Everyday anxieties fuel Coliseum’s impressive post-punk maturation
Coliseum vocalist/guitarist Ryan Patterson is nothing if not painfully honest. He wears his heart so openly on his sleeve that his dry cleaner long ago stopped trying to scrub out the crimson stains. For more than a decade, he’s manned the front car of the roller coaster that’s flung the Louisville, Ky., trio through a variety of rewarding and ridiculous moments. There was the time a former drummer quit the day before a tour and they found themselves teaching their then-replacement the set on van seats and headrests en route to Canada. Then, there was the time they were “arrested” for performing and filming an impromptu hometown outdoor gig in 2013.
Balancing out the hair-shirt incidents has been the steady stream of top-notch releases since 2004, as well as the group’s natural progression from rockin’ hardcore/punk band to the measured and melancholic post-punk outfit it is today. Latest full-length Anxiety’s Kiss delivers the most seamless combination of the eras thus far. The shimmery, soot-black twang of Thatcher-era Britannia, Midwest alt-rock melody and fiery D.C. punk are all stitched together with Coliseum calling cards like Patterson’s gruff voice, the steady-as-a-pacemaker rhythm section, and the sense that the band isn’t so much leaving its punk/hardcore tribe behind as pushing the goalposts back.
“While our music has undeniably changed, I don’t think we’ve changed where we are or our place,” says Patterson. “We’ve always been that band able to play with Napalm Death, then go play with Strike Anywhere, or whoever. That’s our biggest asset and biggest drawback, because people really want things to work into a niche, and if you don’t fit into that niche, then they don’t know what to do with you. It’s not about us reaching out into the world, because we’ve never really toured with bands outside of the punk, hardcore or metal world.”
Written with the goal of closing the gap on the usual three years between albums (“This is the only time in 11 years we’ve had the same lineup on consecutive records, and that was part of why I really wanted the three of us to do it right away”), Anxiety’s Kiss oozes with urgency and a shared continuity with 2013’s Sister Faith. It also has Patterson continuing to pour the most delicate and vulnerable sides of himself into the public discourse. From his raw, open-book lyrics to the emotional spigot he yanks out during his legendary between-song banter, he can usually be found introspectively peeling back layers of his fears in a scene/genre where most frontmen are concerned with rebelliously flipping off The Man or demonstrating why you should be fearing them, not yourself.
“Yeah, it has to do with me,” he says of the new album’s title. “I’ve always had anxieties and been a fearful person going back to being a kid. Sister Faith was largely about my wife’s dad and our friend Jason Noble from Shipping News dying, which was my first time dealing with mortality firsthand as an adult. After that happened, things started happening in my psyche that were difficult as a motherfucker to deal with, and I can only assume they were related. There were times of absolute anxiety from the minute I’d wake up to the minute I’d go to sleep. My wife would go to work and I’d be afraid she was going to die on the way. There were fears about things I’ve done a million times before. Like going on tour is as normal to me as brushing my teeth, but things about touring became overwhelming to where I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. So, what do you do? Write songs about it. I’ve always put periods of my life into our records, and that’s one of the things I appreciate about doing this band for so long: being able to put all that stuff into it to get it out there and deal with it.”