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Comus - First Utterance CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.14 | 497 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I heard about Comus' First Utterance from a friend of a friend... sort of. While watching an interview with Steven Wilson where he chatted about his Storm Corrosion project, he mentioned that it was his collaborator and contemporary prog-rock maestro Mikael Akerfeldt who introduced him to Comus - a darksome and artistic folk band from the early '70's. I figure that if it's good enough for Akerfeldt and Wilson, it's good enough for me.

I was blown away by what I found. First Utterance has quickly become one of the most unique, beautiful, haunting, menacing, and continually played albums in my library. It's an artistic masterstroke that combines tonally rich, lush, and diverse songs that shimmer and brood with emotion. I don't have enough nice things to say about my listening experience... but that's not going to stop me from trying.

"Diana," the opener and, as my understanding the only single released from this album, sets the dark and threatening tone right away. Behind the off-kilter bass riffing and guitar bends we're given a tapestry of vocals that tell the story of "Lust he follows virtue close." It's sort of a bouncing and hypnotic song that makes you want to enjoy it as a 'normal' song, until you actually start listening close, and realize the tension building in your guts from the combination of instrument sounds and lyrics. Unsettling, and while it left me begging for more, this is the kind of song that makes your friends and neighbors wonder just what the hell kind of music you're into. Score one for prog-rock!

"The Herald" follows elegantly and subtle, with wonderful guitar layers, flute tones, violin soling, oboe(!) and sense of space. Its extended running time gives the group plenty of space to fill with compelling composition that strikes the imagination. Simply wonderful and one of the best songs on the album. Speaking of highlights, "Drip Drip" comes next, which may be my favorite cut in the entire album. Filled with tension, time changes, outstanding playing, and striking vocals, it's at this point in the album that you're either all in, or will cringe away as Wootton's evocative lyrics paint dark images. I love the intensity and dynamism that the band puts in to this song; even using only acoustic instruments and hand drums it possess a powerful energy. Spectacular.

The signature song, "Song to Comus" follows, a theatrical and intricate piece that is probably the best bite-sized example of what Comus is all about; part playful, part menacing, all art. My friend described it as sounding like "a bunch of halflings summoning demons around a wicker fire." It should be heard to be appreciated as the rewarding musical experience it really is though, so click the sample MP3 above. A brilliant composition that really does have it all.

"Bite," and "Bitten" follow up wonderfully, "Bite" especially with its exceptional lyrics and acoustic intensity and momentum. "The Prisoner" closes literally with the chanting of "insane," that sort of sums it up! While I and other reviewers have made comments about how challenging this music is, remember that there are just as many beautiful moments, as well as exceptional compositions to be found. This album isn't an hour of droning or sound effects like the modern dark/black avant-garde movement; this is pure musicianship and skill, set against a sinister palette of images. I encourage any that are hesitant to investigate this excellent album to give it a try and be surprised by how artful and rich it sounds.

To close, First Utterance has suddenly jumped to among my most listened albums within a very short period. It's an amazing experience which does so many daring and exciting things with musical precision and soul. You might lose a bit of yours while listening, because this album drips madness beneath the veneer of acoustic guitars and fluting, but I'd rather revel in the dark with Comus than anywhere else. Get it; experience it; love it, First Utterance is among my highest recommendations.

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 5 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Prog Leviathan | 5/5 |


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