Since 2008, Phil Stiles has been the frontman and primary songwriter for acclaimed alternative / prog band Final Coil. The band signed to Italian label WormHoleDeath in 2017 for the release of their debut album, Persistence Of Memory, a compelling mix of post-rock, progressive and alternative music, mastered by Cult Of Luna’s Magnus Lindberg and which garnered comparisons to Tool, Alice in Chains and Pink Floyd.
Shortly after the album’s release, Phil’s distinctive sound garnered the attention of legendary prog-rockers Glass Hammer, and he was invited to contribute guitar to a track on their well-received Chronomonaut album. At the same time, Phil signed an endorsement deal with Blackstar Amplification and began work on the follow-up to Persistence Of Memory.
A deeply personal concept album, The World We Left Behind For Others cemented Final Coil’s reputation as a forward-thinking, progressive rock band. The record, which incorporated an eclectic range of influences from grunge to prog via metal and electronica, caught the ear of The Way Of Purity, who invited Phil to write and record the outro to their 2020 album Schwarz Oder Rot. The success of the track, entitled Leave, encouraged Phil to return to some pieces, written during the sessions for Final Coil’s second album, which fitted neither the atmosphere of the record, nor the band’s overall sound. While finishing the pieces, Phil quickly realised that he needed a second pair of ears to put the finishing touches to the music. To this end, he turned to renowned mastering engineer and musician James Plotkin (Khanate, KK Null, ISIS, Pelican and Earth), who offered advice on the final mixes and turned in a master that captured the dark ambience of the The Anchorite, a starkly compelling EP that captured the dystopian atmosphere of a world that is struggling to achieve a post-Westphalian identity.
With lyrics rooted in Phil’s love of politics, the music moved away from the progressive sweep of Final Coil’s music, focusing on a darker ambience influenced by the likes of Massive Attack, Jesu, latter-day Swans, Sonic Youth and Godflesh. Recognising its potential, Epictronic (WormHoleDeath sister label) snapped up the EP and released it worldwide in 2020.
Phil was far from done, however. Born from the challenges, frustrations and isolation of lockdown, The Anchorhold proved to be the direct follow up to The Anchorite EP. It is a release, an outpouring, a window onto the world that reflects on the past and dreams of the future. It is loneliness and connection, uniquely personal and universally relatable, the sound of these strange and difficult times.
Keenly feeling the absence of musical community, Phil reached out to fellow musicians, sending messages out into the ether , inviting kindred spirits to join him on The Anchorhold project. Slowly but surely, a breath-taking array of contributions began to arrive back, like gifts slipped between the cracks in a prison wall. Phil had written each piece of music with his unseen ghost contributors in mind, but was still thrilled and surprised by the way the songs had been transformed; from Kyle Brandt (A Light Within, Molitoth)’s stunning vocal and lyrical contributions on ‘C21H22N2O2’, to the fierce, unpredictable layers of sound applied by The Medea Project to ‘Reflections From An Echo Chamber’. Guitarist Richard Allsopp (A Distorted Utopia, Monachopsis) contributed to two tracks – joining bassist Roger Morter (Pornographic Sunset) for ‘It Follows Me’, and Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate four string maestro Mark Gatland on ‘I’m Not Done Yet’. For ‘Sleep Take Me’ Phil reconnected with Tomek Wolski, with whom he played in Polish progressive outfit Metanoia while Celtic Bluesman, Matt Steady, made an invaluable contribution to ‘The Wanderer’. In addition, Phil kept the surprisingly tranquil ‘Dance Fucker’ and the shifting moods of ‘End This Way’ to himself. The vast variety of sounds were drawn together by Phil’s mixing and, once again, the mastering skills of James Plotkin.
Enfolded in the evocative artwork and photography of Jola Stiles, The Anchorhold is a wonderfully complete entity, but also one that is rife with future possibilities. It is a stunning exploration of our inner and outer worlds during a time of fear, loss and confusion and also a doorway to a place of sanctuary. The album was released via the highly respected Trepanation Recordings in 2021 and there is much more still to come…
Genre: Post Rock/Electronica
For fans of: Nine Inch Nails | Swans | Killing Joke | Dead Can Dance