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Prog Folk • United Kingdom

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Comus biography
Founded in Bromley, Kent in 1967 - Disbanded in 1972 - Reformed in 2008

Despite existing only for a brief period during the early 70s and being largely obscure throughout that period, it's undoubtable that COMUS was one of the most interesting bands to emerge from the folk-prog scene. It could be said that they're a far more deranged and experimental version of JETHRO TULL, although to say this wouldn't quite do them justice. Their songs often go from beautiful mellow passages to strange, tribal chanting, their lyrics often being brutal and graphic (just look at "Drip Drip" from their debut album!). The band's seminal 1971 debut album "First Utterance" featured a line-up of Roger Wootton (who also wrote most of the material) on guitar and vocals, Andy Hellaby on bass, Colin Pearson on violin and viola, Bobby Watson on percussion, Rob Young on flute and oboe, and Glen Goring also contributing guitar work. After this, the band went on a brief hiatus before returning with the even less known 1974 sophomore effort "To Keep From Crying". Only Hellaby, Wootton and Watson returned from the original line-up, and despite adding people like Lindsay Cooper of HENRY COW and Didier Malherbe of GONG on bassoon and saxophone respectively, the second album failed to live up to the first and marked the end of COMUS, leaving the band to fade away into the depths of obscurity.

As mentioned above, "First Utterance" is by far the stronger of the two COMUS albums. While it's hard to find nowadays, it certainly deserves a listen. As for "To Keep From Crying", if you manage to track it down (which you aren't likely to do), odds are you're just leaving yourself to be let down, as it is vastly inferior to the brilliant debut.

COMUS is recommended for any fans of folk-prog (that is, unless you're afraid of a little weirdness in your music), but even if you don't listen to that particular style, you shouldn't have a hard time appreciating their outrageous, crazy style if you like that sort of thing. So check them out, but use caution, as this is not easy music to digest, even to prog standards.

: : : Bryan Adair, CANADA : : :

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Buy COMUS Music

First UtteranceFirst Utterance
Esoteric 2018
$16.08 (used)
Song To Comus: The Complete CollectionSong To Comus: The Complete Collection
Castle Music Uk 2005
$15.13 (used)
Out Of The ComaOut Of The Coma
COPTI 2012
$16.06 (used)
East of SwedenEast of Sweden
Rise Above Relics 2011
$19.61 (used)
East Of Sweden: Live At The Melloboat Festival 2008East Of Sweden: Live At The Melloboat Festival 2008
Gnostic Dirt 2011
$5.98 (used)
First UtteranceFirst Utterance
Belle Antique 2017
$39.00 (used)
To Keep from Crying (Jpn) by Comus (2005-11-29)To Keep from Crying (Jpn) by Comus (2005-11-29)
Japanese Indies
$135.58 (used)
Deluxe Edition · Special Limited Edition · Collector's Edition
Captain Trip Records
First UtteranceFirst Utterance
Edge J26181 2011

More places to buy COMUS music online Buy COMUS & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

COMUS discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

COMUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.16 | 547 ratings
First Utterance
2.80 | 105 ratings
To Keep From Crying
3.88 | 125 ratings
Out Of The Coma

COMUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.63 | 8 ratings
East of Sweden: Live at the Melloboat Festival 2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Japan 2012

COMUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.04 | 6 ratings
Live At The Melloboat 2008

COMUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.53 | 42 ratings
Song to Comus: The Complete Collection

COMUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.74 | 29 ratings

COMUS Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 547 ratings

First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Psychedelic Paul

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

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

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

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

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 547 ratings

First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

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

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

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

End of Side A.

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

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

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

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

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

 Out Of The Coma by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.88 | 125 ratings

Out Of The Coma
Comus Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars COMUS is one of those bands that despite really only having created one outstanding album of their career, nevertheless transcends the very nature of time and space with their debut album "First Utterance" having become a cult classic after the fact and inspiring generations of music lovers with their utterly magically dark folk magnum opus. It does indeed seem that the album was divinely ordained as even Roger Wootton's memories of the time period were bleak and depressing and absolutely nothing about the recording of the album worked out as planned. The band members still deem it as not as good as they wanted it and the music world of the day didn't quite know how to perceive it. It was initially released with only 1000 copies and pretty much got buried under the more accessible prog rock albums of the day, but time has vindicated this phenomenal classic as it stands as one of my personal all time favorite albums. A desert isle pick most likely ranking in my top 5 albums of history. And i'm not alone in this regard.

