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

FIRST UTTERANCE

Comus

Prog Folk


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
5 stars This is really a masterpiece , a gem , a diamond , an enourmous find. Released in 71 and re-released on Cd by Dawn label (shouldn't be too difficult to hunt it down) this is one of the most accomplished prog-folk album ever. There are two singer , the female having a rather standard folk rock voice such as Celia Humphries (the Trees) or Jacqui McShee (Pentangle) and the male sounding like some kind of Roger Chapman of Family on acid. The lyrics are demonic (not satanic) and the poetry is as good as Gabriel or Tull's Tramp or Hastings but in a very dark way - but I would not classify this as gothic either. The music is very acoustical - one might say folkish without sounding celtic or country music. Somehow this escape real description unless by comparing to Trespass (Genesis) or a Trees album or maybe also Spirogyra's debut album St Radiguns . The violin is more of classic nature than celtic and the flute makes for an even more pastoral mood. The lyrics are in a sharp contrast to this pastoral feel and this is what makes it fabulous . Drip Drip and The Herald are pure "heavenly" chills down your spine, yelling for murder curses and other joyful christain things.

Stupendous and flabbergasting how this did not become huge back then, but one understand that the sheer quantity of quality records coming out in those years made that some disappeared without a trace as it is the case with this one. Whereas in the 80's the slightest average record might have been seen as excellent in a very mediocre mass production - this is why so many of that neo is so over-rated.

Anyway, if you must discover one album this year , make it this one!!!!!!!!

Report this review (#28552)
Posted Thursday, March 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Founding Moderator
4 stars Before I offer my own brief comments, here are some quotes from various web sites discussing the group: "Comus was one of England's underground bands that dealt with the folk revival from a psychedelic and classical perspective...employing viola, violin, flute, oboe, guitar and percussion." "Pastoral English folk." "One of a kind, and one of the most inventive and distinctive works to come out of the 70s progressive rock movement. A minor classic." "Vulnerable innocents face abusive power in songs about brutal murder mixed with Gothic eroticism ("Drip Drip"), Christian martyrdom ("The Bite") and mental illness ("The Prisoner"), all described with disturbing candor." One reviewer on another site said it reminded him of "a bunch of trolls dancing around in a forest, chanting and casting spells." I would have to agree with all of these quotes. I also agree completely with chantraine's review below, though I am not quite ready to call it a "masterpiece" and give it five stars. / Definitely miscategorized on this site, Comus was an early member of the Canterbury scene, contemporaneous with Jethro Tull (with whose earliest work they have much in common). Like chantraine, this album also reminded me alot of the album "Fearless" by Family (which featured a pre-Crimson John Wetton on bass). Ultimately, "First Utterance" is a fabulously creative album, especially given that it was written in 1970. (In fact, it is likely to have influenced Crimson's "Wake of Poseidon," "Lizard" and "Islands.") It is admittedly a bit weird at first listen, especially Wootton's vocals, since he uses all kinds of bizarre inflections and vocal tricks. However, once you "get it," this album immediately clings to you like a comfortable suit, and leaves you wondering why you never heard it before. It is instantly recognizable as prog in one of its earliest forms, and is a must-have for any serious collection of historical prog-rock.
Report this review (#28555)
Posted Friday, March 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars All of my esteemed fellow reviewers have failed to provide one essential piece of information: what were they on when they made this album? It must have been excellent stuff, because mere creativity alone can't account for the warped genius displayed here (and after all, it was 1971). Listening to Wootton croak "Diana" as if deep in the throes of ancient grecian ecstasy and the lilting pagan-angelic harmonies of "The Herald" is enough to throw open the doors of perception for even the non- narcotic folks. I truly believe some, if not all of these musicians have glimpsed the beyond; all the later sci-fi epics of the progressive world pale in comparison to the pastoral but dangerous world supplied or implied in these works. What a different world ours was in 1971 to produce this band- the same year that saw the premiere of Jesus Christ Superstar and the verdict of the Manson family. How would Charles have interpreted the deliciously, salaciously evil "Drip Drip", or the bacchanalian "Song to Comus"? How much better would JCS have been with songs like "The Prisoner" telling the story? How many bad (or good) trips have been caused by this album? Not nearly enough, I'll wager, for few of the druggier people I've known have even heard of COMUS. I wonder if JANDEK listened to "First Utterance" and decided to try his own stripped- down version- a punk COMUS, if you will. My questions will likely never be answered, but in my perfect world everyone will hear "First Utterance" at least once. Actually, in my perfect world we'd all be in the park, naked and stoned and dancing to COMUS.

I'll add some quotes of my own to add to maani's collection:

"Lesser mystics than COMUS have inspired religions". "When the Merry Pranksters made their awful racket, this is what Neil Cassady secretly wished it sounded like". "This is what NPR bumper music would sound like if it was made by fornicating satyrs".

Report this review (#28556)
Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars WOW!!!

Not quite a masterpiece of prog, IMO, as it is much closer to a folk-rock/psychedelic album than prog rock; You will find no symphonic leanings, no attempts to rock out, in fact little that says "prog" to you.

That said, this is incredible stuff, and if you are a fan of the INCREDIBLE STRING BAND or LOVE, or just after something rootsy and folky but with a much darker twist, then this is definitely for you!

I get the feeling that "First Utterance" is based on "A Maske" (Comus) by John Milton, and reading that poem will set the scene very well for this album, which would provide a good background for such a "Maske". Overall, the music has a sublime and crisp improvisatory feel, and if "World Music" is your bag, then this is a real find.

"Diana" seems to have taken the bass line from "We've Got To Get Out Of This Place" (The Animals, 1965) and mashed it up with manic vocals and odd orchestration, in which a slightly amateurish violin dominates. The vocals range from haunting female tones, similar to EMMA KIRKBY (singer of mediaeval music with am outstandingly pure tone) to male voices bleating like sheep and chanting like American Indians. The percussion generates a primitive beat that seems to resonate deep in the soul. Not exactly easy listening - but Comus maintain the intrigue and leave an open invitation to return to their music any time.

While "Diana" had some form of structure, "The Herald" appears to be attempting to obliterate form, and is broken down into three parts - only really identifiable by the long gaps between them. Each of the sections continues with musical material from the last and develops it, providing a high degree of satisfaction for the analytical, but also sustaining the improvisation, giving the open mind plenty to chew on. My only gripe with this track is that it maintains a somewhat basic 4/4, which makes it a little stodgy.

"Drip Drip" provides a new Flamenco feel, somewhere between ISB and Love. Powerfully enegetic and wild, the music builds up insanely towards a cooler centerpiece. The drama in the structure is natural and starkly rhythmic, with cool-downs and build-ups to drive the most successful orgy! Somehow the vocals remind me of Gabriel in places - but this is all good - very good!

Then it gets even better! "Song to Comus" is a finely crafted ode, with stunning instrumental and vocal arrangements. I won't compare this to anything - it's a unique little gem, worth buying this album for alone.

The follow-up, "The Bite", is a brief respite of sorts - intensely rhythmic with flute playing of the most exquisite beauty.

"Bitten" is a crashing atonal awakening from the respite, a breathtaking exercise in minimalism it seems to cram 30 minutes into a mere 2! Genius!!

Finally, "The Prisoner" is a kind of DAEVID ALLEN plays the blues, although I don't recall ALLEN using the Falmenco style in this fashion until "Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life". This moves into a major key, laid back section, somewhat reminiscent of "Grantchester Meadows" by PINK FLOYD, with dreamy vocals. I'll give no more away, except that this album exits on a high, and a literally "insane!" ending to what is quite a trip.

Excellent stuff and highly recommended for anyone with tastes that extend to the esoteric.

Report this review (#28558)
Posted Wednesday, June 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Another one of those albums that just amaze me. COMUS managed only two albums and then disappeared. "First Utterance" was their debut, originally released in 1971 on the Dawn label. They are often thought of as a folk-rock band, but there are major difference between COMUS and well-known acts as FAIRPORT CONVENTION or STEELEYE SPAN. Neither of those groups would create music so sinister, both in atmosphere and in lyrics. Neither would they have a vocalist who at times brings to mind Roger Chapman of FAMILY, or he decides to sing at a higher pitch, brings to mind Jerry Samuels (Napoleon XIV). And COMUS never touched on centuries old British Isles folk music or Celtic folk jigs and reels. The music of COMUS features way too many creative, twisted, and sometimes experimental passages to be called folk-rock, it's definately progressive enough to please prog rock fans. The band consisted of Roger Wootten on vocals and acoustic guitar, Glen Goring on guitar, Andy Hellaby on bass, Colin Pearson on violin, Rob Young on flute, and Bobbie Watson providing female vocals. Most everyone provides percussion (particularly bongos).

Not sure how to get about describing the songs. "The Herald" is by far the most mellow piece on the album, dominated by the vocals of Bobbie Watson. The song features extended use of electric guitar. "Drip Drip" is definately one of the album's high-points with extended and creative passages. "Song to Comus" is a bit shorted, but stuffed with lots of great violin and flute. This particular song reminds me of Family, especially because Roger Wootton sounds so much like Roger Chapman on this cut. The same goes for "The Bite" which is very much in a similar vein. "Bitten" is the only instrumental piece, basically an experimental cut that reminds me of what many Krautrock bands were doing at the same time. "The Prisoner" closes the album, another incredible piece. The British rock critics of the time hated the album. A postal strike in the UK at the time the album was released made it a bit difficult to hit the record stores. Even with David BOWIE giving this band support, didn't help. But still an amazing and twisted album. Not for everyone, but recommended for the more adventurous.

Report this review (#28560)
Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars In Greek mythology Comus, the god of revelry, is the son of Dionysos. Bacchus, the Roman equivalent of Dionysos, was worshipped with orgiastic and ecstatic rites. You might therefore think that the band's name and the disturbing cover of this album are telling you something, and you'd be right.

The lyrics on this album are predominantly black and, in the case of three songs, contain more than a frisson of eroticism or sadism. I recall reading a book of short horror stories in my youth, one of the stories involving a young bride-to-be, a large copse of razor-thorny brambles and something from the crypt with virgins on its mind. I think Wootton must have read the same book! Actually, the poet Milton wrote a poem circa 1634 entitled 'Comus: A Masque', and this was no doubt the primary inspiration for this album.

Well, this all sounds very highbrow, but what of the progressive folk music on this album? I'm sorry to say that, despite the interesting - and sometimes tantalisingly disturbing - lyrics, I find it lacking.

'Diana' sounds like Marc Bolan met some hillbillies and Tim Burton on a dark night and decided to have a jam in the forest. Wootton's warbling singing is not to my liking, but the bongos (or whatever they are) in the second half of the track are not bad in places, if rather odd with the ethereal female backing of Bobbie Watson and Pearson's violin/viola. The bacchanalian theme of the lyrics is all too evident in the earthy tone and delivery of the piece.

'The Herald' has the same spooky type of feel at the start, with jew's harp (slide?) over acoustic guitar and flute, but turns into a calm pleasant tune with violin and the ethereal (and this time more pleasing) ultra-high vocals from Watson. The acoustic guitar, viola, oboe and flute sound pleasant, I have to say. The high female vocalisations make it sound to me like 1960s middle-of-the-road pop backing music at this point (I don't mean that in a derogatory way). Then the acoustic guitar comes in without the singing and this is certainly pleasing, as is the violin over the acoustic guitar and flute later in the track. Overall the piece is pleasing, but nothing extraordinary.

Again there is a hillbilly start with twangy acoustic guitar on 'Drip Drip'. Wootton's deranged singing jars on this track and I don't care for it. And the bongos feel a bit out of place too. It's not a bad track, but it's no masterpiece either. The music even has a North African feel to it, which does not fit with the lyrics in my opinion. Viola/violin and the acoustic guitar give the piece some interest but to me the composition is not that sophisticated. The sawing violin over bongos finally gets really annoying, and eventually this track really gets on my nerves. The macabre lyrics are delicious, but I find the music does not do them justice.

'Song To Comus' starts with some nice repetitive acoustic guitar and flute, with bizarrely rendered vocals by Wootton. I like this track more. The singing - indeed the song - is reminiscent of JETHRO TULL. The music throughout the track is a bit samey, but the violin - again over bongos - is pleasing. Again the lyrics remind me of the horror story I read in my youth: "Hymen hunter, hands of steel, crack you open and your red flesh peel, Pain procurer, eyes of fire pierce your womb and push still higher, Comus rape, Comus break, sweet young virgin's virtue take, Naked flesh, flowing hair, her terror screams they cut the air."

'The Bite' again uses odd male vocals with the ethereal female vocals warbling in the background. The main part of the sung tune I actually find quite good, but the vocalisations are tedious. Again the lyrics are morbid: this time about a martyr being hanged.

'Bitten' is a short, atmospheric instrumental with violin and cello (?). It conveys only bleakness to me.

A song in the first person about a paranoid schizophrenic, the bleak lyrics of 'Prisoner' are good, albeit disturbing in a different way. Again acoustic guitar with wailing violin in the background start the track. It then becomes more upbeat and even a pleasant tune for a while, but the tune takes a downturn, as the subject matter dictates. Unfortunately I just don't like the singer's voice on this track, mood or no mood. Strumming acoustic guitar, violin and bongos are again the staple.

In summary, then, to me musically this album is all right but certainly nothing special. The sometimes macabre and sometimes bacchanalian (or just deliciously evil) lyrics are well crafted and certainly evocative. But I can't honestly say I even find the album good, so I'm going with 2 stars (Collectors/fans only). It's just not my bag, I'm afraid. If you like acoustic guitar, violin, flute and bongos with rather repetitive compositions and ethereal female backing vocals with a weird male singer ranting on about bacchanalian rites, murder, rape, insanity and something in the forest, then this may be your thing. I could listen to it again - I don't find it that bad - but it's just not the sort of thing I want to listen to again. If you've read Donna Tartt's The Secret History, you'll know the kind of feeling this album might evoke.

Report this review (#28563)
Posted Monday, March 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Comus´s debut album, "First Utterance" is a bizarre and surreal masterpiece. It sounds like nothing today, and probably did not sound like anything back in 1971. It does lean towards prog-folk, there are lots of acoustic instruments and medieval percussion, but it is certainly less Jethro Tull and more Pearls Before Swine jamming with Ammon Dull II in an obscure forest full of dark elves. The music flows in mysterious rhythms and time structures. This is an oeuvre without rules and thus the ultimate in prog. No pretentious epic storytelling here, just talented, creative folks having fun freaking each other out. A bagfull of the finest weed in the Shire is recommended when listening to this album but it is certainly not required.
Report this review (#28565)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Comatose

A strange one this. The music is at times charming and pleasant, and at other times aimless and dull.

Based primarily around acoustic guitar with violin and flute, there is a strong folk feel, the Incredible String Band coming to mind as an influence. The flute and acoustic guitar offers comparisons with Jethro Tull of course, but it is the vocals which really define the album. When Roger Wootton sings, it is as if Roger Chapman (Family) has entered the building. The contrast with the light female vocals which also feature, could not be starker.

"Diana" is an odd piece, which opens with both high pitched vocals and Japanese like chanting with jungle type drums. For me, it is not encouraging! Things settle down though, and "The Herald and "Drip Drip " flow well. These are light pieces, with excellent acoustic guitar.

The album then tends to drift along somewhat, never really getting going. It cries out for a bit of energy. This eventually come through towards the very end of the album on "The prisoner", but by then it's really too late. The absence of audible bass at times is noticeable, and something of a downside. The lyrics are much darker than the music tends to suggest, covering topic such as witchcraft sexual attack, and madness.

In all, I can't say I found an awful lot here to demand repeated listening. "First Utterance" is well performed but ultimately a tedious and lifeless piece. It does occasionally have pleasant guitar interludes, but they are all too infrequent.

The story behind the band is a bit more interesting. They hail from the same area of London, UK as David Bowie, whom they once supported. Their name is apparently taken from a character by epic poet Milton, who tries to persuade passing travellers to drink a potion, which makes them look like wild beasts! After recording one further album, Comus band split up, the current location of any of them apparently being something of a mystery.

Report this review (#28566)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars At first, particularly on the opening track Diana, Comus can come off sounding like a malevolent version of Tyrannasaurus Rex (that's the predominantly acoustic duo that Marc Bolan led through four albums in the late 60s, before plugging into glam fame with the electrified T. Rex). It doesn't long however before you realise that Comus' madness is a truly unique experience. At times possessed of a warped pagan brillance and occasionally, just occasionally, too aimless for its own good, First Utterance is one of those records that simply everybody needs to listen to. There really is nothing else like it.

Despite its threatening theme (and First Utterance is full of macabre, occult-influenced themes) Diana is virtually the "pop" track on the album. It's followed by two lengthy laidback tracks. The Herald is eerie and meandering, and a listener can be lulled along by the delightful acoustic guitar work of Glenn Goring. It never gets that complex, but the arrangements are interesting and the blend of acoustic guitar, flutes and violins can be beautiful. The Herald seems to fall out in three separate yet intertwined parts and I swear there are times I hear some whirling harpie voices mixed in.

