While not a total reinvention, Coal brings a freshness and sense of vitality to their sound that was absent on their cooler, more cerebral releases, and the shivering energy serves them extremely well.
Their dazzling intricacy is paired now with more captivating and accessible songwriting, making Coal as much for the heart as for the head. The choruses are particularly strong, even anthemic, and imbue this collection with a hooky infectiousness that was absent before. While it is still easy to get lost in the ever-shifting landscape of their musical deserts and mirages, there are more blessed oases to make the journey worthwhile.
One thing that defines Coal is a unifying force that keeps the album sounding cogent and cohesive even as the individual songs spiral out in different modes of exploration. “The Valley” is an excellent example of this, full of tightly restrained, brooding energy punctuated by the release of cresting, dynamic choruses. “The Cloak” plays with restrained energy as well, but in a different way, building tension gradually over the song, staying tightly coiled until it closes with an ecstatic crescendo.
The final track on the record is also Coal's finest moment. “Contaminate Me” showcases Leprous at their most unsettled and virulent, from the crashing cacophony of the vocals to the throbbing, arhythmic drumming that recalls the panic of a malfunctioning heart.
Though there are a very few moments that drag over the fifty-five minutes that span the record, Coal is overall a tight, tumultuous, roiling success.
(released May 28, 2013 on Inside Out Music)