The album went under the radar by even the band members themselves. They, themselves, had not even known what a gem they had produced. After "First Utterance" hit the market in 1971, the band quickly splintered and scattered off into their own respective worlds. Roger Wootton would continue the brand name COMUS only to fall into the commercial trappings of the music industry and released the utterly disappointing followup "To Keep From Crying" four years later. After that fiasco he was enticed to fall even deeper into the lame-o-sphere by recording solo projects that utilized cheap poppy calypso and cheesy middlebrow compositions of mediocrity. By the mid-70s, it was inconceivable that COMUS ever released one of the most renowned cult albums in the entire history of music. However, that one album of pure genius and divine intervention did not go unnoticed. Over the ensuing decades, "First Utterance" became one of the most revered albums of the entire dark freak folk universe.

As the decades elapsed, new generations who experienced "First Utterance" for the first time were floored by the sheer intensity of the album which led to a new generation of progressive folk inspired music that emerged in the form of Mikael Åkerfeldt adopting lyrics from "Drip Drip" for the title of an Opeth album "My Arms, Your Hearse." He would continue this trend on "Ghost Reveries" with the track "The Baying Of The Hounds" from the track "Diana." Likewise David Tibet would also find inspiration in "Diana" by including his own demented version on the Current 93 album "Horsey" released in 1997.

Something clearly resonated with the COMUS debut as it did with yours truly and still remains one of those musical gifts from the gods, in this case, the party god COMUS. After the train wreck followup of "To Keep From Crying," it seemed unthinkable that COMUS would ever emerge from the shadows to release what could be regarded as a "proper" followup, but finally in 2012, the year that ends the Mayan calendar, that's exactly what they did with OUT OF THE COMA. The 2008 reunion concert in Sweden only reinforced the momentum and it seems the conspiracy of action was inevitable.

First of all, OUT OF THE COMA should not be viewed as a bona fide followup to "First Utterance." Instead it would be more appropriately thought of as a proper "what could have been" type of album. I mean, the band never had the proper self-esteem to carry on the"First Utterance" paradigm and literally imploded from the getgo, This album more rightfully corresponds to a "what we really wanted but never happened finally comes to fruition in a less than perfect way" reality. Oh well. In this dimensional plane where the negative and positive dance like drunken ballerinas trying to do the tango, that is good enough for me. OUT OF THE COMA delivers the goods in that regard with three totally new tracks and a less than perfect recording of the lengthy "The Malgaard Suite" which was intended for the authentic second album that never came to be.

The 35 year absence from one of the dark progressive folk's most stunning examples finally ended in 2012 as COMUS released OUT OF THE COMA. Once again, Roger Wootton provided the next stage in his ballpoint cover art which depicts the drunken character of the debut upright and finding a new way to animate itself. Likewise the music follows suite with three extraordinarily good tracks for a band so far removed from their early days. This new rendition of COMUS includes all the original members with only Rob Young (keyboards, percussion, oboe, flute) and Lindsay Cooper (oboe, bassoon, vocals) not finding their way into the new reality of COMUS. The new lineup also includes the new member Jon Seagroatt who plays flute, soprano sax, bass clarinet, percussion and even joins in as recording producer. One major complaint about the album is the incongruous "Introduction by Roger Wootton" that narrated the history of "The Malgaard Suite" on original issues but has thankfully been removed by popular demand. I agree that it was unnecessary and distorted the musical flow.

While one could nitpick to high heaven regarding the 2012 COMUS comeback OUT OF THE COMA, i have to say that this is a very welcome addition to the band's canon that needed to happen to explain the WTF history in a more refined context. Immediately two things hit me like a ton of bricks. Firstly Roger Wootton has lost his vocal range but still remains within the limitations of his vocal range as a much older guy and also that Bobbie Watson is still a supreme goddess who sounds as estrogen filled in the modern era as she did in her primetime, a major wow factor for an aging soprano. Secondly, the new tracks are very much a continuation of the debut. While not exactly outperforming anything from "First Utterance," OUT OF THE COMA more than blows away the substandard "To Keep From Crying" away. It may have taken 41 years to release a proper followup but that's exactly what COMUS did.

Musically the band picks up where "First Utterance" left off. You know, those beautifully constructed raw acoustic darkened stabs in the heart with frenzied execution that implement full acid rock energetic antics in a totally folk based context with utterly haunting atmospheres. The three new tracks exhibit a nicely up to date approach of the past. Exquisitely divine acoustic guitar fingerpicking, beautifully eked out melodies and and the beauty and the beast approach to vocals before metal ever latched onto the idea. The title track, "The Sacrifice" and "The Return" display COMUS' unique brand of freak folk with tribal drumming, lugubrious violin and the expected display of dark subject matter. While some may criticize "The Malgaard Suite" as an incomplete and dreadful underproduced relic from the past that should have been re-created for a bona fide followup album, i have to say that i kinda like it as it is.