Indeed the vocal mix of Roger Wooton's piercing jarring voice and Bobbie Watson high and seemingly off-pitch counter melodies are a crucial aspect of Comus' sound. Drip Drip is the other lengthy, sparse song and it takes a while to become interesting. Despite a bluesy start it eventually settles into a frenzied gypsy jig, but it must be said that it doesn't pack half the power of the song that follows.

The undoubted highlight of this album is the stomping, spine-chilling Song To Comus. It is simply one of the greatest tracks I have ever heard. Every dynamic is perfection, from the opening acoustic guitar pick-up, Rob Young's darting flutes, the echoed twisted growling voices and perhaps most of all, the muscular violin work of Colin Pearson. Druidic pagan vibes abound! It is a song that totally rocks ... without any drums!

The Bite is inevitably a let-down, although it is thankfully a gradual one. It's not a bad folk song, and I actually get a Jethro Tull vibe on this one. Bitten is two minutes of hints and sound effects from bassist Andy Hellaby and Pearson and The Prisoner seems to be almost a little too cosy (in an Incredible String Band kind of way), only threatening to gather up steam from time to time.

To me, First Utterance is still one of the those must-listen albums. While I keep wishing that every song approached Song To Comus' quality, there's no doubt that it's all part of a cohesive, if somewhat disconcerting, whole. I have this vague image of myself wandering through an unfamiliar forest guided only by candlelight ... and then I hear Comus ... I'd better stop before I scare myself silly! ... 79% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#40106)
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
NetsNJFan
PROG REVIEWER
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.

Report this review (#42311)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm no prog expert. I lean more toward metal, genre-bending metal in particular ala Melvins, but I'm interested in hearing anything original, adventurous and disturbing. That said, ever since I got First Utterance, on the ecstatically disturbed recommendation of Aquarius records, I have been listening to it obsessively, and cannot stop thinking about it. It may not be genius but it is utterly original, brave and uncompromising. A pastoral vision encompassing surpassing loveliness and shocking horror would be my blurb. After 20 listens I still cringe at the drop in temperature in the middle of Diana, and the imagery of muddy skin in Drip Drip inspires waking nightmares. Looking at the negative posts above, I wonder how anyone with an imagination could give this a bad review. First Utterance is a touchstone vfor judging any music attempting to push an envelope.
Report this review (#45316)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars If King Crimson had decided to go folk in the early 70s they may have sounded a lot like this. This is a very unique cd. Though the vocals tend to hurt the overall feel. They sometimes sound like demented dwarves or constipated elves. This is defiantly a halloween cd and I could picture someone playing this deep in the woods while performing super natural deeds. Musically, this sounds a little fragmented and doesn't always have a nice flow. There are some pleasant passages interupted by complete weirdness. But overall, it isn't anything virtouso, just unique in the approach. Good ideas, average execution. David Bowies seemed to have loved this cd by the way.
Report this review (#54001)
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars i made sure to make this the first album i reviewed on progarchives, for good reason. 'first utterance' is truly a one of a kind album. it's like nothing you've ever heard before. interestingly, there is no use of a modern drum kit, but rather hand drums, which goes along perfectly with the acoustically guitar driven music. the vocals are quite eccentric, rotating between a manical, but awesome, male's voice, to a beautiful sounding woman's. i'm generally a person who doesn't give a [&*!#] about lyrics, if i even know them at all, but in this case, the lyrics are something to listen to. they're pretty messed up! songs about raping a woman, anti-religious, being a prisoner, etc. if you want to expand your horizon of music, check this band out, generally dubbed as 'acid folk,' deservingly so. best track = drip, drip
Report this review (#68123)
Posted Friday, February 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is exactly what I like from Prog music: It´s inexpectancy. You are always wondering about the music you are about to hear and in the case of this band you are clearly not prepared to this wall of sound with not one but two singers and boy the music is so strange it hurts. The only regret I have now that I am old is that I never tried drugss on my life, next time I¨ll start early doing them and this will be my soundtrack. Drip Drip is a really gothic song and Diana has everything you need to like this group. Go get it.
Report this review (#68459)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
phillipthomas
4 stars I first bought this album back in the early seventies and forgot all about it until finding the link/download on this site. I listened to Song to Comus and realised what I have been missing in the intervening years. So I bought the CD, who knows what happens to all the old LPs we bought in the past?

On listening to the whole CD I recalled what a gem this is. As anyone who listens to it will will realise it is a mixed bag with Diana, Drip Drip and Song to Comus as being the ones that stand out. Undoubtedly hints of Family and even the Edgar Broughton Band.

Undoubtedly it is not to everyones taste but I can't get the songs out of mind, which is impressive bearing in mind that some of the lyrics are hard to follow.

Sadly the three bonus tracks, other than the single version of Diana, seem plain boring in comparison with the original tracks, but hey you don't have to listen to them! On the whole a brillant album but if anyone says they don't like it, I think I can understand their point of view. Definitely not everyones taste but the same applies to the vast majority of my music collection.

Report this review (#71424)
Posted Wednesday, March 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The son of Circe and Bacchus the god of festivity, revels and nocturnal dalliances. well maybe that explain why this band make this album. the music here goes From the Sophisticated and beatiful Melodies like the herald to the completely insanity and irreverence like the songs Drip Drip and The Prisoner. the vocals sounds like if where made by a goat or something but really unique and beatiful although they contrast with the female vocals that are very soft and nice. the use of flute and oboe gives a very classical touch and the violin is very well played. The prog folk make here is the most complicated although is accessible. this album is a really masterpiece of the prog folk and is a shame that is too underrated or unknown because they take the prog folk to a new level. I can also see the touch of humor on the vocals and the music in general, but sometimes sounds very dark and crazy. The lyrcis talk about murder and other disturbing things. Finally I Highly recommend this album to any prog folk lover and to any person who wants to hear a really new thing in the progressive wolrd. 5 stars a masterpiece of the prog folk subgenre.
Report this review (#75488)
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "First utterance" may be qualified as a progressive folk rock album containing TONS of quality acoustic guitar and excentric male & female vocals. The first album I have got from Comus is "To keep from crying", which i like very much. When I discovered their "First utterance" album, I was astonished by how different the album is compared to their other record: the style here is rather unique: I try to compare them to Jethro Tull, Focus or even PFM, but it is hard to find significant links. Let us say the tracks here are a bit unequal, so that some are really impressive, like "The Herald" and "The Bite", while others are less good, like the unnecessary "Bitten".

"Diana" is one of the worst tracks here: the irritating voices do not help, and the composition seems to go nowhere. "The Herald" track is divided into 3 distinctive parts, each lasting around 4 minutes; the first one contains delicate and Oldfield-esque acoustic airs and arrangements embellished by the SUPERB voice of Bobbie Watson, reminding Sally Oldfield; the second one is made of ethereal & delicate woodwind instruments with some excellent acoustic guitar and strings arrangements; in the third one, the graceful, charming & childish voice of Bobbie Watson reappears: this part is OUTSTANDING, like the 2 previous ones. "Drip drip" contains quality acoustic guitar parts, but the male vocals are quite annoying; the mix of the percussions of the tam-tam family and the violins is interesting; there is a part that sounds like if you play acoustic guitars in front of a fireplace while people make fiesta shouts. "Song to Comus" has a good rhythm; the flutes, the violins and the tam-tams contribute to produce an elaborated composition; the only bad point is the irritating male vocals again. The catchy "The Bite" is a very good track full of pleasant violins, acoustic guitars and flutes. "Bobbie Watson" sings very well on "The prisoner", a very good progressive track full of tam-tams.

Report this review (#78650)
Posted Thursday, May 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars After reading about this album in Mr. Trane's wonderful Prog-Folk blog, I set my heart on finding this album someday, and happened to chance on it on a visit to Toronto a while back. It was almost $30.00, but I decided it would probably be worth it, even though I'd heard talk of chanting trolls and quite a mixed bag of reviews from this site. Boy am I glad I got it though! This album has turned out to be one of my favorites, and I really hadn't heard anything like it in my life. It is just the most bizarre yet wonderful folk music. It's dynamic and dramatic and brutal and violent and pleasant and beautiful and riveting and in a word, an absolute DELIGHT, in my opinion. Even though he does at times sound like some sort of bleating troll at times, I think Roger Wooton has a wonderful voice, and plays tons of beautiful guitar. Bobbie Watson has a massive vocal range that makes a nice large contrast between the vocal parts as well. I consider all of the songs to be excellent, my least favorite being Bitten.

The album starts with Diana, not my favorite track but the violin is absolutely beautiful, and the chorus is really driving and infectious. The male vocals aren't the greatest on this track, but the female echoing of "Diana, Diana" near the end of the track is lovely.

Next is The Herald, which used to be my favorite, is rather long (over 12 min.) but is divided into 3 distinct parts, the second being instrumental, and the 1st and 3rd featuring beautiful female only vocals at an insanely high octave, and the 3rd also features some very pretty violin and flute.

Then the opening twangy guitar of Drip, Drip starts. This track has the most amazing and disgusting lyrics I think I have ever heard. Such dark poetry, and wonderful instrumentation. This is easily my favorite track, as it sums up everything wonderful about this short-lived band. The chorus is so infectous as Roger Wooton growls "Drip, Drip.. from your sagging lip.." with wonderful violin and guitar chorus. The hand drums give this song a really cool vibe as well. all in all a VERY worthwhile 10:51 of your life, if you are so inclined.

Next is Song To Comus, with equally pained and wonderful lyrics, with a brutal loudly yelled chorus:( "Comus break, Comus rape, sweet young virgin's virtue take... naked flesh, flowing hair, her terror screams they cut the air...") that is brilliant. This song switches mood from pleasant to violent just as day turns to night, trust to terror, the sweet gone sour, and then the next verse comes in, and the day starts over. Just great stuff indeed.

Next is The Bite which has wonderful flute throughout, a great bassline, absolutely frantic guitars and violin, and again wonderful poetic lyrics, this one in particular about a Christian individual being hung, and is again top notch in every department.

Second last is Bitten, a reliatively short instrumental track very dark in atmosphere, that would be out of place and intrusive, but at just over 2 minutes, this is hardly anything resembling a flaw for me.

The final track is The Prisoner, which I found to be sub-par for quite some time, and just recently 'got.' It is really rousing and energetic and has a sort of false ending ("Let me be, set me free...") before firing back into top gear for a few more minutes, much like The Bite does as well. The only thing about this song I don't like is the last 20 or so seconds of yelling in an echoey sort of fashion leading to a very abrupt ending of the album.

The CD comes with three bonus tracks that were previously an EP entitled Diana that was also released in '71. One is an alternate version of Diana, (of which I still cannot tell the difference between it and the original) The next is a short song called "In The Lost Queen's Eye" that is rather sub-par compared to the actual album material. The last track is called "'Winter Is A Colored Bird" and is rather long, about 8 minutes, and is actually quite good in my opinion. It is very different than the album stuff, and is more traditional folk than the insane Acid Folk found on the rest of the album, but is good in it's own way.

All in all, even though I sound elated about it, some may not enjoy this album at all, and I could see some acually hating it. As far as prog goes, it may be seen as 'difficult' music, but if you are musically opened minded and can find joy in listening Magma, I strongly reccomend you listen to this album, as it is one of the best albums I have EVER heard.

5/5 Absolute Masterpiece

Report this review (#81688)
Posted Thursday, June 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
johncollinswo
4 stars Imagine Peter Hammill and King Crimson's Lizard Line up being commisioned to write "The Wicker Man" soundtrack in 1971, and this is pretty much what you could have got.

Like all good prog, not everyone's cup of tea, but it sounds fresher and more exciting than anything that Yes, Genesis and even Crimson themselves were putting out at the time.

A werid and outstanding recording or an infernal nightmare - You choose!

Report this review (#82064)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Thanks to the reveiws here, I finally picked this album up. What can I say that has not been said? This album is fantastic, in a warped and twisted way. I never really thought I would hear essentially folk style music played in such a menacing and even sometimes brutal fasion. What a gem of an album. A shame there is just the one that is good. But a true find if you like prog folk. It also helps to like Peter Hammill (VDGG days in particular) and possibly to have experience with LSD (seriously). For 1970 (when they recorded it) this is amazing stuff. Anyway, recommened.
Report this review (#83582)
Posted Wednesday, July 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Ahhh, what a wonderful hidden gem, and by that, I do mean hidden. Good luck finding this on vinyl. However, it's worth the effort to find it, an incredible release.

This is a very disturbing album. Not disturbing as in blood, gore, eat your heart out, but more along the lines of creepy, sick, and twisted, but with wonderful folk music and a myriad of instruments. If I had to compare them to something other proggers would know, I would say a Jethro Tull that had a very disturbing childhood. But that really doesn't do this album much justice. What's great moreso is that it's unlike many albums, yet you still find yourself enjoying it in some way, as if their is some evil force in all of us.

Highlights here are the opener Diana, Drip Drip, Song to Comus, and The Bite. Song To Comus is probably the most accessible. The two disturbing tracks, Drip Drip and The Bite. Drip Drip is prog folk at its finest, my personal favorite, and just an incredibly unbelievable song. All instruments lend their effect to create an atmosphere that can envelope you with emotion as you hear the chilling tale unfolding. The Bite is a sharp and eerie song about the hanging of a Christian man.

Definitely more out there than many a prog band, but out there in a good and refreshing way. This is a classic gem that deserves its high praise by those who have had the chance to hear it. My favorite folk delight, an absolutely essential listen.

Report this review (#87853)
Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Freaky fun! After repeatedly listening to "Song to Comus" on this website I finally got a hold of a copy of First Utterance and Wow... This album is hauntingly unique. I played it in my car with a friend and had to ask him if he was freaked out at all, but he didn't seem too surprised. This album grabbed me by the huevos at times I didn't know if I truly enjoyed it or just couldn't turn it off. As it has settled in and I have listened to it many times now I appreciate it more and more. The structure, the interplay between instruments and the very unique vocal styles amaze me every time, the lyrics are scary and distubing but add to the experience. My favorite track is probably The Herald which contains my favorite guitar work on the album (which is saying a lot since there are so many good guitar parts) also Diana is good and surprisingly a very catchy tune.

Ovarall a very good album but requires a very open mind to obscure styles difficult for even a prog fan IMO. I was definitely not dissapointed in it and a must have for prog-folk or acoustic-prog fan, even though its probably one of the strangest albums I own. Highly Recommended.

Report this review (#97493)
Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is just plain insane, but in the best way it could be ! I was introduced to this band when I was searching for some dark music. I've read some reviews here and they got me to really want to hear this album, because it seemed perfect for me. After some intense search, I finally got my hands on this record, like four weeks later. Since then, my life changed, really.So here's my take on this fabulous mind-bending insanity demonstration that is Comus's First Utterance.

The album starts off with Diana, a dark, trippy and incredibly powerful introduction to the world of Roger Wooton. His singing is not usual, but I love it, it's like he's transmitting his "insanity" to our ears, he really feels the music. It is like if he said at the beginning, welcome to MY world. The lyrics are, like the other reviewers said, disturbing, but incredibly well written, I personally think that they're genius ! The music of this song is really psychedelic, but dark psychedelic ! Awesome song.

Comes after the beautiful song The Herald. The vocals on this song are.... well.... beautifully haunting, they are sung by Bobbie Watson in a very beautiful high-pitched voice. The song is long, with lenghty acoustic passage. This song gives the impression of being on the side of a lake in the middle of a gloomy forest, watching a floating white- clothed female singing. All that to say that this song is achingly beautiful, mellow and quite haunting for all it's 12 minutes, full of great acousitic guitar work.

The third song is my favorite, but many will find it way too disturbing. Drip Drip tells about a forest brutal murder in words just enough explicit. This is really disturbing, but I respect this for that. This is genius, wicked and sick genius. The music on that song is really insane, I mean this is going with the music. The instrumental parts are very well played and are quite inventive, when the song come back, it's incredibly twisted, with lyrics like : "Yea, Shall I cut you down ? Yea 'Twould be our last physical comunion, I'll be gentle, I'll be gentle..." This is really crazy, and he sings this in a voice that shows crazyness, I mean, this is scary. All in all, this is a crazy song, insanely genius.

Song to Comus is the fourth song, and is generally considered as the highlight of the album. The lyrics are really freaking me out ! For me, they're even more disturbing than those of Drip Drip. But again, they are perfectly executed, like the music. This song is a real gem! For me this is only slightly behing Drip Drip, because it last less long and don't have that sort of psy-flolk instrumental freak-out that gets me in Drip Drip. This is indeed awesome too !

The Bite and Bitten goes together. In my humble opinion, The Bite is the least good song of the album. Lyrically, it deals with Christianity, as always it's sort of disturbing, but not the same way that the other songs. It's still a very good song, and the instrumental Bitten represent one of the scariest and intense 2 minutes I've ever heard. A great Halloween song !

The album ends with The Prisoner, a song about insanity, and the asylum(a place that Roger Wootton is familiar, I think). This song is a great ending. It's going upward in intensity as it reaches the end, an extraordinary end : Roger "singing" insane again and again, backed by Bobbie Watson. Another gem in this album.

Finally, I would say that this album is truly a masterpiece. A twisted chef-d'oeuvre coming from an insane mind. This is timeless. Disturbing, but incredibly good.

Extremly Recommended(if you dare...), this is no easy-listening. 9.8/10 !

