The Coterie - Aesthete
Record Label: New School Records
Release Date: July 10, 2007
For almost every band, the first album is a learning process. Often a first album serves as a band’s blueprint from which they develop their second release, especially when the band also handles their own production, like Oregon-based The Coterie with their debut album Aesthete. The Coterie are as typical of a faceless obscure metalcore band on a tiny label as you are likely to find; the members do indeed possess some talent, but their sound and style is both ordinary and too similar to other scene bands, with only the wordy lyrics providing any sense of originality or creativity. Call it screamo, call it metalcore, call it emocore, call it anything - all you need to know is it’s loud and full of rage and angst. The band’s multiple vocals are the core of the sound, combining whiny emo-boy singing with rough unrelenting screams. The vocals work well when combined with the meaty shredding of the guitars and the pounding bass and drums to create an overall sound which at times feels powerful and heavy, but at the same time feels as hollow as an empty cathedral.
The biggest flaw of Aesthete is while the intense guitar work, pulsating percussion, and vibrant vocals are impressive at the beginning of the album, by the end they become increasingly tiresome. There is certainly plenty of enjoyment to be had from most of the tracks, such as the ridiculously catchy chorus on “Bridge City Breakdown,” the strong mellow breakdown towards the end of “Notion Commotion,” the excellent string tinged sound of the tragically short “Last Day to Die,” and the rushing rhythms and strong guitar work on “Oblivion K(nights)”; by themselves the tracks are better than average. But as a collection the waters are muddied and the flaws become apparent. In short Aesthete is worse than the sum of its parts. The lyrics on the record are also somewhat unbalanced. They are consistently wordy, especially on the opener “Hearts Dismantled” (“Neither man nor nation can be trusted by their acts / Humanity and sanity in letters of attack”). At best they are insightful and introspective, demonstrated by “The Traveler” (“I know we can’t mend the things that have happened / But that’s life / Will fade out with time”), but at worst the lyrics are downright offensive, with two glowing examples being the repeated cries of “Let go baby” on “In Memory Of” and the most eloquent screams of “Fuck the bullshit” from “We Aim.”
While the core sound and feel of the record is above average, Aesthete is an album that will challenge you. Although sitting through the entire album does provide plenty of rewarding moments and some good songs, it can be a trying experience. By the time “Boobytrap Massacre” begins the rushing chunky guitar riffs, thumping drums, and scream-sing vocals have become profoundly tiresome after being so over utilized throughout the record. In truth there is enough material on Aesthete to create a great EP but not enough to create a great album. Regardless, in its current state Aesthete is enjoyable in that you can bang your head to it very easily, but frustrating because very few of the tracks stand out in any way, and too many of them run together and become meaningless. Hopefully The Coterie learn and develops from this very hit-and-miss record, because there is enough potential and talent here to suggest their second album should be better, so long as they can find a more defining and original sound and can adopt some new techniques and riffs to employ.