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FIRST UTTERANCE

Comus

Prog Folk


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Comus First Utterance album cover
4.12 | 382 ratings | 72 reviews | 49% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Diana (4:37)
2. The Herald (12:12)
3. Drip Drip (10:54)
4. Song to Comus (7:30)
5. The Bite (5:26)
6. Bitten (2:15)
7. The Prisoner (6:14)

Total Time: 49:08

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Glen Goring / 6-12 acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide, hand drums, vocals
- Andy Hellaby / fender bass, slide bass, vocals
- Colin Pearson / violin, viola
- Roger Wootton / acoustic guitar, lead vocals
- Rob Young / flute, oboe, hand drums
- Bobbie Watson / vocals, percussion

Releases information

BGO Records - BGOCD275 - 1995 (CD)

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Song to Comus: The Complete CollectionSong to Comus: The Complete Collection
Import
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$12.00 (used)
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Import
2002
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COMUS First Utterance ratings distribution


4.12
(382 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(49%)
49%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
31%
Good, but non-essential (12%)
12%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

COMUS First Utterance reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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!!!!!!!!

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#28552) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, March 04, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to maani (BETA) | Report this review (#28555) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, March 05, 2004

Review by 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".

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Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#28558) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#28560) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Fitzcarraldo (BETA) | Report this review (#28563) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, March 21, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Review by 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

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Posted Sunday, July 24, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Sunday, October 30, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, May 18, 2006

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, August 09, 2007

Review by 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.

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Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007

Review by 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

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Posted Saturday, March 29, 2008

Review by 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.

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Posted Friday, May 02, 2008

Review by 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).

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Posted Monday, September 29, 2008

Review by 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."

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Posted Thursday, March 12, 2009

Review by 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

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Posted Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review by 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.

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Send comments to friso (BETA) | Report this review (#260624) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review by 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 Åkerfeldt 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)

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Posted Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post Rock Team
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.

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Posted Friday, December 10, 2010

Review by 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.

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Posted Friday, December 17, 2010

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, June 02, 2011

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Post and 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?

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Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review by 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.

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Posted Friday, August 05, 2011

Review by 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!

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Posted Thursday, January 05, 2012

Review by 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.

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Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review by 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.

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Posted Monday, March 11, 2013

Review by 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 in February 1971 which was one month after the band released their debut maxi single "Diana (1971)".

The music on the album is almost fully acoustic with 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 mood in the music is very dark and sinister. Almost resembling the atmosphere of a twisted horror movie. The lyrics are about murder, violence, rape, mental institutions and other nasty things. This is actually a very disturbing album and it´s probably an aquired taste if you can appreciate Comus dark and demented approach to progressive folk rock.

"First Utterance" features 7 tracks. The opening track "Diana" also appeared on the "Diana" maxi single. It´s followed by the two tracks in "The Herald" and "Drip Drip" that are 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 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 and share the opinion that this is a "classic" in the progressive/acid folk rock genre. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

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Posted Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Review by 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 rancous 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 seems 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.

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Posted Thursday, January 02, 2014

Latest members reviews

5 stars It was only recently that I heard about Comus and after reading a couple of reviews of their first album First Utterance my curiosity was piqued. This is one of those 'love it or hate it' albums and it's easy to see why... This is not an easy listen. It is dark, uncomfortable and can feel directionl ... (read more)

Report this review (#1130990) | Posted by MJAben | Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1120398) | Posted by Polymorphia | Saturday, January 25, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#1069436) | Posted by siLLy puPPy | Thursday, October 31, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 fi ... (read more)

Report this review (#1038208) | Posted by VOTOMS | Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 e ... (read more)

Report this review (#868458) | Posted by Quirky Turkey | Thursday, November 29, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#839934) | Posted by Gallifrey | Thursday, October 18, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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, ... (read more)

Report this review (#839925) | Posted by androvick | Wednesday, October 17, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 i ... (read more)

Report this review (#613415) | Posted by mohaveman | Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#610318) | Posted by BlindGuard | Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#588904) | Posted by Glimmung | Thursday, December 15, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 psychedeli ... (read more)

Report this review (#283059) | Posted by Archangel | Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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. Whil ... (read more)

Report this review (#267540) | Posted by WileyMarshall | Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 bri ... (read more)

Report this review (#267417) | Posted by João Paulo | Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 th ... (read more)

Report this review (#265071) | Posted by shockedjazz | Tuesday, February 09, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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/mu ... (read more)

Report this review (#223904) | Posted by Lucas Naylor | Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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, pai ... (read more)

Report this review (#218732) | Posted by Alitare | Thursday, May 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 appeare ... (read more)

Report this review (#217354) | Posted by AstralliS | Friday, May 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#212188) | Posted by Basíleia | Thursday, April 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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'', c ... (read more)

Report this review (#180769) | Posted by Mlaen | Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#178840) | Posted by Juliovp | Tuesday, August 05, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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