Report this review (#101969)
Posted Thursday, December 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I first listened to this album I was utterly terrified. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before; I have to admit I didn't like it all. I think it was some sense of morbid fascination that brought me back to the album time after time. Comus has managed to inject First Utterance with so much raw and unrestrained emotion. The album holds nothing back and refuses to compromise on any level. The only reason I cannot give 5 stars to First Utterance is that fact that it is not for everyone; of all the people that I have shared this album with only a fraction have enjoyed it. I recommend this album to adventurous music lovers who are willing to have any preconceived notions, about folk music, shatter. First Utterance is a masterpiece of unrivaled energy and raw emotion. Not for everyone though. -Graeme
Report this review (#103104)
Posted Thursday, December 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Year 1971 ...the year that gave us two true masterpieces of music St . Radigunds and First Uterrance: the bright and the dark extremities of the world. I won't talk a lot about album,cause i have nothing new to say, but no one can get fully in this album. Every Time i listen to it (even now) i find something new in it.It's got everything that can amaze the listener both composing skills, and playing virtuosity. It'd have been better if they had vanished from the scene as misteriously as they appeared.. but unfortunately they decided to comtinue and complete one more album :(
Report this review (#115841)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm writing this review A secOnD time Due to pressing the wrong "buttons:" inexpectively. hOW EXCITED AM i ? . wELL, i CAN'T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO CORRect the obvious "caps" errors or spelling mistakes, in case I lose the overwhelming emotion that this music is bringing me. This is great music. Don't bother with the 2nd album, it is inferior . But this one, the album is good !,.Really Good. DOn't bother with the 2nd offering, AT least unil you get throuh this one. Acoustic Strawbs at their peak is A refenrence, but this is quality stuff. Check it out !
Report this review (#116430)
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars There is one word with which i can summarise "First Utterance", and that is "intense". Everything about it is intense. The lyrics are brutal, grotesque and Roger Woottons delivery of them gives an almost too vivid sensation of the madness and vulgarity they contain. He is really like nothing i have ever heard before, or probably will again. Not for everyone, i realise, but the intensity with which he screams the line "Comus rape, comus break, sweet young virgin's virtue take" sends shivers down my spine like nothing else.

The music is also breathtaking. Literally. Rythmic acoustic guitar, stressing violin, marching hand drums, and a flute floating above the chaosm it all adds up to a very intense listening experiende. I almost feel exhausted after listening to "First Utterance". Even the softer "The herald" is very intensely beautiful and the stretched vocals of Bobbie Watson gives even my ears a tough match at times.

The bonus tracks on the "Song to Comus" are all great as well, and if i could, i would take out The Herald out of the original and replace it with "In the lost Queens eyes" and "Winter is a coloured bird", but since you can't have it all, i will have to live with "The Herald" in place, even though i tend to think it fits in rather badly among the other songs.

For those of you with a leaning towards the more grotesque, this is the album for you. I simply can not recommend it warmly enough. For those who are easily offended, however.. let the sleeve be your warning.

Report this review (#116885)
Posted Friday, March 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars INSANE- insane - INSANE - insane. ...what would you think of this ending words of the last track of an album abruptly finishing like this? INSANE! as the booklet tells the singer was hospitalized cause of his mental-illness he suffered those days. maybe this illness was the cause of making such delightfull tracks? we can find troubled lyrics on most tracks, angst, struggle...but the way he caress his guitars showing us a hidden talent to play it, it surely is mindblowing! a lot of dedication and concentration was deposit on each track; well i can say of that creature we see (like iron maidens "eddie") reflects a troubled/torment mind characterized by this hairy...comus? i really dont want to undertake to what i will say but: can this record be a concept album? i know about a masque/masquerade done in 17century named comus, (please refer) baroque style; maybe wootton or goring knew this play and therefore the debut and the name...lyrics?? for those who want to deepen in this, im full ears...otherwise listen BITTEN.
Report this review (#127821)
Posted Saturday, July 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Hercules
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars I think I'm going to be sick. I read some glowing reviews and, despite thinking the sample on the site was pretty awful, I spent some time hunting a vinyl of this album down at great cost. Two listens and back it went at a huge loss. I occasionally keep albums I don't like for interest reasons, but this creepy sick rubbish ain't polluting my collection. Some of the music is interesting enough (sounds a bit like Spyrogyra, which isn't exactly a positive recommendation either) and quite well played, but the vocals and lyrics utterly repel me. Drip Drip is particularly disgusting. The cover says it all, really. This band disappeared without trace and they deserved to. I suppose it's to some extent a question of taste, but to me this is the stuff of nightmares!
Report this review (#131043)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars However you enjoy or not the quality of this album, I think it can come downright as a very important expression of progressive rock; perhaps only as bare, nude, evolving progressive rock, perhaps within significance of early, fresh and constantly impressive moments from it. Of course each special or differently achieved progressive identity brings its own mastering effort and its relentless subjectiveness. But somehow, as it resembles a lot of obscurity (and the art is perfect in its obscurity), it brings to attention a short but entirely memorable act of composition, plus a lot of angle into accomplished sensation, feeling their music as part of a special kind liveness, this 1971 provocative (though perhaps it comes more enjoyable than heart-grabbing, at best) release can definitely be a recommended (perhaps just not perused too much) progressive rock reference.

The biggest "various ideas" for First Utterance (combining the practice of impression with the subjectiveness of intense conversation) are actually not varied enough, as far as the music's delight goes, bringing in mind (like an awareness of the album's kind) that the album is very dark, but also very screwed (isn't the "cover", whether folded in two or opened in full, terrifyingly?!?). The depth of the expression often reaches the loss of expression itself, something more hard to believe, but which sounds, at least, very different than any true or steady rock connection. A lot of influences and old manners of rock and art (from the 60s down to Jethro Tull and so alike its contemporary prog rock) can really douse down the fact that the album is instable and insensible, without loosing bewilderment.

With heavy surprises and difficulties, Comus comes by its best marauding album as a band of a slow avant-garde, promising themselves (again, solely by obscurity giving more chance to eclectic intelligent details, instead of mis-happening moments of weak music) to reach a value of virtuosity, total eccentricity or to even combine the music of splendid sound-work with its asymmetrical distorted and hard to compare tough, acute and freak sample movements, experiments, chants and unleashes. Sinister? Not as much as artistic, dramatic in its context, hallowing by any free ideas and satisfyingly impressive, for an album of intermingles. Dark-down impossible? Not as much as pretentious by its imagination and deep-grouching by its hard style. The rest is progressive artistry, a sum of wicked and tweaks music intuitions, plus a passion that, finally, does stop the heart and the entire ration of the composition.

Down the musical artifact of composition, this album sounds fine as folk rock, utter greasy unrecognizable psychedelism (huff-rock?), a flawless gathering of influences (read alike the great attractions of unknown music flavors), plus some rock extravagance that can't shake down to a steady rhythm and fruitful reason. The only disturbance can be towards the fearful and needling vocals, which always in a rush to almost face a sound glutenous style. The lyrics have the demonic touch, mainly however some serrations push the entire unresting sharpness of this album down a cold or hard-impressive contact.

To finally admit that some ideas are personal, I find First Utterance, first of all, a very creative work of progressive folk, composition, strung instrumentality and powerful (however gloomy) fantasy. The bits of exaggeration (through which, mainly the vocals and the rock impetuosity can't help being dark, plagued and carnal) can be avoided if the art impulse is big enough or the rest of the music flows (with a paradox?) gently. Pieces like Diana and The Prisoner are good dances and feasting rhythms; Song To Comus and Drip Drip strike perfectly, while The Herald is only flawed by the intentional eery and ghastly violin flows. The Bite and Bitten in a state of down-right exhausting rawness. Interesting, exponential, progressive, awakening, this album isn't flawless, but most of its difficultly different art gives pleasure and worthiness.

This album is pretty much a progressive rock virtue, a striking creation of likeness beauty and distinguished shock, plus a striving effort of musical ambition and precise solitary expression. Four stars on my account, I like it much.

Report this review (#132418)
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A hundred times COMUS were mentioned on PA forum threads as one of the darkest bands ever. Well, that’s not that much true. Imagine KC’s “Islands” manner mixed with Acoustic Folk-Prog attitude. Chamber Folk? Yes, but not Avant ;)

“Diana” is an opener, quite dark but very energetic. Band has no drums, only percussion, but you won’t hardly notice that – music swallows you, and now you’re in “The Herald”, a three-parts 12-min long epic with some beautiful guitar/violin/flute interplays and eerie nature. Tender female voice from Bobby and creepy male one from Roger both help to create the right atmosphere. Lyrics are very dark, dealing with such wonderful things as misery, pain, lust etc. “Drip Drip” is another 11-min long journey, but quite different from the previous one. “Song for Comus” is a killer track, probably, my favouritest from them. Catchy tune, awesome musicianship, playful nature of the song and some astonishing moments in climaxes… Unfortunately, everything after “Song to Comus” fails to surprise me that much: neither “The Bite” & “The Prisoner”, pretty usual “folkish” songs, nor “Bitten”, a scary short instrumental.

I’d say that the closest newer bands to COMUS are A SILVER MT. ZION or early AFTER CRYING: they are the same way dark yet pastoral. COMUS proved that acoustic music can be as dark and challenging as loudest examples of Avant Rock. Highly recommended and not to be missed.

Report this review (#132620)
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8.6/10 Great

OK, this is THE darkest folk prog album I think I have. So, first off, be warned; This is not happy, nice, pleasent...none of this, this is pure evil folk, darkest day of your life music with moments of the aformentioned pleasentness shining through with blissful glory (i.e. sections of The Herald)...and by God does this create one of the most fantastic experiences of your life...this all depending firmly on your mood. I can almost never listen to this album...only once in a while I can really give it a good listen. This is because it is so dark, and I do not have a strong ear for this mood, although, I must say I enjoy alot of what is on here, espeicially "The Herald" which I find a masterpiece. "First Utterance" is just so incredibly dark and ugly that it really takes a rare bunch to fully appreciate what is on here. Like I said, though, I love this stuff when I am ready to listen to it, which is not very often! Though I can't down it too often, when I actually DO listen, it is fantastic...so to say I don't listen much is not saying I don't love this album. The key reason I give this such a high rating is because it achieves that darkness so well, and the music really is "perfect" in that sense. The album flows really well and the mood is kept strong. By the way, that real "mood" found on here is almost indescribable it is just so....strange...it gives off such a weird vibe it is impossible to explain! I don't give this a 10/10 because I think "The Herald" is the real high point and it never hits that again. What they achieve on "The Herald" would make this album a perfect album, but the rest of the tracks are just overall enjoyable, great tracks, some maybe just fillers of eerie noise and sound but this is what Comus is. Well, I write this a few weeks before Halloween and I can sure say it sets the mood well :)! Great album, but be advised, not for everyone.

Report this review (#145419)
Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars I heard a crappy cassette version of this album a while back and hated it. Then recently I picked up the Breathless version with the three ‘Diana’ tracks as a bonus. That one has ended up in heavy rotation on my CD player. I’m not sure if it was just the shock of hearing such a totally bizarre band that put me off the first time, or maybe the fact that the lousy cassette quality failed to accentuate the sonic qualities of the music. Truth be told it was probably a little of both. A lot of people who have written about this album have commented that it took them a while to really ‘get’ it. I’m not sure I ‘get it’ even now, but when considered as a truly folk work and in that context as a mythical piece and not some sort of Helter-Skelter Manson call-to-arms then I think the music can be appreciated without being reviled or feared.

The more I listen to this record the more it seems apparent that acts like Alice Cooper and maybe even Ozzy Osbourne might have been some sort of cheesy pastiche of Comus. And bands like Jethro Tull, the Strawbs, Gong and even the Decemberists share with Comus a certain penchant for literary writing styles that walk over to the dark side with topics ranging from depravity to rape to murder to madness to martyrdom. This is not a group of tree-huggers wearing flowers in their hair and gathering around the acoustic guitar player to chant about giving peace a chance and loving the one you can get your hands on. The subject matter is quite a bit meatier here.

Despite his totally creepy voice Roger Wootton’s vocals have a tendency to grow on you after a while, and Bobbie Watson’s feminine counterpart to Wootton’s shrill ranting makes for a nice balance.

What makes this album (beyond Wootton’s intense compositions) is Colin Pearson’s strings (violin and viola). Everything he plays is aurally irritating, dissonant, strident, and totally hypnotizing. Rob Young’s flute and oboe work, as well as his madly erratic hand drumming are also critical to the overall sound. Without these the tracks would mostly seem like some a bunch of off-key folk music by some sort of collective of pagan troglodytes. Even with them this sounds like a collective of pagan troglodytes, just a more palatable collection of them.

The most memorable track, if there is such a thing here, is probably “Drip Drip” which manages to combine every trait of the band mentioned above all into a single composition. Other tracks have components of the whole sound, but each is lacking one or two elements that keep it from fully encompassing the spirit of madness and depravity this music is meant to convey. “The Herald” lacks the musical conviction of pure malevolence since Ms. Watson isn’t quite creepy enough. “Song to Comus” comes close but the elf-like dirge at the beginning makes it a bit hard to take too seriously. And “The Bite” has too many la-la-la-la-las’s. Still creepy, but in a bit of a melodic way that again doesn’t scare me enough.

This is a classic for sure, just not sure if it is essential. If you’re a progressive folk fan it is; otherwise I think it only qualifies as excellent. But that makes it better than the vast majority of albums on the market today, so if you haven’t heard this one I’ll recommend it and encourage you to pick up a copy. Just don’t listen to it alone, in the dark, or in an altered state. You’ll be sorry.

peace

Report this review (#165317)
Posted Saturday, March 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars There are parts of this album that I like....but mostly....it contains intense violin....and intense flute...and intense screaming style vocals....which I don't like very much.....also the drumming style is mostly bongos.....and not in a good way in my opinion.....I love Santana....and Jethro Tull....so you might think I would like this by the description.....but I don't really....as someone else said....this is dark psychedelic folk music.... It is definitely unique as far as I have heard anyways.....but I don't enjoy it at all....
Report this review (#168835)
Posted Sunday, April 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
ExittheLemming
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A Wedding band for the marriage of Heaven and Hell.....

God this is creepy...One of the most genuinely sinister records I have ever heard which does not stoop to conquer good taste with the usual shock horror costumery made threadbare by Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, NIN et al.

The latter are but ENTERTAINERS and Comus just might have been...complicated fisher folk. (Art as therapy? or vice versa?)

There are no electronic noises, sample CDs or outboard gizmos pressed into service here to create this febrile and miasmic atmosphere. Just the six outpatients listed on the cover who appear to imitate a pagan sacrificial rite using only their hands and mouths on various acoustic 'prey' they managed to stalk back to the recording studio.

Much of it sounds improvised, but the eerie chanted vocals and bestial utterances throughout do appear to follow some type of predetermined order of sorts. Instrumental phrases and motifs seem to fly unexpectedly out of the mix from 'nowhere' and have a spontaneity that only the possessed or those speaking in tongues exhibit. You will carry these little sequences around in your head for days afterwards, all the while struggling to remember the source of such unknown and unholy pleasures.

Drip Drip is almost unbearable in its intensity and foreboding but we are transfixed, and unable to retreat from a hypnotic quest to establish what is it that is being described or acted out here? If you are at all receptive to this, please be aware that after hearing same, there will be forever hence, a little black door slightly ajar in your soul...(damn, wish I'd written the sleeve notes)

The lyrics, to my untrained ears sound somewhat 'primordial' but do betray signs of pre-christian religions and the dionysian tradition of ancient Greece ?. Many of the rhythmic pulses become incredibly frenzied as the pieces develop and dare I hazard, stray into the bounds of the orgiastic? (Yes, I'm blushing)

Even these moments are rendered less than wholesome, as the effect is not remotely sensuous or sexy, but redolent of predatory animal gratification.

First Utterance is an extremely fascinating record and despite my incredulous ramblings above, contains much great music. It seems spurious to attempt pinning a stylistic label on this album, as descriptions of pastoral, prog folk etc don't even do justice to the innovation displayed here.

(Slayer unplugged with Pan on vocals and Jim Morrison mixing - the drinks)

Only for those with an experimental bent and unlikely to appease the common garden progger but a great record to give your ex-girlfriend.

Strictly a one-off.

Report this review (#169581)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is a gem. It's one of the best folk records -wait did i say folk? well... it psycho folk!- i've ever heard. I must say, when i gave it's first listen i think it was an awful record, awful band, awful music. But this album GROWS on you. On the second listen i was in shock thinking what's all this music certainly i've never heard. It was somthing new and good. Then i fell in love with this album. The voices are creepy but fit with the music, the instrumentations is mostly acoustic guitars, violin, strings and drums. All i have to say it's that this is really a must and im going to give it a spin right now.
Report this review (#178840)
Posted Tuesday, August 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars ''Use caution, as this is not easy music to digest, even to prog standards.'' Even if one dares to call this music, it's very easy to digest and forget it. Foremost statement serves only as a bad excuse. I don't have to pretend liking Comus because of it's ''legendary'' status, ''elaborated'', crazy and, oh!, so original music, neither to feel ignorant having trouble getting it or ''digesting it''. I'm not afraid of a little weirdness in my music, but we're not talking weirdness, this is crazyness.

