Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Comus - First Utterance CD (album) cover

FIRST UTTERANCE

Comus

 

Prog Folk

4.16 | 548 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Welcome to the woods!

In 1967, Roger Wootton and Glenn Goring, two 17-year-old students of Ravensbourne College of Art in Bromley, Kent, met. The two found mutual interest in the Velvet Underground and folk music of artists such as John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. They soon founded a folk duo and started playing in pubs and bars. Within two years, the band grew to a sextet, naming itself Comus, and made a name for themselves in the English underground. In 1970, they finally got a record contract with the Dawn label and, in early 1971, released their first album First Utterance.

Comus' music blends many different types of folk, including pagan folk, medieval and renaissance English folk, acid folk, ancient Greek, swamp blues, and Eastern European folk. All these are enriched with an avant-garde theatrical twist in the vein of what Henry Cow would present a few years later. Dark, melancholic, ominous, creepy, gloomy, worrying, infernal, sinister - these are just a handful of expressions that describe the moods on this album. Despite the relative lack of success when it first came out, First Utterance later found admiration among bands such as Opeth or Current 93 and the band became David Bowie's favorites, who let them use his Arts Lab rehearsal space in Beckenham, Kent. While Gryphon's music has a brighter, merrier, and more optimistic plainsong-oriented style, Comus lie on the exact opposite side with a somber, almost satanic flavor.

The sextet utilizes instruments such as basic 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar and hand drums as well as violin, cello, flutes, oboes, and bassoons. These give the band a very distinctive sound. Musicianship is excellent here and the artists make the most of their instruments. Some of the sounds, such as a high-pitched flute, introduce a very mystic element while melodies often invoke a dark medieval forest. The band's sound is characterized by quick, percussive rhythms with a demonic hand drum and tambourine. The swamp blues-style slide guitar is present and sits surprisingly well in the rather European-influenced music. The lyrics talk about mental illness, murder, and pagan rituals and are sung by beautifully harmonious vocals ranging from the female soprano of Bobbie Watson to the male bass, baritone, and tenor voices of Roger Wootton, Glen Goring, and Andy Hellaby.

First Utterance comprises seven tracks (plus three on the remastered CD reissue). Despite various moods or scales they do not give an impression of varying greatly between but fall far from being monotonous. "Drip Drip" and the "The Herald" are longer than ten minutes with some compositional diversity, while the others are kept fairly short, between two and six minutes.

Comus' First Utterance has always been a pretty obscure gem. It is, however, held in high regard by music collectors and contemporary musicians. The band's musical vision fructified in unique moods only to be found on First Utterance. This is not a very accessible album and may not be pleasing to newcomers but still remains a much-needed addition to every progressive rock collection. Five stars!

ALotOfBottle | 5/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this COMUS review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives