less within their broad genre, that matches the murderous crush of perversity and terror found on 'Amber Rain', while malicious visions of post¬-apocalyptic warfare threaten to overrun the abandoned hope Balance mourns in 'Fire of the Mind', before both collapse into weary recognition of one’s own mortal limitations.

The whole album forms a cohesive, yet mystifying world that slowly but surely develops a metal sky, one that remains above until the closing cut, 'Going Up'” shatters everything that just preceded it, derisorily tries to pick up the pieces before finally giving up and collapsing into Coil’s final resting place. 'Going Up' isn’t just the best closer I have ever heard on an album, it stands as one of the most powerful pieces of music I have ever experienced. Technically, it’s a cover version of the theme song from 'Are You Being Served ?', but suffice to say, the Coil mutation is hardly recognizable when compared to the original. Perhaps the most meaningful compliment I can bestow upon it, is 'Going Up'” is the song I want played at my funeral. This is the last piece of music I want played in my presence, even if I’m just a cold, lifeless carcass by that point. Hopefully everyone will take a small piece of me with them, as I feel like my entire being resides in that one eight-and-a-half minute death knell of a song.

Paul Simon once sang “I swear I’ll do some damage one day”, although it’s probably safe to say he never really got around to it. Lucky for him, and all you other procrastinators out there, Coil awaits.











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