Someone so obsessed and, what's more important - serious about killing, death, bodies, blood, virgins and raping is sick. This album is not a metaphor, retrospect or a critique of any kind (not even a simple attempt to shock the audience) to be taken even a bit seriously. This is rampage. Vocal delivery is frantic and songs are (except ''The Herald'') in a crazed tribal or twisted psych-folk manner. I can't understand how can anyone enjoy this.

If you'd like to hear what decadence sounds like, go ahead and give this a spin. Otherwise, stay away from this mess. I bet cannibal tribes make more sensible music.

Report this review (#180769)
Posted Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
1 stars I own this as part of the compilation album Song To Comus. On the back of the CD case it says "For those connoisseurs of the sub-genre know as Acid Folk this long awaited compilation has at last arrived. For those who are here for the first time, hang on to your hats, you are in for a memorable ride." I cannot but agree with this statement.

However, I cannot understand why someone would think this is a masterpiece of progressive rock, since it is neither a masterpiece, nor particularly progressive, nor is it rock. Maybe this is a masterpiece of Acid Folk, but hardly one of progressive rock. There are almost no electric instruments and no drums (other than tribal percussion).

But a memorable ride it is. This is truly one of the weirdest albums in my record collection. Both the music and especially the lyrics are simply bizarre. Someone described this as "evil forest music" which describes it quite well, I think. Several of the songs are about rape and murder, and one about mental illness. Despite these horrid topics one cannot but laugh at some of the lyrical passages because they are so overdone. One passage from the track Song To Comus goes "Hymen hunter, hands of steel, crack you open and your red flesh peel, Pain procurer, eyes of fire, pierce your womb and push still higher, Comus rape, Comus break, sweet young virgin's virtue take, Naked flesh, flowing hair, her terror screams they cut the air". I hope I don't offend anyone with this question, but is this to be taken seriously or is this some kind of bizarre comedy?

The music, however, can sometimes be quite serious and haunting in tone, and sometimes there are wild outbursts of screams and atonal noise. Not pleasant on the ear at all. The male vocals are very strange and they are clearly not the vocalists "own" voice; he is clearly "acting" here. The least bad songs are Song To Comus and The Bite, the latter about a ritualistic hanging of a Christian!

For fans of Acid Folk, this album is probably essential. Not so for Prog Folk fans or Prog fans in general. I would certainly say that this album is extremely overrated here on Prog Archives.

First Utterance is not my idea of great music, but it is surely unique and fun (in a very bizzare kind of way).

Report this review (#184055)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Run wild through the dark wood

It's only fitting that Comus, a God of anarchy and chaos, should frighten some folks. Indeed there are moments in "First Utterance" where you feel like you are hanging out with the Manson family at the Barker Ranch. Yet it is precisely the authenticity factor that makes Comus the thrilling experience that it is. This was not an album made for the mainstream by a business posing as a band, with "street teams" of fans out there to push them on websites. This was not a band aspiring to sell their song for a TV commercial for chrissakes (Billy Corgan, how could you?) Rather you had a group of young people who managed to connect to a different plane of existence for a spell. Like Syd Barrett, Magma, or Jacula they have managed to create a piece of work that transports the listener out of the cozy linear world their brains like to reside in. A place that might not be safe. A place where danger exists. "First Utterance" belongs to a very small group of albums that are true masterpiece, not the sort of cookie-cutter "prog-rock" that some of today's popular acts repeat for us time and again. No, this is an entirely different beast.provoking images of shrouded figures huddled round a fire deep in the wood, plotting dark revelry and ribald under the ghostly moon. You can smell the cooking meat, the Satyr brewed wine on their breath, the dread of a ritual about to begin. First Utterance mattered because the music was something real and not simple entertainment. Hail to music that may awaken your pagan heart and make that vein on your neck bulge way out. Quite simply, if I could only take 10 albums with me to the proverbial desert island, there's a good chance Comus would be one of them.

Trying to describe the eerie, jubilant dance of Comus can only result in heartbreak. The songs absolutely fill me with the thrill but a few albums can and the standard adjectives don't suffice. First, the songs are complete contrasts of themselves, the lyrical themes being positively dark (evil, to some people) while the music is as mentioned, nothing short of beautiful, jubilant, and seductive. There is also a contrast in the vocal extremes with Wooton's croaking sounding like a dying gasp or maniacal madman while Bobbie Watson's voice is straight from an angel's song. The talent in these harmonies and their arrangements make me shiver with delight. The songs are supported by a base of acoustic guitars and bass often played more with a metal intensity than a folkie one, and of primal, ritual, hand-drumming. Atop this are some of the greatest vocal performances in my book, not in the traditional sense of perfect singing but in the unique places they take the vocals. And then you have the violin of Colin Pearson who shares the intensity of the guitarists and sounds often quite edgy, neurotic, frightened..bringing a deep sense of foreboding to the songs. Flute is another important aspect bringing the greatest sense of relief and ease to the album. All of these components are joined together with the spirit of fireside jamming, but guided by great composition instead of stoner noodlings, the compositions filled with drama, terror, and also great beauty. What makes tracks like "Diana" and "Drip Drip" so mind boggling is the inventive and original spirit Comus injects into them, these amazing melodies just Jekyll and Hyde you into next week, one moment pure ghastly horror and the next pure beauty in Watson's high end vocal, crystal clear. Joining them are these great hooks, devastating the way they surprise you. Listen to the places the violin goes on "Diana" and I promise you'll be scraping your grey matter off the wall. But it is not just a mellow acoustic ride, there are several places where they rock in an angsty speed-raga to an exhausting end. In the middle of these two gems is the treasure of "First Utterance," the deceptive calm of "The Herald." This single track is one of the finest I've heard, imagine an almost acoustic Kayo Dot-drifting vibe about the passage of time, a 12 minute gallery of mesmerizing images, serene but foreboding, captivating vocals and haunting guitar melodies. They throw everything into it here with several different sections moving from vocals to solo guitars to violin and woodwinds, the sounds of mysteries unfolding..the music of another world.

So important and timeless is "First Utterance" that I have to share some of the more passionate quotes I've found out there, I feel a real duty here to compile enough imagery to convince people they should hear this:

"The instrumentation is primarily acoustic, all the usual strings and woodwinds and percussives, and they wear their paganism on their sleeves. The very first song is a hymn to the goddess Diana, and the massed vocals don't merely sing about "the screaming woodland" and "the baying of the hounds," the munchkin chorus invokes and embodies these very things--and that's only the first minute or so of the LP. Theirs is not the happy, life-affirming paganism so fashionable these days; theirs is the sound of dread and paranoia, of remembrance, of fear and loathing, of friends and lovers lost to the Burning Times and the need for true love to rectify all evils. You can't listen to this for five minutes without wondering about these people's various lifestyle choices and comparing them with your own." [blogger melodylaughter]

"It probably helps that most of the stuff that shouldn't work is anchored by a maddeningly proficient group of instrumentalists. The bass work here is endlessly fascinating, the strings and woodwinds are used to perfect effect all over the place and the jazzy bongo playing is a treat that's never overused. It's all anchored by an excellent sense of melody and some simple yet effective guitar playing. It's also dark as hell; the mood sets in during the first part of the epic The Herald and never lightens all that much. The atmosphere this creates is stunning, and more importantly it never clouds the songwriting despite being completely enveloping. I wish I had more to say, but it really is an album you need to hear in order to believe." [RYM - troutmask]

"It almost justifies humanity." [RYM - Siegmann]

"Paganism was at the root of all of us, until it was choked out... This record harkens back to that lost, burned, and raped era so realistically. It is great to hear a band rediscover an old sound that is timeless in new ways. Drip Drip is sensational, the rhythms are tribal, and the violin is repetitive, its solo sounds like the confuscation of rose petals, of a collection of things found in the forest, of a feast. Primal, yet refined sound. Cheesy, yet not at all obvious, in fact compelling in the way things from 1500+ yrs ago are summoned up again. The most appealing thing about this album is a lack of cynicism." [RYM - catalogueatolic]

"But you are different. The listening has changed you. You are no longer the same person. Music is no longer a safe place to be. Music no longer transports you elsewhere to a place you want to be. It has taken you to a place where no-one wants to go. You do not want to go back there. But you know you will. The music has drawn you into the darkest depths of your own psyche and shown you the savagery which lies within you. Comus is not an entity distinct from you any more. Comus is you. You will never be the same again. Something horrifying lurks within you, always has. It's just that now you know it." [RYM - cherryeater]

Those final thoughts may be on the dramatic side, but are entirely appropriate for the followers of Comus whom are nothing if not passionate. This music has held up amazingly well and proven a great inspiration for the neo-Acid Folk movement and even Opeth who claim an influence. In terms of modern artists imagine the irreverent spirit of a Devandra Banhart fronting a band with the visuals-inducing depth of Miasma and the Carousel of HH. It is an essential title for anyone who appreciates imagination pushed way beyond the boundaries of everyday musical tastes and acceptable social mores. While the second side cannot match the bumper to bumper masterpiece that is side one, overall I have to give "First Utterance" the highest rating possible. Out of the thousands of albums I've heard in my lifetime, it is one of the very few that provide an actual experience beyond music, so special as to be one of those recordings you will mention when a friend asks what your favorite albums are. As guitarist Glenn Goring warns newcomers to Comus: "hang on to your hats, you are in for a memorable ride."

One important postscript: be sure to get the CD collection "Song to Comus." In addition to getting their second album as a bonus and extra goodies, this version of First Utterance has cleaned-up sound quality that apparently knocks the socks off of other CD releases. The sound is very good on this edition whereas I've read complaints about other CD versions. Plus you'll get to hear everything they ever recorded for one fair price, and it comes with a nice bio. Included in those extra tracks is their maxi-single, plus a never-before-released outtake from the First Utterance sessions, the beautiful "All the Colors of Darkness."

Report this review (#206758)
Posted Thursday, March 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Really one of the best predominantly acoustic alba I've ever heard. The outstanding Drip Drip on its own receives five stars from me, as well as The Bite and its successor Bitten; the rest deserves a fair hearing, but won't ever reach the level of the above mentioned!

Drip Drip, their genuine epic, starts with a nice driping guitar intro and moody vocals for one minute, then the song starts with the beautiful lines:

"Your soft white flesh turns past me, slaked with blood Your evil eyes, more damning than a demon's curse Your lovely body, soon cacked with mud As I carry you to your grave, MY ARMS YOUR HEARSE (<-- often quoted: e.g. Opeth)

You stand before me, defenceless Your stare, unchanging Silent, cold, intens Sears my brain..."

I love lyrics of this level brought to us by screaming vocals, accompanied by nice backing "choirs".

The Bite is no epic, but an "ordinary" song telling the tale of a convicted christian, who is being hanged. Very nice are, apart from, again, the lyrics, the high backing vocals, singing exactly the same as the leading vocals. The main theme, instrumentally, of the song gets you swing allong on the sounds and dance on the most dark lyrics you've ever danced upon. Personally, I think The Bite is about the donwfall of Christianity in general, killed by the society - As Friedrich stated: "Gott ist tot..."

Bitten is the followup of The Bite, and presents us with the world what it will look like after the loss of religion (The Bite).

4 Stars

Report this review (#212188)
Posted Thursday, April 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
SaltyJon
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars At first, I was wary of giving this album the full 5 star rating, but upon a very quickly realized second thought, I decided it's very deserving of it. This is dark, evil prog folk at some of its very best.

The album starts off with a song dedicated to the goddess of hunting, Diana. The song has a very driving percussion backing which brings to mind what I would imagine horses to sound like carrying someone on a hunt. The vocals carry on the theme of the song very well, depicting a hunter lusting after a prey and pushing on until he's gotten what he wants. 9/10

Next up is what is possibly one of the most beautiful folk prog songs written, The Herald. It's an even more acoustic piece than the first, with bass not showing its face very often. The vocals by the female vocalist in this song are captivating. This song can bring serenity into my life at rather hectic times, and is among my top 20 songs ever, prog or otherwise. 13/10

We don't get to stay so calm and serene for long, though. Drip Drip ensures that. The song has a very dark, disturbing sound to it, aided by the vocals. It seems to be about some sort of murder, whether something personal or ritual I don't know. Another very high quality song, which seems to be the normal with this album. 10/10

Song to Comus is next. Comus is, according to the Theoi Project, the god of revelry, merrymaking and festivity, also shown to represent chaos. The song displays a certain sort of chaos and terror, mainly on the part of young women who Comus takes advantage of. 9/10

The Bite is the song which displays the most similarities to the more conventional prog folk bands like Jethro Tull. The theme of the song remains dark, this time about a hanging. Good song, but after the first four is a very slight drop in quality. 8.5/10

The only song on the album without vocals, Bitten is lacking that which I feel to be a very essential part of the band's sound, the unusual vocals. It's an interesting piece, fairly experimental and some of the violin reminds me of bits of King Crimson's improv pieces on Red. Not as good as the rest of the album, but still worth a listen. 7.5/10

The final song of the album ends up on another good note, with The Prisoner. It depicts someone in a mental institution after some mad wanderings about. The vocals continue on to be a plea by the character to be freed, as he feels to be cured from whatever was ailing him. The song is very good, and can leave you feeling just a wee bit insane yourself if you allow it. It serves as a very good ending to an exceptional album by a band which sadly didn't put out much more material. 9.5/10

Overall, between the consistently excellent music and the intriguing cover art, this album is one which is very deserving of a place in any prog fan's collection.

(9+13+10+9+8.5+7.5+9.5)/7=9.5/10

Report this review (#213934)
Posted Tuesday, May 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Laden with acoustic instruments and a hectic, almost chaotic nature almost unheard of in progressive folk circles, Comus is an entirely different beast. Wild, tribal-like rhythms with strange crying out can make this an almost uncomfortable listen. The female vocals are strikingly gorgeous, and a much needed contrast to the unbridled male lead singer. There are several parts to the album that have a weird appeal, but it isn't enough to keep me coming back to this creepy one.

"Diana" Discordant violin and screeching voices make up the bulk of this bizarre first song. There is a hand drum interlude and other odd musical fare. In the end, the title is repeated in a low growl.

"The Herald" Take the eerie whistling noise of Genesis's "The Waiting Room" and add gentle acoustic guitar, and that's the beginning of this track. After almost four minutes, a brief silence ensues, and more pleasing guitar returns. The violin is far more pleasant here than on the first song, as is the instrumentation in general. After another four minutes, there is another silence, and an airy, almost desolate sound rises from the nothingness. A lovely feminine voice carries on over it with other singers, like a choir of spirits in the ether.

"Drip Drip" Dobro and an acoustic guitar give this an old-fashioned swamp blues feel at first. The music is far harsher than the calm sounds of the previous song. The male vocalist is astringent with his singing over hand percussion, incessant violin, guitar, and hypnotic rhythms. The mesmerizing dance degenerates eventually, and becomes something even more unspeakable. The sound is akin to some distant tribe attempting to conjure their gods. The bass riff reminds me very much of "The Talking Drum" from King Crimson. The third part of the song begins abruptly, with gruesome vocals that are almost madness-inducing.

"Song to Comus" A repetitive bass riff, punctuated by a rhythmic striking of guitar and echoing vocals begins this bizarre track. A woodwind instrument makes an appearance from time to time, and the repetitive violin is actually a nice touch. "The Bite" Eccentric vocals and wild instrumentation make up this shorter track. The woman voices long notes in the background while, for once, the man is restrained a bit. The acoustic bass is very audible on this, and sets a good riff for the other instrumentalists to work over. The lyrics, however, are dark, describing the execution of a Christian by hanging.

"Bitten" The one short piece on the album is an avant-garde bunch of quirky noises that maintain the dark tenor of the album. A lone violin peaks through.

"The Prisoner" The conclusion of the album involves odd acoustic guitar bends and rapidly plucked chords before becoming something far more coherent than anything else present on this record. The soft, muffled vocals and lighter instrumentation make this sound like a classic acoustic rock song of the 1960s. The final part of the song, however, is one last bite from the monster of frenzy, full of tribal rhythms and peculiar voices.

Report this review (#215696)
Posted Thursday, May 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's always difficult to write reviews about the albums which came out over 30 years ago, just because of the fact that today we have absolutely overloaded market. And in such ocean of "chaos", I decide for a quite brave step of writing review for Comus' album "First Utterance", which has appeared in 1971. Seven served songs, mainly oriented as progressive rock with folk influences. Those what decorates "First Utterance" is the feeling of strangeness. Once you listen it, you will be covered with some kind of mystery wimple. A circus atmosphere, screams, vocal "contortions", violin tours, gracefully sounds of oboe and flute are just some of the elements which go over this release. Opening track, "Diana" has appeared as a single in 1971, and in fact all these elements I mentioned above are present in this song. I'd like to mention that Swedish band Opeth used the part from song lyrics as a title of the one song from their album "Ghost Reveries" ("The Baying of the Hounds):

"And she knows by the sound of the baying, by the baying of the hounds"

By lyrical side, this song deals with violence and ravishment.

