Anxiety’s Kiss: Coliseum Fall In The Uncanny Valley
Editor’s note: Opinions are like assholes; everyone’s got one. As is often the case amongst the MetalSucks staff, not everyone agrees on any given album, and while MS co-head-honcho Vince Neilstein really, really loves this album, reviewer Emperor Rhombus didn’t feel the same way. Oh well, so it goes, to each their own. -Ed.]
The uncanny valley is an aesthetic theory. Make a graph with how much something looks like a human as the X axis and how much people like it on the Y axis. The more something looks like a human being, the more people like it—to a point. Then, right before something actually is a human being, the line dips all the way down. That’s the valley. When something looks too much like a person but is not a person, humans find it creepy and unsettling, like one of those life-like sex dolls. The general idea is that it reminds people too much of a corpse.
Coliseum’s fifth studio album, Anxiety’s Kiss, falls in the metal uncanny valley. As metal nears classic rock, people enjoy it more and more. Queens of the Stone Age? Cool. Nachtmystium circa 2007? Great! But then there comes a point where the spark of metal just burns a little too low, and interest wanes. That’s Anxiety’s Kiss, an album that just sounds a little too much like U2.It’s not that it isn’t a metal record, it’s that it doesn’t kick ass as a rock record.
The songs on Anxiety’s Kiss aren’t terrible, they just lack a punch. Even Mono packs a jab in the gut at times. But the album’s sound and what it feels as though it’s trying to accomplish are a little light. The guitars have no teeth; all the riffs seem to jangle along in the same desert-rock cadence. The drums sound flat. Singer Ryan Patterson’s vocals are kind of cool and gravely at times, but come off as inappropriate over the music. It sounds like the band wanted to escape the metal label too much, and in the end kind of deflated themselves. This is no more apparent than on the song “Drums & Amplifiers”, where Patterson is shouting, “Gimme drums! Gimme aplifiers! Gimme feedback!” As Patterson yells it, the listener finds him- or herself thinking the same thing. Gimme something heavy! This is barely enough!
The thing is, Coliseum have a decent track record. The band’s first two albums are heavy as hell, and 2013’s Sister Faith had some great moments in it, like “Black Magic Punks.” But what made that record cool was the merging of rock and metal. I’m not sure anyone wanted the band to take their sound further down in energy or aggression from there. But that’s what happened on Anxiety’s Kiss, and it does the band no favors.