OUT OF THE COMA should be accepted for what it is, namely a statement of the band's history rather than a legit followup to "First Utterance." Roger Wootton and company had zero plans ever to revisit the COMUS universe and only succumbed due to the surprising vitality of their debut, a live performance enthusiasm in 2008 and the solicitation of artists like Mikael Åkerfeldt who initiated the whole reunion thing. As far as progressive artists go, rarely do they manage to sustain the spirit that made their heyday so special but despite not exactly living up to the lofty expectations of "First Utterance," COMUS did an amazing job at keeping the feel of yore while living within the confines of the presence. While i like others could've wished for a complete album that faithfully picks up where the debut album left off, i have to admit that i'm very happy that COMUS released this next best thing. Perhaps they were aware of the limitations of releasing an album so many decades into the future and this is simply the best we could've hoped for. While nothing will dethrone the debut from its lofty perch, this comeback is no waste of time in any way.

 To Keep From Crying by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.80 | 105 ratings

To Keep From Crying
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Logan
Forum & Site Admin Group Forum Moderator

3 stars To Keep From Crying might just be the antidote some of you need from the dirtiness you feel from having listened to "Drip Drip".

If I were the tearful type, I'd say that all the disdain this album gets has barely kept me from crying. I wish more people would join the light side of Comus while still appreciating the dark side. Not only do I think that this album does not get enough respect from those who love First Utterance, but I wish that it got more attention from those who hate Comus based on the rather dark and disturbing, pagan themed conceptual album called First Utterance.

To Keep From Crying is a fun and I think dynamic album that I have recommended to various people who loathe Comus because of First Utterance, and while none of my attempts have so far worked, you can't Keep me From Trying. It's not necessarily that I think that they will like this album, but I want to show people that there is another gentler and happier side to the group. I hear Comus called by people who are not referring to the first album specifically but to the group generally, disturbing, gross, vile, soul destroying and gut wrenching. Generally these people have no familiarity with To Keep From Crying and so it doesn't even factor into their views of the band -- it's like the album doesn't even exist since it's so overshadowed by its sinister older sibling. But beyond that, I look at First Utterance in much the same way as watching a horror film or reading a horror novel.

First Utterance has a concept, and a creepy one at that. I think some who could easily take watching a film that has such themes and would not assume that the filmmaker is someone who condones brutal behavior have a harder time with music that deals with the same subject matter. Like lyrics are supposed to be authentic and heartfelt and not fictitious or something. Just because one writes about defiling a virgin in song, poem, novel or film does not mean that one condones the act, nor does listening to it or reading it mean that you condone it. And just because you tell a pagan story does not necessarily make you a pagan -- I mention this because some religious people are offended by it, and think it's Satanism. Sure, some might say that you're sick for being entertained by it or writing about it, but that's another angle. Incidentally, I think that the film The Wicker Man with its pagan themes works well with First Utterance (and I recommend the soundtrack to folk lovers who love pastoral music with creepy undertones). And no, I have not forgotten that I'm here to talk about To Keep From Crying, but it is hard not to compare it to First Utterance, and for me too when I first heard To Keep From Crying I couldn't help but compare it to the debut, and while I was pleasantly surprised by To keep From Crying because I had low expectations, it did seem on the whole a poor follow-up album. It's over the years that I've come to rate To keep From Crying much more highly and think that it's a very good album in its own right.

So... some are highly critical of the band Comus based solely on First Utterance, while others are highly critical of To Keep From Crying based on their love of First Utterance. Comus is losing out either way. I think each is very good in its own way, and in the ways that they overlap since despite the differences, both albums have musical similarities.

Like the earlier Comus album, this album also has plenty of beauty and a level of eccentricity. Like with F.U. the vocals on To Keep from Crying will grate with some at times. Yes, this is not the acid folk masterpiece that First Utterance is, the direction has changed, but there's still plenty to love in this album. Some of the music on this album would not be musically out of place on F.U. To Keep From Crying is not a harrowing experience, nothing wrong with up-beat, and there is much for varied tastes to enjoy.

From the moment I heard this album I thought the songs "Children of the Universe" and "To Keep From Crying" absolutely terrific which mix beautiful folk with an electrifying rock dynamic, and have fabulous build-ups. Five star songs. Wonderful! I also loved "Touch Down", "Waves and Caves", and the bluesy "Get Yourself a Man" is for me a real treat. That's already most of the album, but I didn't like the rest of the album much. As the years passed I found that I really like the whole album, and I appreciate the contrasts in the album. There's more going on in this album than you might notice at first -- it's not some lame slice of commercial pap, though it is more commercial than F.U. It is a different beast. The To Keep From Crying beast wants to be played, cause to not play it would make it sad, but doesn't want to play, play, play with you in a most bestial manner.