Next track is "The Herald", and personally it's my favourite from the album. Starts very smoothly by acoustic passage with addition of admirably female vocals of Bobbie Watson and flute that makes you feel soaring. I would especially highlighted intermediate part of the song, which is fulfilled with amazing acoustic decompositions of Glenn Goring and Roger Wootton.

"Drip Drip" deals again with violence and musically it's a song inflated with energy, reanimated with vocal lines, with acoustic riffing and hand drums. Mikael Akerfeldt used the part of the sentence from the song for the title of the album "My Arms, Your Hearse":

"As I carry you to your grave, my arms your hearse"

Now we come to my next favourite from "First Utterance". A song called "Song to Comus". Echoic vocals, followed by screams, with flute all over which fits very well, the changes in the rhythm, from fast to low and backwards. I'd say - "complete" song. Lyrically this one beside violence, also deals with murder and rape.

"Hymen hunter, hands of steel, crack you open and your red flesh peel. Pain procurer, eyes of fire pierce your womb and push still higher. Comus rape, Comus break sweet young virgin's virtue take. Naked flesh flowing hair her terror screams they cut the air."

"The Bite" shows "wildness" over vocal and instrumental lines, but the sound of flute crushes diversion by producing nice melodies and placing them in between.

"Bitten" comes as a continuation of "The Bite" and it's just an instrumental lane towards next song, consisted of a classical violin supported by harsh dark noise.

The last song on the album, "The Prisoner", is a verdict of the story called "First Utterance". With amazing acoustic guitar channel, this songs develops and justifies "progressive" destination. It's dynamic, "mobile" song which ends this album with frantic vocals. As a fan of Comus, I'm waiting eagerly to hear something new from their hands, regards of they reunited and announced new album for near future.

"Comes the sunlight, summer day, Comus wakes, he starts to play, play, play, play, play, play, play..."

Report this review (#217354)
Posted Friday, May 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pink Floyd presents Jethro Tull meets dirty Harry in:

Comus - First Utterance

This is quite the polarizing album. For a folk rock disc, it features quite the heavy (at least in an emotional and atmosphere standpoint). Not to mention it all has a loose, yet raw jam blues feel to it. This, paired with the somewhat nonstandard musical ideas, such as the fierce and impassioned wild vocals, the loosely atmospheric darkness, and the tribal world music influences, makes for quite the intriguing listen.

Diana begins as a microcosm of how the album will flow, but it doesn't show half the melodic and passionately dark music that one could discover herein. The violin soloing, the tribal bongo drum fills, and the dark pastoral imagery laid out in the lyrics, it all adds up to one of the most vilely vibrant moods that I've come across, making this particular album very emotionally catching.

The Herald and Drip Drip are more free form and progressive in their evil folk approach. With the former being more melodic and structure based, while still stripping most rational form away, while the latter is sinister and flows like a blues jam. The solos are interesting and never overstayed, and there is a breadth of fine melodies.

The vocals go between a deft English melodic falsetto high, and the staggering barbaric tribal guttural growl singing. The musicians are skilled, and the so called psychedelic touches are furiously endearing. The lyrics stay in a pagan, mystical, and violently dark zone, with themes of death, insanity, rape, pagan gods, loneliness, etc. This fits the music very well. I feel the album dips slightly near the end of The Bite, but picks up instantly as soon as The Prisoner begins. Where Bitten has atonal whitewash crashing against you.

The Prisoner caps well. It doesn't reach the rather lofty heights set by the first four songs, but it is still fantastic. In all, this is a dark and naturally mystical journey. The music is constantly intriguing and forcefully embracing, the themes are violent in a tasteful manner, and the melodies are top notch. Hardly any time is wasted in the 45 minutes, save for a few moments I found to be of lesser quality near the end of the album. This album was quite influential to the few who heard it, and hosts a large array of progressions and musical depth. Where it lacks in overall qualitative cohesion, it deftly makes up for in sheer captivating prowess. Highly Recommended.

Best Moment - Diana

Worst Moment - Parts of The Bite/Bitten

**** Powerful stars.

Report this review (#218732)
Posted Thursday, May 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion( and I am forced to assume it's certainly nobody else's) this is one of the best albums ever recorded( top five!). Listening to it I've experienced the despair of a condemned convict, the mind of the insane, the panic of a rape runaway and the eternal duality between the rapist/murder's desire and personal anguish. All those conflicts, feelings and suggestions are so accurately portrayed on this album that it gives me chills. And it's all so nicely portrayed, folks, exclusively by sound( perfect melodies, perfect vocals) and poetry( very intense and powerful, hence beautiful) I feel scared and unproctected and yet I feel sympathy for the rapist as I see some of his sick madness in me... I've never read, seen or listened to another piece of art that sucessfuly evoked that kind of image. First Utterance is an epic to all of us that have loved too much, so much that began to ask in the darkness of a brain what to do in order to have this love consumated/corresponded. A love so pure that is ugly, primitive, wild. A love we fear to feel, that we are damned to feel.

Oh, by the way, it's a good folk album as well.

Report this review (#223904)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Comus - First Utterance (1971)

Not for every-one. Essential for some.

This is one the most honest artistic moments of history. It's real, is confronting! It has a short story with a lot of misery in it and everything is put on music as bleak as possible. In short: Comus (person) is a mentally unhealthy person that rapes a girl, gets into prison and suffers a lot. The great artwork represents the music very well and strengthens it. I got it for my birthday, it was a present from my girlfriend. Little did she know the music was about a rapist!

I've read a lot of reviews on PA before and after I got the record. A lot people clearly didn't like it and the descriptions are often not very accurate. I'll try to describe the music as good as possible. The album has no 'ugly' music, but has a lot of functional music that suit the ugly moments. In addition it has some pure magical acoustic moments that would appeal a lot to fans of the symphonic and folk genre. The vocals have a lot of different styles on the album. Diana has almost witch-like vocals with some very psychedelic acid vocals of Roger Wootton, The Herald has some of best female folk vocals ever recorded: gentle, melodic, female. On some moments it gets a bit haunting. Drip Drip has a lot of psychedelic vocals by Wootton. Even the rapescene is put to music with crazy lyrics like ''I'll be gentle, I'll be gentle' sung like right from hell. This is however essential because of how ugly the scene is. Song to Comus has beautifull, but strange double vocals on the couplet themes and some more psycho Wootton vocals on the bridges. The Prisoner has desperate vocals of Wootton and judging female vocals by Watson.

The music itself has a lot of differences among the album. Diana has a relative normal folkish sound that is somehow distorted by the strange way of playing and recording it. The guitars and violins are confronting and a bit aggressive.

On the Herald the guitar lines a plain beautiful and memorable. A lot of people might actually like this specific track. The folkish guitar lines have progressive melodies and are atmospheric throughout.

Drip drip is more psychedelic with a some of the best psychedelic melodies I've ever heard. This song is one of the hardest to get into however because of the rape scene in the end. "You stand before me, defenceless".. Comus does his terrible deed and the music suits the moment. This is a moment of true pain and extreme confusion.

Song to Comus has a very gentle couplet theme that's both intelligent and catchy. The bridges are more aggressive. Did song is available on PA and I recommend you to listen to it a couple of times. It has a lot of elements of Comus, and it has conclusive lyrics of everything what happened so far. Pure beauty.

The Bite and Bitten get the record on the dark track again. Comus get's even more confused. On The Prisoner Comes complains that he's being misunderstood and asks why a mentally confused person must be treated like this. In pain he lies in his prison cell.

Conclusion. This is not for every-one on PA. It's not even specific for prog-folk listeners. This is true Acid-folk without any consensus seeking. It is recommended to people who can listen to confronting psychedelics like VdGG and Jan-Dukes de Grey. For me this is an ultimate masterpiece of progressive music. It's so good and specific that it never got a great audience and never will have. Still it has it's dedicated fans and I've become one of them. If you like you adore, If you don't like you'll never understand how another person could ever like this freaky horror-show. Though I admit this is for fans only, I give it five stars. It's an essential masterpiece and it's quality should have given it a high rank in the PA top 100. Comus, thank you for being so honest and making an album with a concept no-one ever would have dared singing about except you guys. True prog.

Report this review (#260624)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I dont know how to start to even write a word on this monstruosity! This disc is like nothing ive heard in my life, is a unique record anyway you want to put it. "First Utterance" is a devilish, ultra-pagan, really funny and creepy opus magnus. In it the Milton´s poem is twisted upside down so the animal demonic lust ( Comus) wins by the hand to the virtue, and you can imagine is not for anyreason..... But that is not saying almost nothing of this recorded grandeur. I read Comus members were friends of Bowie, and that makes a lot of sense by a lot of reasons, first because one of the roots of Bowie (being the other the Warhol Reed New york urban escene) is a tricky pagan stand, second because you can hear Bowie using Roger Wooton singing antics and technics in "Black Country Rock" for example. Also i think some lines in "The Man Who Sold the World" disc are refering to Comus members ( dont know wich song exactly) were "they pushing his friends to the dark side of town" That is normal because theres no way Comus have been a should out, they thing is so aunthentic, so disturbing, so evil.... that Black Shabbat seems nursery music in comparision. But i tink is funny to think Bowie and Comus taking some of theyr (utterly demonic) musical skills from an Aquelarre, or a very dark witch english ( I should say Celtic?) coven. In fact the first thing that amazes the listener is the vocal tricks and goblin like voices theyr so disturbing that you wonder if its just really technical modulations. Then you are raptted ( not a metaphor) by the most pagan and dark music you ever heard, just "Venus in Furs" can be compared to that. But one of the things that really hook me is...they are simply funny, like Reed have never been ( althought he have pretended to ). Theyr music blends cruelty with exilaration in a incredibly way, because the dark side enances the funny side and the oposite is also true. But this is in no way urban.....is some ritual "deep in the woods" music. You have the feeling sometimes this is the music from the Hiperborean age that made human and monsters have theyr "finnal fisical comunion" in the Leng plain ( Lovecraft of course). They really know how to be hipnotyc, ghostly, carnal, demonic, witchy....!wicked!

"Diana" starts with a wonderfull bass line ( yes the first thing that comes to your mind is trolls in the forest) and the vocal halucinations that your gonna hear all along the discs. In the middle part you can hear some dark violins from a Celtic hell. !So great!

"The herald" the acustic song with strange and blisfull melodies. Theres some really great acoustic guitars and several fadings and comings of the music. It makes me feel like im hearing the Sirens that almost killed Ulises, a strange dreamy atmosphere blowing trought the song.

"Drip, Drip" Whoa! This is genius especialy for the 70. It starts with a creepy musical phrase and then it goes to a celtic wonderfull section wich then turns into the chorus so nicely ( chorus that is the grandfather of every dark metal music ever). Then the music fades and a pagan bubling freak out begins, the violins crescendo leaving you without breath ( who says that you cant dance to Prog music?). Then you are lead into the ubber hilarious and terrorific section of the"fisical comunion..ill be gentle"...it always makes me laugh! is so impossible and weird!! and then some freaking melodic nightmare and incredible acoustic guitar dark riffs. In theyr defense ( if possible) i would say that the topic of the song seems to be an ambiguity between a ritual murder and the Miltons Comus. In the poem Comus gives a brew to the girls that makes them as dionisian as the Bacantes. Thats why this something dripping from the saging lip could be as well blood as the Comus poison.

"Song to Comus" Fantastic! A dark masterpiece with an inminent atmosphere substained on one chord. Roger Wooton making the most incredible voices and effects: He beats his cheast in a hiccuping stravaganza i never heard before, and of course he sings like a black goat. The celtic ending of phrases is stimulating at least.

"The Bitte" start with what it seems to be the "Cat Scracth Fever" riff but faster darker and..acoustic. The music is wonderfull with different changes a pagan blown-out, with dramatic crescendos. The song´s lyrics are the narration of they last and creepy day of a christian hollowed by his creed...to death, of course.

"Bitten" is a demonic violin mood, made of disonances ( some triton or just hundreds?).

"The Prisioner" is one of the most funny songs ive heard. It starts with a joyfull melody, even too melodic and pastoral for my taste, but the lyrics.....are at least making a counterpoint...they sing about a guy wich thinks is crazy, and is about to recive shock tratment...he seems to be happy to be normal...but hes just an introvert freak and is destroyed in a mental assylum. The message seems to be "Dont be worried of being mad unleash you are caged in a mental hospital". The dramatic hard sections are very enancing and freaky.

Four stars and a quarter for these demons.

Report this review (#265071)
Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nice concept album of Comus. Progressive Folk but with lot of interestingn music contexts with some psichedelic Space Rock and Shynphonic Prog parts. Very calm with some nice female chorus and voices that made a relaxing atmosphere. Very nice for a SPA. They don't make any adiction of Folk british influencies and I think that this album are including in this music group because is very calm and have lots of harmony. Not boring and very good for quit moments that we need sometimes. I like all the moments of this work that is very nice and a good adiction of Folk Progressive collectors. I give 4 stars because it's a important album of begining 70 décade and the instruments choice for this work made a happy moments. I don't really apreciate Progressive Folk but some albuns I must recognise that are great in inspiration and conceptualization and I have some of them in my collection because I apreciate inovation and some quit moments in my life. 4 stars and it's a great album.
Report this review (#267417)
Posted Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Truly haunting & horrifying.

This album can scare you to death. Frighting lyrics, cacophonous melodies; a mysterious & challenging piece of art. Once the album begins the feeling hits you. In its entirety, First Utterance is a journey. You get taken places you never imagined possible. While every song offers itself lyrically & musically, the true masterpieces on the album are: "Drip Drip" (which I find myself singing constantly, creepy, because this song is about rape), "The Herald", and "Song to Comus". These songs are true masterpieces in the genre of freak folk, and they are very progressive no doubt! This album is ideal for any fan of intense progressive folk, but First Utterance has its share of beautiful melodies as well. First Utterance puts heavy metal to shame. Even without any electric guitars or pounding drums, this album still manages to scare anyone silly.

4 stars.

Report this review (#267540)
Posted Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I got this album I just listen small parts of the songs fast rewinding them just trying to see what is this all about. All I heard was some strange sounds crazy rhythms annoying violin and sometimes nice female singing. I realized that this is not normal folk album but some kind psychedelic acid horror which normally I am not big fan of. Then I have read some of the revives and in mine disbelief found out what this album is about.A mentally sick person rapes a girl? What a horror. How can anyone make a music about that I was convict that I would rate this album with just one star.Than I decided to thoroughly listen all song so I can fairly describe the music.

Opening of the first song "Diana" has confirmed mine suspicion. Psychedelic violin and crazy singing. Than suddenly violin produced nice melody and male voice starts to sing. I had to admit voice had certain energy in it. Violin continue and rhythm starts to build-up, like in some kind of shamanic ritual. I did not expect this. its a great song. You cannot resist rhythm and I cannot escape feeling that this song has something demonic in it. Next song "the Herald" is normal folk ballad with atmospheric sounds of guitar and beautiful female voices. Its long over 12 minutes.Next song "Drip Drip" (awkward name for a song) music starts in same awkward fashion, than this gay Roger Wootton start to sing. His voice is perfect for this kind of music. Just a bit ruff on the ages. Listen only sounds that he makes on this song they are on perfect places and they are building the atmosphere following the rhythm. After this first part this crazy song continues in fast psychedelic rhythm. Than comes the scene of rapeing as far I could understand lyrics he is first threatening the girl "shall I cat you down" than he lunaticly repeating 'I'll be gentle, I'll be gentle".And then in the and when he is finish he is saying to her "I love you". So realistic and sick as the real think could be. This guy actual wrote convincingly song about reaping. By this time I realized that this album is special (not because of reaping but because of music). Song to Comus starts with a nice acoustic guitar accompanied wit flute. Than starts the echoing singing and after a wile rhythm builds up and Wootton again start his crazy singing. Rhythm slows down, flute again joins and again energetic singing returns with fast rhythm. Song continues in similar fashion for couple of minutes. This is another great song.

I want say noting more about Comus - First Utterance. I recommend this album to everyone who like great progressive music.Songs ratings:special songs that cannot be rated (out of scale): Diana, drip drip, song to comus, the prisoner. five star: the herald, the bite, bitten. Essential a true masterpiece of acid folk.

Report this review (#283059)
Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars I only got acquainted with Comus in 2008 when their reunion concert was announced as a part of the Melloboat cruise, which also featured Anekdoten, Opeth and Mats-Morgan + special guests. After seeing this band in such a good company it made me even more interested in this little known '70s treasure. At first I hesitated to pay the price of almost $30 for a Japanese paper sleeve edition of First Utterance but seeing the praise that this album has received in the prog community I felt obliged to bite the bullet and lay my money down.

What I was met with was quite an extraordinary take on the Prog Folk genre that I honestly didn't expect to hear on such an early recording. Granted that the golden years of Prog Folk were between '71-'72, Comus' First Utterance didn't really fall in with the classics like Aqualung, Thick As A Brick or Stormcock. This was quite different beast that, to my ears, sounded more like a dark and more sinister version of the band Curved Air. Even thought I was positively surprised by what I heard this album was far from an easy listening experience meaning that I need to take at least one break throughout the record's 50 minute duration. There was something in this music that felt dark and unsoothing for my tastes. Eventually I began feeling comfortable listening to First Utterance but this didn't really make me want to pick it off the shelf on a spontaneous occasion. Even today I felt like a mental preparation was in order before I pressed play on my player.

