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Coins As Portraits - "Form and Structure. Storm and Fracture." (CD/EP)

Coins As Portraits - "Form and Structure. Storm and Fracture." CD/EP cover image

"Form and Structure. Storm and Fracture." track listing:

1. Great Numbers
2. The Curator's Brush
3. The Plot
4. The Human Predicament: Part I
5. The Human Predicament: Part II
6. Overcome By Assumption
7. Solipsism

Reviewed by on December 2, 2011

"String bending tech grind with back and forth growls and shrieks, asymmetrical and atonal riffs melded in caustic fashion with free jazz and bespectacled, psychotic experimentalism is the order of the day."

Romanian experimental grind act Coins as Portraits paints a techy, spastic, picture on its recently released debut EP, “Form and Structure. Storm and Fracture.” String bending tech grind with back and forth growls and shrieks, asymmetrical and atonal riffs melded in caustic fashion with free jazz and bespectacled, psychotic experimentalism is the order of the day. Clean guitar tone and spoken word passages are ripped from the womb by heavy distortion and barking ferocity from the outset on the EP opener “Great Numbers.” The heavy jazz influence continues throughout, with riffs that are all over the place and drumming, courtesy of Marius, that is almost free form but air tight, conjuring images of Mike Patton’s Fantomas, calling out time signature changes on the fly in the cerebral and chaotic form of grad school grind that is the follow up track, “The Curator’s Brush.”

On this unpredictable EP, you never know quite where a riff is going, which is equal parts compelling, unsettling, and difficult to grasp. Still, songs like “The Plot” have all the grind hallmarks, but manage to keep things on edge and past the limit of comprehension. Meanwhile, “The Human Predicament” Part I” is complete structural implosion—the kind of grind that brings the pit to a stop-and-stare standstill but still makes the tinder explode. Wide-eyed stares and jaws on the floor, for better or for worse, abound. Undulating bass lines, rolling waves of low end pitching and rolling with forceful liquidity permeate. Jazz chords are used almost exclusively by guitarist BoG, as dual vocalists Mircea and Ichim let some pig squeals fly for a moment.

Math grind, jazz grind, whatever you want to call it. This is the shtick of Coins as Portraits. It’s technically proficient, but you won’t be humming these riffs back to yourself. “The Human Predicament: Part II” has an actual straightforward progression, but it doesn’t last long. There’s no resting on your laurels in art grind from a fractured mind—a product of split brain surgery. Both hands work at once, independently of one another. The occasional vocal squeals hint at the pervasiveness of at times bewildering global modern metal trends that manage to find their way even into the most disparate of the sub-genres.

“Overcome by Assumption,” at just a minute long, is the quickest track on the EP, and is the band’s answer to the most atonal, dirge-like Brutal Truth track to the nth degree. The longest track, “Solipsism,” bookends the disc with more of the same twisted jazz noodling that sounds as though the house jazz band has dropped a potent mix of acid and PCP, clawed out their own eyes, and is now slapping haphazardly at the slippery, blood-coated frets and cymbals. And yet, Coins As Portraits still manages to come out the other side with something musical, brutal, challenging, alluring, and frustrating all at once.

Highs: Chaos incarnate, Coins As Portraits just wants to watch the world burn to the soundtrack of some solid, techy grind.

Lows: The extended and seemingly exclusive use of jazz chords wears after a few songs.

Bottom line: If you can appreciate the jazzy side of metal, it's worth your time.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)