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Comus - First Utterance CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.16 | 548 ratings

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4 stars Hmmm how to describe the wonderful sounds of Comus. First, leave all your preconceptions of what prog-folk is at the door please. This album is very far removed from the gentle folk of Gryphon, Tull or the Strawbs. This is an all-together different beast. Yes, a beast of an album, a persona it screams right form the get-go with it beastly cover. Comus' 1971 prog-folk masterpiece, "First Utterings" is probably one of the scariest albums you will ever listen too. Don't let the folk tag fool you, this is better described as the soundtrack playing in a maniac's schizophrenic head as he rapes and tortures victims in the forest. This almost completely acoustic album (full of violins, acoustic guitars, and oboes etc..) ranges from pastoral folk music to King Crimson like instrumental malevolence (but acoustic), all in the same song.

The album opens with the chilling pagan tribute to the Roman God "Diana". (Comus is in fact the name of another Greek God, and of a famous John Milton poem). The song features haunting, ethereal female chanting and high pitched male lead vocals, backed by bongo-like percussion and some gorgeous (if terrifying) violin work. The song, both musically and lyrically, really manages to capture the feel (I would assume) of a pagan festival/ritual on the dark moors of old England. A real masterpiece of a song, which sets the scary, yet beautiful mood of the album very quickly. "the Herald" is less enchanting then "Diana", but more traditional English-folk and has some truly beautiful moments in its rather scattered 12-minute duration. The song grows more frantic towards the end, but never builds to much, rather unfortunately. Comus are master of the slow buildup (like King Crimson), as you'll see later in the album. "Drip Drip" is the album's highlight in my opinion. Beginning with some laid back plucking, the song slowly builds up to an all out folk freak out. "Drip Drip" has the album's scariest lyrics, detailing a forest murder (with such lyrics as:

[i]"You dangling swinging / Hanging, spinning, aftermath / Your soft white flesh turns past me slaked with blood / Your evil eyes more damning than a demon's curse / Your lovely body soon caked with mud / As I carry you to your grave, my arms your hearse "[/i]

It also features a truly spine chilling 'chorus' in "Drip, Drip, The blood drips from you lip" or something like that. [Can't seem to find the lyrics online for this ultra-obscure album.]. The song is relatively simple and sparse musically, but perfect in execution, and is completely enthralling throughout its 11 minutes. The combination of ethnic drumming, propulsive acoustic guitar and frenzied violin truly sets a frightening mood. The album's next song, "Song to Comus" is the another huge album highlight, with beautiful flutes and guitar, yet the same chilling lyrics. This song is fitting tribute to their patron God, Comus, and is their most complete and advanced composition on the album. Once again, they brilliantly repeat very similar musical themes (mainly on violin), but it is not at all boring, but quite hypnotic. While the lyrics of "Drip, Drip" detail a murder, this song seems to tell the tale of the rape that preceded it. "The Bite" is not as enthralling as the previous 4 tracks, as it lightens the mood a bit, and the high- pitched leprechaun-ish vocals border on silly in retrospect. However, it is an enjoyable song on the whole. The lyrics are once again macabre, telling of the hanging of a Christian male. (I guess they decided to change the victim, as they were getting a bit fixated on the violence against women - even if it is the main thrust of the album conceptually).

The album has three bonus tracks: "Bitten" is a simple two minute exercise in dissonance. The piece has distinctly Kraut-rock feel to it, but they exercise discretion admirably, giving this piece the brief two minutes it deserves, for effect. "The Prisoner", with very beautiful female vocals is more akin to traditional english-folk and is a very pretty, if incosistent, song. The song has a great frantic ending like many of their tracks, with screamed vocals bouncing from speaker to speaker. "The Lost Queen's Eyes" is definately the prettiest song on the album, and is a short, beautifyul folk song with georgeous female vocals again, (a nice rest from the strained male vocals earlier). These three songs do not quite fit in thematically with the rest of the album, and it is easy to see why they were cut initially. They are, however, quite good if different.

I admit, this album scares me. It is unlike anythign anyone has made before, with its gothic, pagan feel and truly lurid and grotesque lyrics. The album alternately desribes rape, murder, mental illness and martyrdom, with shocking lyrics not elsewhere seen in prog. An easy 4 stars. This album is excellent on the whole, and accomplishes what is sets out to do. Not at all reccommended to prog newbies, but fans of english- folk, progressive-folk and prog-folk will adore this obscure masterpiece. The darker side of folk is rarely (if ever) tested, and hats off to Comus for a thrilling trip through it.

After that altogether harrowing album listen, I think I'll return to the gentler confines of "The Strawbs" and "Gryphon" for a much needed rest. Everyone else, simply enjoy.... but not in the dark.

NetsNJFan | 4/5 |


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