The opening track Diana is probably the most digestible track of the bunch with a well defined chorus and overall structure. This is of course more an exception than a rule and the 12 minute long The Herald highlighted this very clearly. The lengthy track had an almost hypnotic, psychedelic-like, quality to its middle section which makes it stick out even more out of the bunch. Drip Drip is a notorious composition that has inspired quite a few generations of fans among which is Mikael Ĺkerfeldt who even titled the third Opeth album with a direct quote out of its lyrics.

Song To Comus is the most melodic moment which might not be all that representable for the rest of this material, still it's easily my favorite performance which probably tells you more about me than anything about First Utterance. The combo of The Bite/Bitten is another occasion that reminds me a great deal of Curved Air. The latter of the two is a dark and atmospheric instrumental that I guess is suppose to depict the restlessness and transformation. The final track, The Prisoner, is actually a bit of a disappointment in both its lyrical and structural arrangements. After such a strong performance throughout the rest of the album Comus delivered a very ordinaire conclusion that doesn't really fit in with the moody material before and instead reminds me more of a Jefferson Airplane performance from around that same era.

It's undeniable that Comus recorded something unique with their first utterance on the music world which should be enough for me to recommend this album. Unfortunately I'm still struggling to truly enjoy this music which ultimately makes it impossible to award it more than a very strong good, but non-essential grade on my part. I'm sure that this recording will receive a few more revisits from me over the years by I doubt that it will ever become an important part of my record collection.

***** star songs: Song To Comus (7:30)

**** star songs: Diana (4:36) The Herald (12:11) Drip Drip (10:52) The Bite (5:29)

*** star songs: Bitten (2:19) The Prisoner (6:18)

Report this review (#287975)
Posted Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first album from this group of folky weirdos. The music here is 90% acoustic, yet can sometimes have the intensity of metal. Both male and female vocals along with acoustic guitars, percussion, violin, flute and slide guitar are the main things you hear. The male vocals sometimes sound like Roger Chapman of Family. I've never heard the second album but it's not supposed to be as good as First Utterance is. There definately is an ancient, pagan feel to the music. Most of the lyrics are pretty creepy, being about rape and murder and whatnot.

"Diana" has an almost bluesy feel. Great violin during first chorus. Creepy harmony vocals. Nice percussion in the middle. Good bass during second chorus. "The Herald" is the longest song. Starts with a sound(violin?) that I've heard in GYBE songs. Acoustic guitar and female vocals. More instruments come in later. About 3:45 the music fades out. Fades back in with a different section of acoustic guitar. Later violin. About 7:52 music fades out again. Fades back in with the sound at the beginning and wordless vocals. Later more female vocals and some harmony vocals.

The 'chorus' part of "Drip Drip" is good with violin and female vocals. Good violin in the middle. After that, electric bass and percussion which sounds almost like a drum machine. The part that goes "I'll be gentle" is creepy. During "Song To Comus", the last word of most sentences gets repeated. The music picks up and gets more intense. Music stops then verses start again. Then percussion and violin. Later female back up vocals and bass. Near the end some great guitar before all the instruments join in. Music stops and then the beginning part is reprised at the end.

"The Bite" for some reason reminds me of '80s Iron Maiden at the start with the vocals and chords. This part comes back near the end. "Bitten" is instrumental filler. "The Prisoner" has good harmony vocals. You hear "insane...insane" go back and forth in the stereo spectrum at the end. This is a great album, but it's only something I want to listen to when I'm in the mood. I'm no expert in Prog Folk, but I assume this is a lot darker and manic than the majority of music in that genre. 3.5 rounded off to 4 stars.

Report this review (#348716)
Posted Friday, December 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Masterpiece of Depravity

Comus' FIRST UTTERANCE is a now legendary album, noted mostly for its demented sound and lyrical content. It was panned by critics at the time, and its poor commercial showing forced the band to break up. They would regroup for one more album on David Bowie's dime, and some of their notoriety now is due the fandom of Opeth leader Mikael Akerfeldt. (Mikael took the name of one of his albums, "My Arms, Your Hearse", from a "Drip Drip" lyric, and a later song, "Baying of the Hounds," from the lead track "Diana.") Certainly, there is an ethic to the album that would fall squarely in a metal vibe these days. But it is precisely the pairing of the upbeat folky sounds with the almost demonic content that makes the album so evocative.

Most "acid folk" tries to create woodland faerie soundscapes but leans more on languid acid than danceable folk. Comus, however, truly evokes a scene of European tribalism. The guitar strumming is crazed, on top of the beat, full of energy. (They actually use the famous "Pinball Wizard" acoustic rhythm throughout the song "Drip Drip.") Though one song, "The Herald" is more traditionally dreamy, the majority of the album is tense, quick, and sharp. This is not a bunch of hippies around a campfire, these are satyrs stomping on the hard earth with cloven hooves.

Gremlins, demons, elves on crack, all sorts of fantasy creatures have been used to describe Roger Wooton's vocals and overall mood of FIRST UTTERANCE. But this is clearly satyr music. Immersed in hedonism, paganism, and untamed danger. These aren't the powers of evil, these are their mortal minions. In contrast, Bobbie Watson provides a more traditional "fair maiden" sound to the mix, but the act comes with a knowing wink. She's clearly part already of the bacchanalian orgy. There is no fear in her voice.

All of the fantasy imagery aside, where I must give credit where credit is due is the music itself. The compositions are deceptively well constructed. While the pressured energy makes the music seem chaotic, the songs are actually quite deliberately structured. The accompaniment of flute and violin contains very specific melodic themes for each song, and their textural additions are clearly very intentional. I never get the feeling that we're listening to a free form jam. Even the Univers Zero-like, free time experiment "Bitten" has a very specific role in the pacing of the album, and the sad violin is clearly playing a written part. The rhythm section (definitely including guitar here, along with various hand drums, no trapset) is powerful, inducing movement at every moment. The guitar playing is loose in a good way. Though quite nimble, it's never showy, and always contributing to the overall mood of the song, however crazed that might be. The recurring glissandos by the slide guitar are extremely effective and the fast fingerpicking works perfectly.

So what makes this "Progressive" Folk? Probably the most important aspect is the ambitious reach of the album which is reflected in several multipart epic tracks. These succeed completely in their intention of telling a story that moves in terms of mood and plot. Certainly, the level of composition is much higher than typical 3 or 4 chord strumalongs. The incorporation of tribal drumming is not unique but ups the ante. In addition, the level of theatrics would make Peter Gabriel proud. These musicians aren't just troubadours telling a story. They are active participants in a festival. And finally, the album itself is very consciously constructed. It feels like a concept album because the music moves so well from one mood and sound to another. I had to look up the lyrics to assure myself that it was, in fact, simply a collection of separate songs.

There is a part of me that has trouble giving praise to an album that sings about rape and murder with such excitement. Certainly these have been subjects of folk music both old and new (listen to Gillian Welch's "Caleb Meyer" for an excellent modern version). But when the story is told from the point of view of the perpetrator with seething glee, something in me wants to show my disdain and my revulsion. We absorb what we immerse ourselves in, and I do not want any of this seeping into my soul.

However, the fact that this record evokes true revulsion at the subject matter, while so many others dealing with the same subject do not, tells you how effective the musical expression on this album is. The listener is drawn in by the excitement and novelty of the instruments, which from the first note communicate frenzied anxiety. The impish vocals fit the morbid lyrics, everything fits together perfectly. I don't get the sense that this is some horror show, rubber mask affair. I get the feeling that these guys sold their soul to the devil and I shouldn't be listening to it. And to deny the devil's power is folly. This is a masterpiece, but of something terrible.

Report this review (#355548)
Posted Friday, December 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I think to be able to put this album into some sort of context we need to look at what inspired it, and when. "First Utterance" was inspired by a John Milton play that was given in 1634 at Ludlow Castle in honour of one John Egerton the Earl of Bridgewater who had just been elevated to Lord President of Wales. It was a time of celebration. One can imagine from the lyrics here what this play / musical must have looked like. The story was set in the wild wood where pagan sorcerer King Comus ruled.There was no censorship back then and you know from the nursery rhymes from that era that shielding people from gory and disgusting things wasn't priority number one. So this is a concept piece that deals with rape, murder, sacrifice and mental illness. "Dark Side Of The Moon" and "Crime Of The Century" this is not ! This is as intense and nerve wracking a listen that I have ever experienced. It is both disturbing and revolting. It's like we are given a window into the mind of a pagan who has no morals let alone compassion for others.The cover art by the way is as dark and ugly as the subject matter. I don't think i've ever felt sick after hearing music before like I did during this at times. Having said all those things I have to say that I love the instrumental music on here, and in the liner notes they describe it as an acoustic backdrop that is densley woven. The male and female vocals are fantastic. He sings like a sheep at times and he reminded me right away of the singer on that SPLIT ENZ debut with that warble in his voice.

"Diana" has such a cool rhythm to it with that violin, it reminds me of THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE. The percussion is a nice touch after 2 minutes. "The Herald" has a haunting intro as acoustic guitar joins in then female vocals. Flute and violin follow. A beautiful sound after 2 1/2 minutes.Great track ! "Drip Drip" has some raw acoustic guitar early but it does settle when the male vocals and percussion comes in. Backing female vocals with flute also arrive. Check out the theatrical vocals after 8 minutes.The violin is back 9 1/2 minutes in along with the vocals.

"Song To Comus" opens with strummed guitar as flute then male vocals join in. Female vocals too then it turns a little frenzied after 2 minutes before settling right down again as contrasts continue. "The Bite" is led by flute, acoustic guitar and violin early on.The tempo picks up and male vocals join in. I really like the flute in this uptempo track. "Bitten" is a short and fairly dissonant piece. "The Prisoner" has these intricate sounds as vocals arrive just before a minute. Percussion before 3 minutes as it picks up while the vocals continue. A calm before 4 minutes then it kicks back in.

This truly is a one of a kind album that was made without taking into consideration that people have boundries that they don't want to cross. Consider my boundries breached.

Report this review (#455943)
Posted Thursday, June 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Heathen witchcraft, brutal crimes, and horrifying persecutions are the order of the day in this incredible album, a progressive folk-rock masterpiece whose pagan/occult obsessions and dark tone would eventually influence an entire genre of twisted electric neofolk performers. With regular borrowings of themes from classical myths and a singer who's midway between a more operatic Peter Hammill and a more strident Peter Gabriel, this should not be mistaken for another Genesis-like pastoral prog album - no, this is a discordant, edgy, psychedelic, experimental masterpiece, with moments of haunting beauty filtering through a twisted perspective on folkish material. A truly unique, truly wonderful album, over a decade ahead of its time, which deserves a second chance. Five stars.
Report this review (#471420)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
The Truth
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars The obscure cult gem that Prog Archives made not so obscure anymore. A truly astonishing record and amazing thing to listen to considering the period it was released in.

This album contains some topics I don't think had been explored in music before, certainly not folk music, and the way they are delivered is just so odd it's hard not to be at least interested in listening to it. I mean, a song about insulin shock therapy with light hearted vocal harmonies and flute. That's how awesome this album is. The acidic folk music that Comus played just sounds good to the ears and then the lyrics come parading in with corpses and insanity. See why it's so hard to explain?

Overall, the album is something every prog fan should check out. It has quite the following on this site and there's a reason for that.

Beautiful folk music about rape.

And this was released in 1970?

Report this review (#480525)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Comus: First Utterance [1971]

Rating: 10/10

Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if orcs formed a folk band? Wonder no longer.

Where to begin with the monster that is First Utterance? As a proud member of the cult following that this album has amassed since its release forty years ago, I find it difficult to locate a vantage point from which to examine this bizarre and brilliant gem. Like most pieces of art that are considered 'cult classics', First Utterance has a polarizing effect on audiences. A simple appraisal of the reviews here on PA shows many hailing this album as a masterpiece and many others decrying it as something quite the opposite. When it comes to 'love it or hate it' albums like this, I usually tend to fall on the 'love it' side. First Utterance is no exception. This is a bubbling cauldron full of unflinchingly genius musical insanity.

Putting aside the hyperbolic metaphors, what does First Utterance actually sound like? 'Experimental folk' would probably be the most fitting stylistic description for the music here. The entire album is focused on typical folk instrumentation, with acoustic guitar, flute, and violin accompanying a subtle rhythm section; however, the instrumentation is the only aspect of this music where 'typical' is an even remotely applicable term. While this is indeed a folk album, do not expect whimsy, social/political commentary, or fanciful storytelling. These songs are focused exclusively on the macabre. There are lyrics here about rape in the forest, the murder and burial of a woman, the execution of a Christian, and imprisonment in a mental asylum. These topics are not merely lyrical themes; the music itself is unsettling and downright creepy at times. This is achieved primarily through the vocals. The lead vocals oftentimes sound more like some sort of animalistic imp than they do a human being, and they're backed up by haunting female harmonies. Every aspect of these compositions comes together to form one of the strangest and most unique albums ever created.

'Diana' opens the album with a twisted jack-in-the-box mantra and continues with a demented chorus and bombastic violin interludes. 'The Herald' is a lengthy track that diverges stylistically from the rest of the album. This is a hauntingly gorgeous atmospheric folk piece centered on dual acoustic guitar and female vocals; it has to be one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. 'Drip Drip' is another long piece with a strong blues influence. The energetic violins/guitars and pounding hand percussion create upbeat music that heavily contrasts with the notorious lyrics. The 'I'll Be Gentle' section near the end is perhaps the creepiest part of the entire album. 'Song to Comus' begins with absolutely amazing dual-guitar interplay. The flute takes on a bigger role here, and the vocals are even more manic than usual. This is yet another staggeringly brilliant track. 'The Bite' has a strong Renaissance atmosphere. This track features my favorite vocal work on the album, and the flute work is nothing short of incredible. 'Bitten' is a brief and eerie instrumental centered on dissonant violin. 'The Prisoner' would actually be a rather pretty track if it weren't for the dark nature of the lyrics; the string work is majestic. The album ends in the most fitting manner possible: with a fading repetition of the word 'INSANE.'

First Utterance is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorites. From the moment the opening of 'Diana' first hit my ears, it was instant love. This album almost singlehandedly cultivated my love for progressive folk music. It has received countless repeated listenings since I initially discovered it over a year ago, and I've been able to appreciate it more and more each time. Nothing like this had ever been made before, nor has anything since. First Utterance is unique, creative, bizarre, unsettling, and absolutely brilliant. Every open-minded music fan is obligated to become familiar with this. I cannot guarantee that they will enjoy what's being offered here, but I can ensure that they won't forget it any time soon.

Note: Mikael Akerfeldt has repeatedly cited this album as a major influence. The titles 'My Arms, Your Hearse' and 'The Baying of the Hounds' are both derived from Comus lyrics. Thus, Opeth fans may find something of interest here.

Report this review (#497630)
Posted Friday, August 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars There is not another band out there that can evoke the feeling of ritual and danger through acoustic music like Comus can. From the start of the album to the closing notes it feels as if you are witness at an ancient pagan ritual about to take place. But through all the darkness and dread there are moments of pure beauty on this album in tracks like The Herald. After I first heard this album I started on a journey that will never reach an end in trying to find another band similar to Comus. Comus is a completely unique band and they created an album that stands alone. Mixed with sometimes demonic male singing and scattered screams and yelps and sections of soothing but menacing female vocals layered on top of some of the most organic sounding acoustic instruments I've heard. One very important thing about this album is that it never suffers from uninspired or forced melodies everything is perfectly placed to honor the music and its concept. This music is heavily conceptual and not for faint of heart it drags you in on the strength of the songs and then opens you up to so much more once you've taken that step.
Report this review (#588904)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Not suitable for the faint hearted...

This morbid album has an odd marriage between idyllic Pastoral English folk and lyrics that will chill you to the marrow of your bone. The slightly unhinged songs focus on brutal murders and dark nightmarish visions.

'Drip Drip' is a Gothic biting satirical piece with some very nasty descriptive lyrics about a dripping decomposing corpse. 'The Bite' has the unfriendly theme of Christian martyrdom, and the band muse about the mentally ill in the disconcerting 'The Prisoner' ending with a repetitive "insane" that fluctuates from left to right speaker till it fades.

'Diana' is a conclusive highlight with a catchy riff and phrase. The vocals are always performed with layered effects and are quite inhuman sounding or may remind some of a bunch of insane murderous rednecks; "Your lovely body soon caked with mud, As I carry you to your grave, my arms your hearse". There is nothing like this album before or since, and perhaps the macabre details in the lyrics were precursors to what some may term grindcore.

'Song To Comus' is a case in point with horrific lyrics given a full impact from Roger Wootton's aggressive vocals such as, ""Hymen hunter, hands of steel, crack you open and your red flesh peel, Pain procurer, eyes of fire pierce your womb and push still higher, Comus rape, Comus break, sweet young virgin's virtue take, Naked flesh, flowing hair, her terror screams they cut the air." The main point of interest is that the nasty lyrics are completely anti-analogous to the lilting flute, acoustic guitar and pastoral music. The lyrics are never as pleasant as the music, that also rages with venomous fire, ranging from slicing violin serrations, ghostly woodwind to soothing acoustic. The album content is full of imagery conjuring grotesque pagan rituals and slaughter. Even the album cover is ghastly depicting perhaps the twisted contorted Pagan God of Comus itself.

