The beauty of deterioration

COALMINER: Beautiful Deterioration

Release year: 2022
Label: Steinklang Industries

There’s a case to be made for going off the beaten path and breaking against conventions, norms and standards. Of not just doing what everyone else does, but boldly go your own way and do things differently. Of daring to have character and, despite public opinion, do things our own way.

There’s also a case to be made for just the opposite, of going with the flow and following norms. A norm is a norm for a reason, a tried-and-tested way and method of doing things that ends up in good results, even if conventional.

As you can guess from the intro, Philippinian Coalminer’s album Beautiful Deterioration goes against convention in at least some ways. And, I’ll say that from the go, in ways that are challenging to say the least.

The chosen style of this duo is abrasive, dense industrial noise. There are elements of violent harsh noise and power electronics here, but also more brooding moments of darker atmospherics – but the oppressive edge is never lost. And let me tell you, the sheets of crackling distortion, tortured noise and weird, nondescript cacophony are all good and well. Were this an instrumental album, I would be singing its praises.

But it’s not. And that’s where the divisive part of Beautiful Deterioration kicks in.

Those vocals… man, those vocals. The standard vocal style for industrial noise and power electronics are harsh, gruffly shouted male vocals coated with layers of distortion, almost to the point of being indecipherable. It’s cliché, but it works. Coalminer don’t go for clichés. Instead, their vocal style is what I can best describe as a psychotic, drunk and delirious gnome. In this weird, phlegmatic high-pitched tone, the vocals shout, ramble, cajole and moan like a delirious, fucked-up halfling troll. It is manic, to be sure, but to me also entirely unbearable. Not only are the vocals what I could generously call an acquired taste (and ungenerously intolerable), they’re also quite prominent in the mix, overshadowing in the competent and convincing violence of the background noise.

To me, this ruins the entire album. I have tried and tried, then taken a break and tried some more, to get past the vocals, but I just cannot. For me, they are an insurmountable obstacle.

Still, I must admit there’s something oddly tantalizing about this fucked-up album. Sure, once this review is written, I will probably never listen to this album again, but there’s been some odd attraction to this album when listening to it. On one hand I’ve detested listening to this because of the vocals, but on the other, I’ve approached each listen with an odd kind of curiosity – “maybe THIS time I’ll magically ‘get’ it!”. Of course, I never did.

I won’t write off this album as shit. I hate the vocals, which you probably already gathered, and they prevent me from enjoying this album. But I won’t write off this as shit for that. Beautiful Deterioration won’t leave anybody cold: I’m guessing a lot of people will dislike the vocals (although maybe not as intensely as I did), but certainly others will like them. And those who do will not be disappointed by other aspects of this album.

Challenging and peculiar, Coalminer’s Beautiful Deterioration is a tough nut to crack. Instead of rushing headlong into buying it, I suggest you listen to some samples first, and see what you think of it. If you can stand the vocals, there’s some genuinely impressive noise violence to be enjoyed here.

Visit Coalminer on Bandcamp

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