The Upward Spiral
For two decades, Coil conjured black magic from industrial music and the avant-garde. In November 2004, founding member Jhonn Balance’s fatal fall at the home he shared with partner Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson made all too real their musical monsters of dread, anger, and death. Sleazy spent 2005 working through his pain, fashioning The Ape of Naples from mid-1990s sessions at Trent Reznor’s New Orleans studios, songs tested just weeks before Balance’s death, and material prized by Coil collectors and bootleggers.
Coil’s signatures are all here, recalling their classic LPs Scatology and Horse Rotorvator: brooding, jarring orchestration, ambience that gurgles like drowning men, and Balance’s ominous vocal presence. From the haunted lyric that opens the album—”Does death come alone or with eager reinforcements?”—we wonder if in his last moments Balance’s arms were open to welcome the angel of death or flipping it the British two-finger bird. Yet The Ape of Naples stands alone in the Coil catalog with a touching and cohesive sense of melody found in the extensive use of hurdy-gurdy and vibraphone, the waltz timing of “Tattooed Man,” and the soaring duet “Going Up?”
The death of a legend in close proximity to the release of significant work magnifies any sadness in the work (see: Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon). Circumstances make this not just Coil’s last, best gift to the industry, but Sleazy’s last gift to Balance; it’s an understated fanfare attempting to give a tortured soul some measure of peace. A significant musical purchase to make for 2006, The Ape of Naples handily introduces Coil to new listeners and represents a sad, necessary closing chapter for longtime fans.