For those that hear this album slagged by fans of First Utterance, and those that automatically dismiss Comus because of some songs on First Utterance (shame on those who can't appreciate the pastoral and rather creepy beauty of "The Herald" at least ;) ), please give the To keep From Crying album a chance before you judge the album based on what you've heard or before you judge the band harshly overall due to thematic perceptions.

I actually have this album on Song to Comus, and appreciate it even more there for how it contrasts with the music of First Utterance -- dark versus light. For those that don't have this or First Utterance, If you can get your hands on Song to Comus, that is better than getting this alone. The bonus tracks on that album alone are stunning, and you don't know Comus until you've heard "Winter is a Coloured Bird" and "All the Colours of Darkness".

The music on this album is utterly essential to my music collection, and I return to it very frequently. It's also one of those albums that I don't want to end, partially because it ends so wonderfully with the song "To Keep From Crying".

I rated it four originally, but am dropping that rating to three simply because I doubt that most here will feel the same way that I do about this album even if they do give it a chance.

 Out Of The Coma by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.88 | 125 ratings

Out Of The Coma
Comus Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars The acid folk (death folk?) cult favorites reappear to pay homage to their longtime fans with three new songs, along with a rare never officially recorded opus that points the way to what could have been.

After regrouping for a Swedish festival in 2008, the original members of Comus decided to a issue this postcard to fans in 2012. Minus original woodwind player, Lindsay Cooper, the group compiled the three studio tracks piecemeal, with the basic tracks on Out Of The Coma recorded in the UK and Colin Pearson's violin overdubbed in Berlin. Additional guitar parts were overdubbed in yet another UK studio by Glenn Goring. This, I believe, is why these songs, "Out of the Coma", "The Sacrifice" and "Return", as welcome as they are, lack the organic spontaneity of the material (recorded live) found on the band's seminal debut album First Utterance from 1971. While all perform admirably, Goring's failure to produce warped demonic slides and hypnotic Bert Jansch styled finger picking, which was so prevalent on First Utterance, is definitely missed. Roger Wootton's vocals have not improved with age, which I suppose is a good thing for this material, but female vocalist Bobbie Watson's eerie soprano has and she's a revelation on this material, as well on the long lost copy of a live performance of the band's intended follow up suite song/album to First Utterance tilted "The Malgaard Suite."

Recorded on a cassette tape in 1972 (according to the liner notes), "The Malgaard Suite" is a greater leap by bounds over anything recorded on First Utterance. Poorly recorded due to the source equipment and medium, it is a fantastic blend of malevolent progressive folk music with a heavy emphasis on operatic singing and song arrangements, that quite frankly, makes "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen sound like a pop song. Running over fifteen minutes, Watson is the star of this piece with her ear shattering soprano singing and classical sounding scat vocals that easily give Annie Haslam a run for her money. Roger Wootton is able to shadow Watson without sounding sour and indeed gives much of the evil overtones to the music about a stalking midlevel ogre named Malgaard who's out to capture and have his way with a maiden of his fancy. Pearson's violin adds much to the eastern European "Transylvanian" vibe that's perfectly complemented by Cooper's spooky bassoon.

Much of what is sung is indecipherable, but like listening to an opera in a an unfamiliar language, this works to the song's advantage, and gives it a romantic edge seldom found in much of prog music. And frankly, "The Malgaard Suite", even in it's warts and all recorded condition, is some of the best prog music that I've had the pleasure to hear in the last forty five years.

It leaves one to ponder what a sympathetic record company could have done with the proposed two sided album long suite had not commercial concerns intervened and eventually forced the band to split up prior to the side two conclusion from ever being played after it was written, let alone recorded.

A must have album of prog? Hardly, but it's a must have for fans of Comus' cult classic debut album.

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 547 ratings

First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Confronting your inner demons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 547 ratings

First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by ALotOfBottle
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

5 stars Welcome to the woods!

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

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

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

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

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

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 547 ratings

First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 547 ratings

First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Polymorphia

4 stars First Utterance is an album I rarely listen to and for good reason. It's pagan intensity and fixation with dark subjects can seem ghoulish and absurd at times; however, whenever I do put this album on, it's an event, a trip to a cold mountaintop' a sacrifice.

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

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

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

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 547 ratings

First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

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

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

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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