Anyone whom has lost someone close knows the vacancy left by the passing of a loved one never fades. Like an ache housed deep in the skeleton, the pain left by death’s ravages is eternal. Though it has now been well over a year since the tragic death of Jhonn Balance, many who came to know him through his activities in Coil are still mourning the loss of one of the most creative minds ever to manipulate music and the mind of the listener.
After much waiting and anticipation, Threshold House has released the final recordings of Coil in the form The Ape of Naples. The album collects together the final recordings of Jhonn Balance as well as previously unreleased material that was recorded at Trent Reznor’s studio. The album was compiled and mastered by Peter Christopherson whom survives Balance as the remaining Coil founding member. That Peter Christopherson led the production of the The Ape of Naples is an essential and noteworthy contribution which keeps the music firmly rooted in Coil’s originality and superb talent.
When listening to The Ape of Naples, one cannot ignore the melancholy vein that permeates the otherwise psychedelic music. As with the previous Coil Moon Music albums, you can feel the ever-probing minds of Coil’s musicians exploring mortality, loss, and the very burning question of existence. Buried deep in the elusive and poetic discourse, you can feel a raw and very personal pain seeking a reluctant voice. Jhonn’s unknowing expression of the inner agony that grips us in our loneliness seems to mysteriously drift through each composition. At times it finds its voice in tormented and agonized lyrics, while in other moments it is meekly protruding as an invisible presence that is felt but not quite definable. This fixation upon mortality and death is echoed by Peter Christopherson, who elaborates at the Threshold House website, explaining his own awareness of a strange and melancholy prophetic element that had impregnated Jhonn’s creative output previous to his death. Given that so many of us formed such deep connections to the music of Coil over the last two decades, most everyone will find their own fleeting ghosts speaking from within the music from the past about a future that we all fear.
Beyond being the last recordings that Jhonn Balance made previous to his death, The Ape of Naples deserves to be seen as an independent Coil album as well, and it must also be acknowledged as the last chapter in one of the most authentically psychedelic music experiences of our time. The Ape of Naples concludes two decades of Jhonn & Peter and fellow co-conspirators abducting music as a means of chronicling magickal and psychedelic experiences whilst simultaneously exploring dimensions of music and subculture that are otherwise ignored by many artists. Like true pioneers, Coil extracted the richest facets from current and historical subcultures and underground spirituality forming a new Bohemianism defined by mind-bending psychedelic drugs, occultism, Paganism, industrial culture and renegade art. This epic creative journey which coincided with similar occurrences and explorations in the lives of many Coil listeners has now abruptly come to an end as Coil’s path has veered astray.
So, the music on The Ape of Naples is mostly song-based compositions that have been impregnated with lyrics. Similar to the quality and aesthetic of albums such as Loves Secret Domain and Moon Music I & II, Coil once again seamlessly blend experimental electronic music, acoustic instrumentation, and their signature lyricism. The music varies between softer ballads that evoke introspection and other, more vibrant and frenetic tracks that capture the pulsing vitality Coil was able to muster. A few songs are drenched in a shadowy romanticism that invokes darkened alleys and tattooed queer thugs while other songs chase the shadow cast by death as they pose existential dilemmas. It’s a classic Coil album that successfully captures the zenith that Coil had sought. Is it the best Coil album of all time? Who’s to judge? The only conclusive thing to say is it may be the most mature Coil album, and it is incontrovertibly the last.
Above all The Ape of Naples is able to stand alone as a complete album capable of closing the imposing and well-earned discography that will become Coil’s enduring legacy. More than a mere collection of scattered material, The Ape of Naples casts an indefinite, yet palpable requiem that is both prophetic in hind-sight and utterly tragic and irresolvable at once. Jhonn Balance’s journey has taken him beyond our detection whether by intention, accident, fate or some unknowable combination. He has passed, leaving those of us who admired his bright flame to cultivate our own fierce fire so that the darkness does not encroach.
If you are looking for a song-by-song description of the album, I cannot reward your search. I have always felt the music of Coil very deeply and personally, and an objective review or attempt to describe the songs of this particular album would rob me of much of their personal meaning. If Coil spoke to you or guided you in some aspect or time of your life, then you deserve to hear this album in the peace of your home where your emotions can embrace the loss, and your spirit can celebrate the life and creativity of our beloved Jhonn Balance.
01) Fire of the Mind
02) The Last Amethyst Deceiver
03) Tattooed Man
04) Triple Sun
05) It’s in my Blood
06) I don’t get it
07) Heaven’s Blade
08) Cold Cell
09) Teenage Lightning 2005
10) Amber Rain
11) Going up