Comus effectively took the whimsical Canterbury music of Caravan or Fairport Convention and added gruesome rhyming prose to produce an album of immeasurable dark power. The result is an album that will always gain a strong reaction from listeners. It is an album that I have trouble listening to as it makes my spirit jump and I know that it is not healthy for my soul to hear this. It really is far too disturbing for me personally and I won't be subjecting myself to this celebration of rape and witchcraft again. It is a haunting work well ahead of murder balladeers such as Nick Cave.

After one further album the mystique of Comus was ingrained in prog history; Comus break up!

Report this review (#603363)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Comus took all the goodness and optimism from the 60's folk scene and transformed it into the most evil thing I've ever heard in my life. It's like VDGG meets Neil Young with a spice of pink floyd. This is truly amazing stuff, Highly recommend but only for the brave who are not afraid to walk alone in the dark forest. "Hymen hunter, hands of steel, crack you open and your red flesh peel. Pain procurer, eyes of fire pierce your womb and push still higher. Comus rape, Comus break sweet young virgin's virtue take. Naked flesh flowing hair her terror screams they cut the air"
Report this review (#610318)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Where to begin?.....i discovered this musical adventure thanks to Prog Archives, otherwise I am sure I would have missed it. I suppose you might call this a nice folk album with crazy and sometimes disturbing themes. My favorite songs would have to be "Song to Comus" and "Drip Drip". The rest is good but these two tracks really resonated with me. If you have not heard this release, it is impossible for me to attempt to describe it. Maybe a bit of Queen's "Ferry Fellers Master Stroke",and "Orge Battle " mixed with some early Strawbs from GRAVE NEW WORLD times, and then throw in some sick lyrics and weird singing, druid chanting, and interesting beats. Like I said....hard to describe. But, overall, I would rate this a solid 4 star effort. A pity the band didn't last long enough to complete a larger body of work. Would have been interesting.
Report this review (#613415)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'First Utterance' - Comus (10/10)

It's difficult for me to think of any folk album that's quite as memorable and unique as Comus' debut, 'First Utterance'. Although they were something of a one-album wonder, this UK act has gained a fair deal of love and admiration from the progressive community, as well as a recent wave of interest in light of Opeth frontman Mikael Akerfeldt's fandom. While many remember folk from this period to be softened by hippie love and drug-induced compassion, 'First Utterance' has stood the test of time particularly because it went against those norms. Instead of a pleasant campfire singalong, Comus whisks the listener away to a dark and primal realm of tribal mysticism, violence, and mental illness. For all of its creepy atmosphere however, there's something remarkably beautiful about the music that Comus has made here. I have no problem calling this one of my favourite albums of all time.

Comus takes no time to get things started; seconds into the opener 'Diana', a listener will have already heard the strangeness that dominates the band's sound. Although traditional folk instruments are used, they're delivered in a very quirky, even charming way. As the album rolls on, there are more conventional sections where acoustic bluegrass skills are sported, but the backbone of these songs lies in the strange sounds Comus are able to make with the acoustic guitar, a violin, or a flute. There is not conventional rock drumming on this album, but tribal beating that commends the primal horror vibe that the music gives off. As dark as the tone for this album is, the music itself enjoys some very upbeat moments, although the out-of-tune freaky garble is never far behind.

Where I think many of the album's detractors may stake their bid is with the vocal work on the album. There are multiple vocalists on the album, and even more vocal styles at that. With 'Diana', we hear the music presented by a strange warble that sounds like something a goblin would chant to his forest tribe. 'The Herald' is the most beautiful piece here, with Bobbie Watson's higher pitch virtually defining what the term 'haunting' can mean. The lyrics are almost unrelenting dark and disturbing, as if the band is pitching six or seven different ideas for cult horror films. Rape, murder, and severe mental psychosis are never too extreme for Comus. Of course, many listeners may be put off by the fairly grim nature of the lyrics, but in all truth, the disturbing lyrical themes are a hell of a lot more interesting than the typical acid folk tripe about loving your fellow human, or dancing with beautiful people, man.

As this and many other reviews will indicate, 'First Utterance' is a love-or-hate album, and for good reason. The band takes quite a few risks here, and as a result, it was panned at the time of its release. In hindsight, it's seen as one of the great underground gems of progressive folk, and I would even say that it's the best thing to have come out of folk rock in its time. Listeners with a mind twisted enough for itshould find an experience here that will be damned near impossible to forget.

Report this review (#618842)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Comus First Utterance: Acid Folk, or Psychedelic Folk, to be prosice. This album is so unique, it's hard to compare it with anything else. I'm fortunate to own an original dawn LP which sounds amazing. It takes you into a world of, it's hard to describe. Prehaps: If you don't want to get burnt, don't touch the fire. Or: Leave the beast alone, and it will leave you alone. Vocally it is outstanding, but the acoustic work is just brilliant. With the added violin and bongo drum work, you are left thinking WHAT! And then, when you listen to it again, you realise that what you did hear was something quite amazing. You then begin to be drawn to this master piece more and more, and before you know it, yes you've guessed, the beast's has got you!

Report this review (#839925)
Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The cover of Comus' infamous debut is one of those covers that completely resemble the music on the record. Like MBV's "Loveless" or Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning", it's just one of those records that make you go "wow, this actually sounds like that". And First Utterance most certainly does sound as twisted as it's cover, a quick ball-point pen drawing by singer Roger Wootton, depicting a disturbed and strangely deformed figure in obvious agony.

And it's this obsession with dissonance and the macabre that make First Utterance such an interesting listen. Although hailed today as an all-time great, First Utterance went largely unappreciated, its almost barbaric and medieval sound along with lyrical themes too disturbing to grace these pages alienated most music fans, but it's legacy carried on mostly with active support from initially David Bowie and later Opeth's frontman Mikael Akerfeldt, who has lyrics from the album tattooed on his arm, and even titled his album "My Arms, Your Hearse" after lyrics from "Drip Drip". Akerfeldt was responsible for my introduction into the album, constantly talking about it in interviews, begging for more to discover this hidden gem.

And it's this underground 'cult' following that has brought First Utterance back into the spotlight, even prompting the band, who quickly broke up after it's initial failure, to reunite for a tour and a new album last year. But like any cult album, there is complete reason for its infamous status.

The main tag given to First Utterance is "freak folk", a new sort of genre at the time, with the only other output being Caribbean band Exuma, but the premise being based around folk music, with pagan instrumentation, primarily done with choral female vocals and flutes, to create a very odd sound. But it's the use of dissonance in the layering, and the angular, animal-like vocals that create the horrifically disturbing atmosphere. Although the music it most often quick and hectic, there are some very serene and beautiful moments, primarily in the central section of "The Herald".

First Utterance is a landmark. The beginning of experimentation in the folk world, foreshadowing the later Neofolk and Apocalyptic Folk movements, and in itself being miles ahead of its time. A strange beast of strange and deformed proportions, but a wonderful beast in that.

Report this review (#839934)
Posted Thursday, October 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The highly-acclaimed and strikingly unusual debut album from original Brit folk-rockers Comus.

1. "Diana" (4:37) Wickedly odd and creepy. Great instrumental performances. (9/10)

2. "The Herald" (12:12) eerie with that prominent saw but covered with gorgeous vocal harmonies and woven support from the acoustic instruments. At 3:45 everything fades away and a new solo acoustic guitar-driven "song" arises. Beautiful Steve Hackett/Anthony Phillips play. At the end of the seventh minute violin joins in, guitar backs off, and flutes and female vocalise join into a new etheric weave. At the very end of the eighth minute another, new section arises from the void--this one with "saw," viola, oboe, and occasional strums from the 12-string. At 9:30 these instruments rejoin the form and sound of the opening enabling the female-led choir to recommence their story singing. An interesting and masterful song. (23/25)

3. "Drip Drip" (10:54) lots of note-bending from the Dobro-like sound of the initial guitar gradually plays into a multiple guitar-based song with plenty of heaviness in the drama--especially augmented by the wild and inventive lead vocals (from Roger Wootton) and percussion play. Eerie, almost scary, yet mesmerizing and inescapably ensnaring--at least, the first third. The middle section gets tedious and boring, but then there is a quick shift into a kind of Tex-Mex border song. At 8:40 there is another shift into a section in which a deranged-sounding creep sings frantically about his love for some ... one. Weird and unsettlingly . . . violent. Powerful, too. How does one rate such an odd and disturbing song that is undeniably an expression of genius? (17.5/20)

4. "Song To Comus" (7:30) sounding like a song from Rumpelstiltskin, this is another highly unusual yet purely ingenious song composition rendered so powerfully! I may not like or enjoy all of this music--it is not really the type of music you walk around humming or singing aloud (it has more of the effect of DAEVID ALLEN's GONG music in that it is entertaining and comprehensible for its creativity and for the author/composer's intent)--but I truly and fully appreciate the genius expressed here. And I understand and appreciate the necessity of the band members to collectively buy into their leader/songwriter's vision and mood in order to be able to execute such an undeniably powerful musical experience. (14/15)

5. "The Bite" (5:26) a more "normal" song, this one still packs a wallop; it is powerful in the conviction of each and every one it's performers' contributions. The band is so tight! (9/10)

6. "Bitten" (2:15) droning, zooming, bug-like guitars and strings congealing into a menacing cloud before a single creature emerges in the lead. The other members of the swarm are cowed, listening, before bursting into the explosive rush of the final mission. Weird but, as above, ingenious and so expressive. (4.5/5)

7. "The Prisoner" (6:14) the most sedate song on the album is still quite edgy. The sudden Jeckle-Hyde transformation at the 2:20 mark is remarkable. What a performer is this Roger Wootton! The female background vocalists remain committed to being supportive--no matter their leader's mood or temperament. (9.75/10)

Total Time: 49:08

Five stars; a minor masterpiece of folk-oriented progressive rock music and one of the true, standout, singular creations of the genres.

Report this review (#843819)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars The idea of freak-folk intrigues me. You've got your evil twisted music (mainly evident in the lyrics here), but instead of conveying it with non-acoustic and more 'rock' oriented instruments such as furious metal drums, synthetic soundscapes, or electric guitars, it's nearly all acoustic. With exception to the bass, there are violins, flutes, acoustic guitars, oboes, hand drums, and of course vocals that are present in First Utterance. The significance of this lies in the fact that these are all organic, earthy, human instruments that therefore give a sense a realism. When you warp it all by adding twisted and dark themes (such as what I interpret to be necrophilia) to such organic instrumentation it makes the evil seem more real, and this is the appeal of the musical style.

When you have music that doesn't need electricity, all these instrumentalists who have been summoned to the studio have the ability to play in the same manner anywhere else, such as the dark forest. These people could be occult practicing psychos who play music in caves instead of rehearsal studios. Anything is possible with folk and this notion is what makes the atmosphere more effective and sets it apart from black metal and various other 'evil' bands.

Anyway, back to the actual review. First Utterance is an underground prog folk gem, and since brutal lyrical themes aren't everyone's cup of tea it's the sort of thing with a cult following. Notably, it's almost 50 minutes long which is impressive for a debut album at the time.

'Diana' is the perfect introduction to the album and sets the dark, quirky, 'foresty' atmosphere with aid from what is seemingly goblins worshiping their pagan god, and creepy slide guitars. This is my personal favourite of the album and I especially love the melodic hook of the violin in the chorus. In fact the violent sounding violin throughout the album is exceptional. Hand drums give the occult feel, and to further signify creepiness, the goblins have a sweet fragile-sounding girl singing with them. Haunting!

Next up is a change. 'The Herald' is a creepy and softer song broken into three parts. The girl's vocals come to fore in the first and last parts with a gentle flute alongside, and the middle section is filled with virtuosity in the form of acoustic finger picking. Unlike the other songs, this one is a showcase of beauty - a contrast from the others, displaying that evil has the power to be seductive and lure you in to a seemingly serene world. But it gets graphic from here on.

'Drip Drip from your sagging lip. Liquid red down your body spread.' 'Your body at peace even the earth will fill the crack where entered my blade.' I think we can assume what this one's about. The confrontational yet somewhat subtle lyrics are clever. This song has most of the instrumental elements from Diana, such as the hand drums, slide guitars, violent violins, but this time it's less quirky and fittingly a lot more aggressive. The chorus is very catchy also. Included in the song is a section where the cave dwellers seem to be partying.

'Song to Comus' is similar to the last song; it has rape, aggression, creepy vocals, etc. I don't think much else needs to be said. To be honest this is my least favourite song as it doesn't offer much new and repeats itself a little. But it's still great song nonetheless.

Next up let's hang some Christians in 'The Bite'. It's a more straightforward track with a set rhythm and sounds a little reminiscent of Jethro Tull with it's 'rockier' flute. It also has more of a sense of drama.

'Bitten' isn't really a 'song' but more a short atmospheric experimentation. A nice interlude.

Like the subject matter of 'The Prisoner' this song is structurally kind of schizophrenic, with humbler passages among the more dramatic. In spots it sounds a lot more happy and positive compared to the rest, but it's about mental illness so it's still Comus like we have come to know them. The song ends the album in a crazy, abrupt, disorientating, and therefore fitting manner. Insane!

What's great about this album is it challenges the listeners by disturbing them. We all get a kick out of violence in movies and games, and we love to be scared and shocked from horror films. So I don't see a problem with getting a kick out of disturbing music. Although I'm pretty sure most people would think you're pretty weird for it.

Anyway this is one of those 'love it or hate it' albums, and I am a proud lover. You have to be in the right mood or place when listening to it though. 4.5 stars for this unique folk experience. Thanks to the internet and people like Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth who publicize their fandom, more and more people can discover things like First Utterance.

Report this review (#868458)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars First time I was not able to hear the whole thing. It was strange and give me stange feelings about it. Second time... same thing. Third... etc etc etc

The only thing I understand how to hear this masterpiece was when I noticed that this strange feeling was not going to disapear. This feeling, cold in my stomache, WAS Comus acting. That was the whole experiencing happening. I had to pass through it.

And it was in a night, on the beach, with full moon. I never though I would more sacre in my life. To hear songs about death, killers, rape, gore, with the attraction of a gentleman, almost as if Hanniball himslef have put this album to play.

That is what this album is about: our fetiche with the gore. We struggle to say "I dont want to hear that!", but, deep inside, we do. We want. We want to see what happen. That what this album is all about. Played with a great hability by the musicians, that experience is alive and can easily be proved by the same reaction everyone have listening to it: from the denial and not comprehension to the full deliver people made to the music.

Comus' First Utterance is not music: its a living experiment.

You should try. If you can take it.

Report this review (#926458)
Posted Friday, March 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
GruvanDahlman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The first album by Comus has to be one of musical history's greatest and most mythical albums. Hailing from the early 70's and shrouded in an unnerving musical atmosphere it has gained quite the reputation over the years. The question one asks: Is the album really that good? I think so. The myth and legend is merely a part of the album, because the music within is so great you wonder what went on inside the askewed and twisted formation of a band. At first listen I found myself disgusted by what I heard. Never had I heard such abnormal music. Folk? I did not know. It was so twisted it was hard to tell. But then everything unravelled and the album presented itself in all it's macbre glory.

All songs on the album deals with horror-like themes of evil and unworldly doings. I will not go into describing the tracks inmuch detail, only expressing my view that the best tracks being "The herald", "Drip drip" and "Song to Comus". They are really exciting pieces of music. The other track are very good indeed but these three are, IMO, the best.

The music could be categorised as acoustic, Hammer Horror folk with a truly twisted edge. There is nothing normal about this folk outfit, nor anything like it. When speaking of unique Comus really do possess that. Other bands may have tried but I feel no other band really came or comes close to sounding like this, so loose and demented it seems natural. Like the soundtrack to your worst niughtmare the music still possesses incredible beauty and goes beyod sheer novelty. The musicianship is very accomplished and at times brilliant. Female and male vocals fly in and out of the mist of twisted imagination, creating a tapestry of sound and images seldom or ever copied to the same degree of brilliance. A classic in it's own right and something that must be heard to be believed.

Report this review (#928141)
Posted Monday, March 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Be careful, you are near the gory bosk of Comus. First Utterance, their debut album, is one of my favorite albums. It was unique when released, and still is a cult masterpiece. This psychedelic prog folk has some of the darkest and ugliest soundscapes ever released. Right from Diana, the first track, this band will introduce you to the evil side of the Avant-garde. The dissonant violin and the wood sounds are smoking angry. The paranoic cover art and band logo fits well. The whole album is weird. The freak vocals are disturbing, like a corpse smiling with the dead eyes full of madness, and his putrid body trying to sing lying in the floor. And you will never found something like this. The freak vocals are disturbing, like a corpse smiling with the dead eyes full of madness, and his putrid body trying to sing lying in the floor. The female vocals are beautiful, causing a phantasmagoric contrast. Just taste The Herald, so sweet. While Kalmah wants to be a "Swamp Metal" terrific band, Comus have been haunting the underground music scene beyond trees and diving in bogs for decades, without being an extreme rock band.

