COEXISTENCE – Collateral Dimension (2020)REVIEW

It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice — there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.” — The exact context of what Frank Zappa suggests in this small blurb from his 1989 biography (via a chapter of scattered thoughts and quips dedicated to his father) might’ve been a reaction to the 80’s own destructive obsession with recreating with a purely nostalgic ear yet, it still speaks to persistent frustration with the idea that a continuum exists within truly progressive music. The term can never mean anything if the artists are related within an obviate influential radius and this holds true for the very linear history of progressive death metal, which is yet for all intensive purposes a music of nostalgia and largely iterative releases. I say this as an undaunted fan, too, the sort of person who’ll talk your ear off about each Sadus album until you creep away like a bored teenager from their rambling grandparents at an old folks home. In this sense all that is needed to ensure a band like Siena, Italy’s Coexistence appeal to me with a certain immediacy is ingrained and nostalgic yet, it’d be inappropriate to suggest they are anything but a modern progressive (and certainly technical by association) death metal band. The fluidity of spectacle inherent to their craft is incredibly ‘human’ and thusly fitting with the eldest ideals of the sub-genre yet their own specific conveyance of motion via twisting death/thrash modulation on a prog-death metal scale of precision is itself an intentional machination, an artful display of progressive metal technique. The point, then? ‘Collateral Dimension‘ ultimately manages to batter away my usual roadblocks that render so many progressive death bands mediocre (by a high standard) by will of the sheer beauty of their trip and its brutally persistent, infectious nature.

Formed by guitarist/vocalist Mirko Pitinello in 2015 and soon staffed with some of Italy’s finest talents it was clear from the very first single, “Ultimatum” that this project’s sort of updated take on ‘Independent Thought Patterns’ level grace in death metal would advance quickly, reaching for the high standards of Beyond Existence, Obscura, and Inanimate Existence and their dependence on Cynic-levels of evolved performative resonance. The band’s first EP (‘Contact with the Entity‘, 2018) was already in the right pocket for the sub-genre and members seemed to pull away from their other projects at this time to focus in on the next stage of development. Pitinello and second guitarist Leonardo Bellavista (Vexovoid, Burial) had certainly risen to the occasion at this point but beyond their most recent demo (‘Demo 2019‘, 2019) the real breakthrough leading into ‘Collateral Dimension’ has to be handed to bassist Christian Luconi (ex-Coram Lethe) who has notably risen to an incredible level of skill and gloriously meandering nuance, the sort of fretless bass performance that oozes of the self and colors every moment of an already intensely detailed death metal record. His performance moves the album away from the more machined spectrum of modern progressive and technical death metal elevating it towards a band like Augury or Sutrah, death metal consciousness that is driven by feeling and perhaps spirituality rather than performative egotism.

At ~55 minutes and nine tracks there are two distinct halves to this extensive and often rant-happy technical death metal record. To be sure it all blends together enough that Coexistence couldn’t possibly find the immediate distinction of certain pieces as quickly as, say, Voidceremony‘s latest album; Each piece is quite involved, varietal and broad in its range of voice yet the dynamic is shared throughout for the sake of creating a forward motion. This is a distinct trait of progressive death metal ‘on the level’, a feeling of ascension that intensifies as the record becomes increasingly lost in its cups while feeling its deepest-cut rhythmic intensity. That isn’t to say you won’t remember “Detach from the Abyss” the second time around, there are certainly standouts along the way but the musical language that Coexistence presents is complex enough that it’d be arrogant to think it’d revealed all in just one spin no matter what a prog-death maestro you are as a fan. Where I run into trouble in writing about such a great chunk of experience and detail is… what to emphasize? The kick into Side B with the title track is unforgettable as it matches the intensity of opener “Metaphysical Essence” with the bass guitar’s voice now fully empowered here in the middle of the record’s running order. This is a remarkable enough boot of energy that I’d almost just as willingly start there on a full listen. Not since Inanimate Existence‘s freakishly good ‘Underneath a Melting Sky’ have I been so entranced by the shake of a record in this style and yet, is it really just for the sake of how “pretty” it is?

No, of course not, but the Zen-like radiance of ‘Focus’ seen through the fractal works of generations beyond (see: later Obscura) is yet alive in spirit throughout. Even if the larger statement of some of these songs ends up being too verbose to resemble strong melodic statements, the satisfaction granted by the machine in motion is undeniable. This is all presented as a moving unit where the gushy fretless bass tone, the tunnel roared vocals and frequent phase-shift of the drums responds to the fixation of the two guitarists, veering in the direction of their lead while wobbling with flourish along the way. There are ultra-downtuned djent-like peaks (“Detach From the Abyss”) but without serving any mosh metal tendencies, rather to undulate with their heaviest points of impact. In this sense the experience will feel ‘modern’ and aligned with previously likened bands yet the freed exploration of Luconi provides a key edge, there is some manner of free-improvisational soul available even if all of the movements are logical and fittingly placed without feeling neatly composed. “Revert” is a fine example of all temperaments meeting in a pleasantly disharmonious event where pressure meets release. Where then does the album go wrong and stray from a perfect, floating sphere of nostalgia-worthy but ultimately modern progressive/technical death metal?

Well, it all ends up being a bit self indulgent after a while. Omitting one track, I’d chose the relatively inconsequential “The Nadir Element”; It’d have have let the mind bask in the whole experience with a bit more easy thought and besides, there isn’t a particularly novel musical statement made on this particular song. The major reason the Coexistence‘s debut won’t likely make my “Best of the Year” list in the long run essentially boils down to too much of a good thing. Yes, the eight 5-7 minute songs here are each quite strong in thier own right but they too urgently share their musical Rosetta stone with the listener and then follow with ideas that require all of their tricks and clever notions to be utilized frequently, this means after 4-5 songs you’ll be thrilled and by the eighth it’ll start to feel like a genre entry rather than a standalone classic. This is not a major slight and only seems severe because prog-death is quite a competitive, fiddly thing to gather in a holistic sense. Taken as is, and enjoyed in moderation, ‘Collateral Dimension’ is a stunning display of soulfully applied progressive death metal technique that is easy to give moderately high recommendation of.

Moderately high recommendation. (76/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Collateral Dimension
LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records
RELEASE DATE:October 23rd, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Progressive Death Metal

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