Following the 2003 reunion tour that ended up being their last, Coalesce have still managed to turn out a surprisingly steady amount of material for a band that no longer exists. Although the band’s contribution to Initial Records’ Black on Black series kicked hopes into high gear regarding a new EP or album (my own included), the possibility fizzled, and what the kids have really been salivating for since is the long-talked of re-release of Coalesce’s first full-length record, the crushing masterpiece Give Them Rope. Fully remastered, repackaged and spiffed up in every imaginable way, this thing delivers - and delivers but good. First off is the packaging. I won’t delve too far into detail on the cover artwork itself (you can check out Lambgoat's thorough interview -- here
-- with Sean Ingram for details on the significance of the cover piece as well as the expansion of the name from Give Them Rope to Give Them Rope She Said). Suffice it to say that, no matter how many times I looked at the cover of the original version of this CD (and I’ve looked at it a lot), I had no idea what the hell I was seeing, and any improvement over that is a good one.
My other beef with the original layout of Give Them Rope was that the lyrics were spread horizontally across four full pages (in teeny tiny little print no less), making them nearly impossible to read. This was always frustrating - because Sean Ingram’s incredible, insightful, and just downright pissed off lyricism is of course one of the most important elements to Coalesce. Here, the lyrics to each song are printed on individual pages of the booklet, and in a much more readable format. I can’t put into words how good it felt to be able to figure out what Ingram was belting out in that breathtaking spew of screams which begins “One On The Ground,” and knowing was well worth the wait. On the audible side of things, a “remastered” version seemed excessive and sketchy for an album that had meant a lot to me on a personal level - indeed, a record I had grown up with, and knew nearly every note and beat of by heart. Why mess around with a good thing How could it possibly be improved I don’t think I’ve been as impressed with the assault “Have Patience” blasting out of my speakers since the first time I heard the record - it delivers with more heaviness per square inch than I could have thought. I’m not sure if anyone’s been working on inventing an actual “goes-to-eleven” knob since Spinal Tap came out, but it seems that producer Ed Rose has cracked that code. James Dewees’ drumming still smashes everything in site, Stacey Hilt’s distortedly groove-heavy basslines still pummel through tracks like “Every Reason To,” and the technically destructive riffs of Jes Steineger still astound. But what the band knew that I didn’t was that the each of them was lacking to do so as its own entity on Give The Rope’s initial incarnation, here they each stand apart as a factor in Coalesce’s equation.
The biggest and most notable changes to the record are the newly added vocal effects. There are several points where the more familiar Coalesce panning technique is used (as on “One On The Ground” and “Still It Sells”), with Ingram’s screams ducking from one ear to the other in interesting ways. Although this was probably the most jarringly different aspect of the record for me, the saving grace of it was that Rose and Ingram seemed to know when to throw on effects and when not to. As should be the case with any frontman as powerful as Sean Ingram, his vocals have always been in the forefront of the Coalesce’s music, but here tactics are employed that also saw use on later efforts like 012: Revolution In Just Listening, (i.e. panning, dampening, use of distortion on the vocals) that have in essence become part of Coalesce’s overall sound, making them seem less out-of-place in the environment of Give Them Rope. But, then again, there are several points on this that made me think “wow, I never noticed that before” that it could very well be that some of those vocal effects were there to begin with, and I simply couldn’t pick them out.
While it’s no secret that the band had a lot of regrets about how Rope turned out in it’s initial state regarding both audible and visual aspects, it’s hard not to recall how many older reviews of the album cited it’s muddy production as one of the album’s most interesting qualities. When it comes to Coalesce’s later, more technically groove-laden work, more precise production and studio effects played an important part in giving the records character and a unique sound - and it worked beautifully. But the crustier production and murkier sound was what set Give Them Rope apart from the their later efforts. It just always sound right to not quite understand what was happening, but just feel that you were being drowned in a whirlwind of smashed guitars, flailing, sweaty bodies, and decimated drum heads. Ingram’s unbelievably deep, throaty, yet unbelievably and uniquely powerful vocals were simply the icing on the cake. When I first heard Rope, there was a understanding that the terms “hardcore” or “metal” somehow didn’t apply to this album, and that sheer brutality could be incredibly catchy - and it all sounded the way it should. What makes this re-release great is that none of that has changed, that feeling is still prominent, the record still sounds exactly as it ought to (that is, crusty and destructive), and yet it stands apart clearly and distinctly from Coalesce’s other releases. The only difference now is that it has been given the attention to detail that is deserving of an album as important as Give Them Rope is.