If you already are into Comus' First Utterance, I will recc you Cranes - Wings of Joy.

Report this review (#1038208)
Posted Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars As a long time reader of PA, I am quite grateful for all the excellent reviews on this site and have expanded my musical universe exponentially because of it. For this oasis in cyperspace, I thank you all :)

As my FIRST UTTERANCE on PA, I have chosen one of my all time favorite albums, one that needs no introduction on this site as I see it has at long last been sneaking in and out of the top 250. All I can ask is ? how can this masterpiece not be in the top 10? Too freaky for everyone I guess.

This album remains an anomaly even today. I still have never heard anything else quite like this. A strange alchemy of folk instrumentation, psychedelic rock schizophrenia, progressive time signatures, tribal drumming, tortured strings and subject matter that makes me want to consider this the first black metal album. Well, black folk maybe? Whatever you call it ? it is undoubtedly one of the most successful fusion albums of folk, rock and the avant-garde.

In Greek mythology, Comus was the god of festivity and represents anarchy and chaos. This is the only album by this group that lives up to that description and does it perfectly from beginning to end. After listening to the follow-up albums TO KEEP FROM CRYING and the 2012 comeback album OUT OF THE COMA, it appears that this was the only album where they channeled the very essence of the Greek god himself and took the listener to a entirely different realm where demons frolicked freely throughout the darkened lands.

This was love at first listen because it was so different from anything I had ever heard before, but it took many listens to really get it and appreciate its complexity. After a gazillion listens I can honestly say that I never get tired of hearing it. It's one that continues to amaze me now as it did the first time I heard it. Five big fat demented stars. And oh yeah, loooove that album cover.

Report this review (#1069436)
Posted Thursday, October 31, 2013 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "First Utterance" is the debut full-length studio album by UK progressive/acid folk rock act Comus. The album was released through the Dawn label in February 1971 which was one month after the band released the "Diana (1971)" maxi single. Upon release the album generally didn´t receive positive reviews, and it didn´t sell well either. "First Utterance" has since gained "cult" status though, and is widely acknowledged as a seminal progressive acid folk release.

The music on the album is almost fully acoustic folk rock featuring 12-string guitars, violin, viola, flute, oboe, acoustic bass, and various forms of percussion. There are some electric guitar on the album but the use is sparse. There are both female and male vocals on the album (predominantly male). The former are mostly of the angelic type (but also often used as backing vocals and in choir parts), pleasant and soothing but a bit anonymous, while the male vocals by Roger Wootton are truly fascinating, bordering the psychotic at times. The man is simply demonic in his delivery. Seldom have I heard a more intense and eerie sounding vocalist. The music features a dark and sinister atmosphere, at times almost resembling the atmosphere of a twisted horror movie. The lyrical subjects include murder, violence, rape, mental institutions, and other nasty things. This is actually a very disturbing album and it´s probably very much an aquired taste if you can appreciate Comus dark and demented approach to progressive folk rock.

"First Utterance" features 7 tracks and a full playing time of 49:17 minutes. The opening track "Diana" also appeared on the "Diana" maxi single. It´s followed by the two tracks in "The Herald" and "Drip Drip" which are both over 10 minutes long. Both are among the highlights of the album, but the rest of the material are equally strong. The combination of warm and organic playing, eerie atmospheres, an organic and professional sounding production, and strong musicianship make "First Utterance" a dark progressive folk rock gem. The lyrics are pretty extreme considering the time of release, but they are definitely one of the things that make "First Utterance" such an original sounding album. There are similarities between Comus and contemporaries like The Incredible String Band, Jan Dukes De Grey and Spirogyra, but none of those artists can match the sinister darkness of "First Utterance".

Everything just seem to fall into the right place with this album and I agree with the almost universal praise that "First Utterance" receives these days and share the opinion that this is a "classic" in the progressive/acid folk rock genre. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1099480)
Posted Wednesday, December 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars As much as any album from any era, even from those acid-soaked years around the turn of the 1970s, "First Utterance" is more performance art than music. It depicts the machinations of a fearsome underworld and its denizens, one we all know but stow away for the greater good. The grooves of a mere disk shackle this fanatical presentation but enough of its blood oozes forth to simultaneously evoke visceral revulsion and conversion. Not surprisingly, this influential recording may have had a more significant impact on death metal than on subsequent folk releases. But folk this is, just far more corrupt and, paradoxically, pure than most.

With only the admittedly vivid visuals that are conjured, it is sometimes difficult to fully appreciate the oppressive dissonance in parts of "Drip Drip" and "The Prisoner" as much as would be the case were this a "Piece de theatre". But the summoning of "Diana" is a near perfect opener, a raucous rocker that introduces Roger Wooton on vocals. He doesn't so much sing as spew through a balloon alternately laden with nitrous oxide and helium. "The Prophet" introduces the more harmonious Bobbie Watson on vocals, sounding like she has sold her soul in order to retain an angelic voice. It also contains ethereal yet woodsy sections on little more than acoustic guitar. "Song to Comus" and "The Bite" are both slightly more conventional songs but still seem like a frenzied STRAWBS, ISB, SPIROGYRA. or FOREST. The bonus cut "All the Color of Darkness" is another lovely piece sung by Watson that is every bit qualified to have served on the original LP. The flutes and violins are both worth mentioning, the former for imparting a winter sun's warmth to the otherwise dour subject matter, and the latter for conveying the breadth of emotions experienced here, from bitter melancholy to a denial of insanity that doth protest too much.

While I can appreciate the masterpiece status of "First Utterance" among prog fans, I can't wholeheartedly endorse its musicality. Nonetheless it does seem to have resulted from a horrible synchronicity of 6 artists who, for a moment in time, materialized in an utterly forbidden land and were charged to file a full report. That makes it worth hearing whatever your persuasions.

Report this review (#1105649)
Posted Thursday, January 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars First Utterance is an album I rarely listen to and for good reason. It's pagan intensity and fixation with dark subjects can seem ghoulish and absurd at times; however, whenever I do put this album on, it's an event, a trip to a cold mountaintop' a sacrifice.

And it is a sacrifice well worth the time. First Utterance is epic and ferocious, burning with a kind of fury the peak of which is rarely reached by even the most misanthropic of metal bands, but also gentle and feeling. While the use of violence isn't necessarily something I tend to gravitate towards, it has a strange poignancy here. Something about the dark events that occur' rape, horrific acts of violence, martyrdom, and losing one's sanity' make those serene moments ever-gripping. The lonely violin solo in 'The Herald' is remiscent of a passage in Elie Weisel's harrowing holocaust tome 'Night' in which one of the characters, after having run with a group of other prisoners in the snow to the next concentration camp, plays his violin solemnly in a mass of dead and dying prisoners' he eventually breaths his last with his violin in hand.

This contrast is what makes this album great. Comus taps the wild and tranquil sides of folk music. Guitarist/vocalist Roger Wootten howls and yells like a viscous animal, while soprano Bobbie Watson lullubies like a virginal siren. Instrument technique and recording quality is rough and untamed, but the songs are expertly arranged and performed in such a way that I couldn't imagine any other band playing these songs.

From the swampy upward trudge of 'Diana,' to the savage insanity of 'The Prisoner,' First Utterance is a violent, dark, and strange, but ultimately poignant journey through pagan folk music. Also, for those interested, the B-sides of this album are also fantastic and definitely worth checking out.

Report this review (#1120398)
Posted Saturday, January 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#1554623)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
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!

Report this review (#1557078)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Confronting your inner demons.

In the annals of prog, I can think of no other prog folk album that appeals to folkies as well as those that worship technical death metal. First Utterance by Comus was a one off album recorded in 1970 by a talented bunch of musicians that, much like Black Sabbath, we're dismayed with the love and peace flavored hippie aesthetic found in most late 60's era rock music. Including those found in the genre known as acid folk that was famously championed by the Incredible String Band.

Comus combined lyrics that dealt with pagan themes of rape, torture, murdering of a Christian, and insanity, while creating acoustic based music invoking a pastoral love and regard for the dark forests where paganism thrives.

The vocals to these nightmarish themes are handled by Roger Wootton, who sounds like a cross between Roger Chapman and Mark Bolan. His voice is limited, but his guttural near growls and alarming falsetto are perfect to convey the menacing lyrics. Aided in conveying a feeling of the alternating menace with the ethereal are the female spectral-like vocals of Bobbie Watson.

What really sells this album of lyrical debauchery is the stellar musicianship of all involved. Guitarist Glenn Goring is a master of acoustic slide as well as fingering picking on both 6 and 12 string acoustics and gives much of the music it's folk pedigree. His moaning slides at the beginning of the song "Drip Drip" perfectly set up such a violent tale. He's helped along by Colin Pearson's violin and viola that alternates from rustic romps to dissonant eeriness, as does the flute and oboe playing by Rob Young, The only electric instrument played throughout is in the wonderful groove filled bass lines of Andy Hellaby, which helps to give some of the songs a Tull-like feel without being derivative. As this album was released before Tull's TAAB, it would be hard to argue the point anyway. Completing the musical line up are hand drums and bongos played so expertly, by the afore noted members as the group have no drummer, that they are given a solo in the albums opening track titled "Dianna."

What makes the songs on First Utterance so compelling and listenable are the quality of the compositions, especially the album's centerpiece "Song To Comus" and the fact that Wootton's half slurred or distorted vocals help to hide half of the graphic debauchery, which may not be so welcomed if clearly enunciated.

My purpose of extolling First Utterance to prog fans has always been motivated by my inclination to expand the appeal of prog folk to those that see nothing more to the genre than strumming acoustic guitars. However, even if prog fans never move beyond listening to First Utterance, they'll still be in a select group that has heard something extremely difficult to replicate. Comus' ability to mix such musical menace and beauty is a rare trick of alchemy that actually does seem magically pagan, from a far off time, and completely lost to the modern world.

Report this review (#1642145)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2016 | Review Permalink
jamesbaldwin
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The first song, "Diana" (4:37), dedicated to the goddess of hunting, determines the sound and mood of the album: acoustic sound with guitar, clear sound, violin, percussion and bass in the foreground but not drums with the snare, female choirs and a more cavernous male voice... the mood is demonic, hallucinatory folk music with tribal rhythms, which evoke primitive pagan rites, as described by the cover and the lyrics: The song is original, 8+.

The mini-suite "The Herald" (12:12), perhaps the most important piece of the Lp, it starts as psychedelic folk, acid-folk, with female voices you do not know if demonic or angelic, after 3'40'' the song fades and then starts again with guitar arpeggio, then violin that becomes melancholy and poignant, beautiful melody (great work by Colin Pearson), then about 9'40'' that is after 6 minutes from the pause, it starts the initial entries again. The structure is verse - chorus (of higher hue), then central instrumental piece, then again verse - chorus. Rating 8,5.

"Drip Drip" (10:54) begins with a beautiful acoustic guitar arpeggio, but soon the track becomes dissonant, high-pitched lyiser singing, Wootton sings almost as Roger Chapman, and the listening becomes difficult, the percussions that in the previous piece were not there, here are very important and at about 6'30', after a very dissonant piece, it changes the melody, comes the percussion, the melody remains in the background and is stretched, deformed, the music comes to parorosism. Rating 7.5/8.

End of Side A.

The fourth piece, "Song To Comus (7:30), proceeds with the distorted paroxysmal climate of the previous one, the song resembles that of Jethro Tull, it is interesting as Comus manage to combine the melody with this hallucinatory paroxysmal mood that at times seems almost demented, and one wonders how long they can keep this inspiration so cohesive and obsessively centered on this hallucinatory atmosphere. Rating 8.

"The Bite (5:26)" is very fast, the rhythm is sustained, and again we listen to the continuum of the same pagan poem, dark mood, demonic sound. Rating 8. 6. Bitten (2:15) is an instrumental piece, acoustic, whose atmosphere is terrible and frightening, and it is a good idea to put a break, a short instrumental piece after songs so similar. Rating 8.

The last piece, "The Prisoner" (6:14), begins at a rhythm, similar to Diana, percussion, female voices, Wootton's hoarse voice, the music is so homogeneous with the previous ones that it adds nothing in terms of musical material, and closes an album all too granite, dense, almost monotonous as the Comus have eviscerated their musical material in a capillary way and the album ends with the pastoral, acidic, folk, hallucinatory psychedelic obsession that crystallized the album. Rating 7,5.

it is a masterpiece of inspiration and especially of intensity rather than broad views because it focuses on a single style, a single mood, a single sound, a single atmosphere developed very well, but at the same time this intensity crystallized on a single atmosphere also determines the limit of the LP, which certainly falls into what I consider real masterpieces but not in the absolute masterpieces of (prog) rock.

Medium quality of the songs: 8. Rating 9+, Five Stars.

Report this review (#2238320)
Posted Monday, July 15, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars COMUS were a dark, paganistic Prog-Folk band who crept out of the shadows from Bromley in Kent in 1969. The nighmarish music of Comus was reflected in the ghoulish image on their first album cover, "First Utterance" (1971). Comus' first unearthly album is their best-known album by far. They followed it up with the "To Keep from Crying" album in 1974 which passed by virtually unnoticed by the record buying public. The band got together again in 2012 for the long-awaited comeback album, aptly-titled "Out of the Coma", which contained three new songs as well as featuring songs from a 1972 live session. It's time to descend into the dark abyss now and check out the "First Utterance" album. The 2001 CD reissue added three bonus tracks to the original seven songs on the album.

The first spooky song "Diana" conjures up a dark satanic image of nefarious goings-on at a witches coven. The focus of this supernatural hocus pocus hokum is mainly on the unsettling violins and off-kilter harmonising from the witches choir giving the music a dark macabre sinister edge. It's creepy and disturbing folk (although that's no reflection on the band members themselves) which is very reminiscent of the eerie folk music in the paganistic horror movie, "The Wicker Man" starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. The hair-raising lyrics to "Diana" are pretty scary too:- "Lust he follows virtue close, Through the steaming woodlands, His darkened blood through bulging veins, Through the steaming woodlands." ..... It's enough to send a shiver up the spine and give you a touch of the heebie-jeebies. You might be tempted to leave the lights on at night after listening to this creepy witches brew of Halloween music, but try not to have nightmares. The next song "The Herald" is a 12-minute Psych-Folk masterpiece, which still has the same sinister air of a midnight mass at a witches coven, but it's a strangely beautiful song at the same time. The music is carried along on a wave of gently rippling guitar strings and violins with the hauntingly-beautiful vocals of Bobbie Watson sounding somehow sweet and angelic, so maybe she's a harmless white witch and not a dark satanic black witch after all. If the first two songs haven't already given you the creeps though, then the third song "Drip Drip" surely will. The music is a 10-minute-long barrelling ghost train ride, ending in a helter-skelter Psych- Folk frenzy, featuring some absolutely manic violin playing and tortured and strangulated vocals from lead singer Roger Wootton. The lyrics are very dark and disturbing too so I won't recite them here, other than to say, the "Drip Drip" refers to the drips of blood from a hanging corpse. Enough said. This is definitely not the kind of folk album you'd want to buy your dear old aunt for Christmas as it'd probably scare the living daylights out of her.

The seven and a half minute "Song to Comus" opens Side Two. It's a dark and disturbing tale of a damsel in distress having her virginity forcibly taken by the monstrous Comus of the title. The music is an infectious fluty Prog-Folk number which sounds like a mad and unhinged version of Jethro Tull. The demented vocalist is clearly going ever so slightly mad here, sounding like a deranged inmate on day release from a lunatic asylum, where "care in the community" clearly hasn't worked. It brings to mind the manic 1966 novelty record "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" ..... Watch out! There's a werewolf about in the next song "The Bite". This guitar, violin and flute melody gallops along at an absolutely insane pace, with the musicians barely coming up for air in this manic 5-minute psychedelic freak-out. The dark mood deepens with "Bitten", a brief 2-minute instrumental, featuring the lonely sound of a mournful violin. The final song "The Prisoner" is another manic manifestation of deeply disturbing music, which takes us on a terrifying paranoid schizophrenic ride to hell. It's quite literally a tale of sheer lunacy, because it's all about a disturbed mental patient being given electro-convulsive "therapy" against their will. It's shocking! "The Prisoner" is pretty scary, but it's probably not as scary as the thought of watching back to back episodes of Prisoner Cell Block H.

Dare you enter the weird and sinister world of Comus? There's nowt so Wyrd as the paganistic freaky folk of Comus. This unsettling and disturbing Psych-Folk music is as unnerving as a stay in a haunted house on the night of a full moon during a thunderstorm at Halloween. This frightfully good album contains more Black Magic than a box of dark chocolates. It's a dark descent into madness, death, witchcraft and supernatural fairy tales, but it's also a very good album too. "First Utterance" might not appeal to Prog-Rock fans generally, but if you're in the mood for a scary Friday the 13th outbreak of infectious freaky folk, then this might just be the album for you. Just make sure you secure all of the doors and windows before settling down to listen to this dark and menacing album in the middle of the night, because you never know who or what might be lurking out there in the darkness.

Report this review (#2305275)
Posted Thursday, January 9, 2020 | Review Permalink

COMUS First Utterance ratings only


chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of COMUS First Utterance


You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.

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

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