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COMUS

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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COMUS discography


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

4.16 | 649 ratings
First Utterance
1971
2.87 | 120 ratings
To Keep from Crying
1974
3.94 | 142 ratings
Out of the Coma
2012

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

3.80 | 10 ratings
East of Sweden: Live at the Melloboat Festival 2008
2011
4.50 | 2 ratings
Live in Japan 2012
2013

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

4.04 | 6 ratings
Live at The Melloboat 2008
2011

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

4.47 | 47 ratings
Song to Comus: The Complete Collection
2005

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

2.79 | 33 ratings
Diana
1971

COMUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 649 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Nickmannion

4 stars Sometimes the best music is meant to scare us a little. That and clear a room too. From the threatening cover to the pagan prog/folk of the album, this one delivers. I discovered it in the mid 80's when I inherited a copy (battered cover but album near mint) and thought I might have to file it under 'weird sh*t' but there was enough to intrigue me to persevere especially when someone said to me 'that sounds a bit Kate Bush you know' ...it doesn't really but I wouldn't be surprised if the young Kate had got a copy, if that makes sense? Now understanding a bit more of what else was about at the time, it really does make this album stand out with a unique slant on folk. You could almost imagine it as the soundtrack to a Wicker Man type film. Anything pastoral is twisted out of shape and you could never picture say Sandy Denny fronting this crew. The best I can reach for is by suggesting the late 60's/early 70's Jethro Tull (as in their angular take on the blues/rock/prog) discovering folk/rock round about 1971 rather than 1977 and sang by Roger Chapman (of Family). A violin weaves menacingly in and out and there is an edge rather than a polished perfection about much of this. Like Trout Mask Replica, it is an album that polarises opinion. That by itself is 'a good thing' regardless of which end of the spectrum you inhabit. It was never meant to be Fairport C or Fotheringay nor even Amazing Blondel, Spyrogyra or Trees but something altogether more out there....among the smoldering remains of the wicker effigy. Embrace it for what it is. Don't blame it for not being something else. Or hide behind the sofa. You decide. 4.5++
 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 649 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Progressive folk is a genre known for its pastoral, English countryside encompassing rich greens and golds. All that pretty?pretty dandies. But screw all that, let's talk about Comus.

Comus is a band that was started in 1969 by Roger Wooton and Glenn Goring, who performed in folk shows prior. They would turn from a duo to a six piece band by the 70s, and during that time they would begin writing their first record of First Utterance. They wouldn't quite gain much threshold in the commercial sphere, however many popular artists like David Bowie and Mikael Akerfeldt would find appreciation for their craft.

For me, Comus took a bit to set in for me. I remember hearing them in the summer of 2021, exploring any proggy stuff I can get my hands on. That summer was when I discovered many acts I would grow to really love and appreciate, like Frank Zappa, Can, Magma, Swans, and The Residents. Among those groups was Comus, however my first impression of the band was rocky. Trust me when I say this, I did not like this album when I first heard it. It felt TOO weird, which was odd since I liked The Residents. There was just something I didn't like about the music Comus made, it just did not click for me. However, now as I listened to plenty of bands, like Faust, Current 93, and y'know, bands that are much MUCH more abstract and weirder than Comus?and also after listening to this album a bit more throughout the week, I grew to quite like them.

I don't quite think of it as the masterpiece people say it is, I still think there are some issues I have with this record, but a lot of the good stuff outweighs the bad. For starters, I really love the instrumentation here. It is a manic, psychedelic affair of both chaos, beauty, and horror, wrapped in an almost rock-like texture. At points it is jarring, at other points it is very jarring, and at rare moments it is incredibly gorgeous, but all of it feels like Comus. You know, I think this is one of those times where the album art and the music match, because this sounds like music envisioned by a disheveled, skinned down, old man, lying, crying and screaming. It is as freak folk as you could get, and it's all very greatly put together.

I also adore Bobbie Watson's vocals here. She appears on most of the songs, being backing vocals for a lot of them, however with the exception of The Herald. Her vibrant, lush voice contrasts the rest of the music, but still manages to put an off atmosphere, as if she too is one with the man on the cover, but just hides it better than the rest of the crew here.

Speaking of vocals, I am not quite a fan of Wootton's vocals. Well, more accurately, they kinda get tiring after a while. At first with tracks like Diana and Drip Drip, his vocal works are pretty dang strong, being quite in tune and eclectic in his vibratos, and for the first time pretty favorable. However after Song To Comus they start to get rather old for me, and at times annoying. Points like The Bite and The Prisoner make me wish he let the music breathe a bit more without spouting a bunch of, while good, very dark and cryptic lyrics at us.

The second side in general certainly isn't as good as the first for me. While I do really enjoy Song to Comus?The Bite, Bitten, and The Prisoner just aren't really that strong of tracks in retrospect to the magnificent Diana, the gorgeous The Herald, and the oppressively epic Drip Drip. At the point of these tracks, the sound of Comus has kind of played a bit too long for me, and while I can appreciate what the band was going for with these tracks, they just don't interest me as much as what the first half delivers. To say the least, this album is top heavy. I think it would be much better if the album tracks were Diana and the extended 12 minute version of The Herald on one side, and Drip Drip and Song To Comus on the other. That is at least what I believe should've gone down within this album's tracks.

All that aside, there is one song in particular that I really love, and consider to be the band's masterpiece, that being Diana. Now it may be there more popular track, I know, it was their lead single on this record, and it may not be as epic as The Herald or Drip Drip, but Diana contains so much in so little time that it all makes up for it with abstract freaky folk, proggy moments that can make even King Crimson shed a tear, and probably the best Roger has ever sounded on this record, and maybe his whole career. My favorite part of this whole song is the bongo solo provided by Rob Young, which honestly kinda weirdly reminds me of the guitar solos on Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas. I mean, both are probably both band's biggest singles, with both being amazing prog tracks that fit a ton of stuff in pretty short time windows. Weird comparisons to a completely different kind of band out of the way, this song is just awesome to me, and it is certainly one of the best progressive folk songs to be put out.

While First Utterance did not give me a good first impression, I grew to really like this album, and certainly see why many people consider it an amazing progressive folk output. I say give it a spin if you wanna check out some weird, psychedelic folk music, you may find a treasured record waiting to be unlocked.

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 649 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Boi_da_boi_124

4 stars Review #80!

The first Comus album. Dark and folky. In terms of the music, this album is already amazing, but it is really the vocals that throw me off. The duets can sound whiny at times. That's not even the bad part. The lyrics are so hard to make out, I had to look them all up. But it was worth it. These lyrics found on 'Diana' are honestly beautiful. They fit well with the vocals to create a sense of fear and anxiety. 'The Herald', the longest song on the album, has some deep and depressing lyrics, and the guitar found about one third through the song reminds me a lot of Fleetwood Mac. Exactly eight minutes is a tribal-sounding interlude with a violin and a recorder (I think), which leads back into the main melody to complete the song with a heart-wrenching set of la-la-las. Then there is 'Drip Drip' which has unusually sensual lyrics. For some reason I cannot explain, the first seconds of this song sound like Radiohead's 'Spectre'. A hoedown-y interlude is found about halfway through. This track has a very fun chorus. Makes you want to get up and shout out 'DRIP DRIP DRIP'. 'Song to Comus' is a song about rape. It has some of the dumbest echoing ever. No tape looping or anything like that. The two vocalists just repeating with lowering voices. It's still not a bad song, though. Some fun Ian Anderson-esque flute is found in this track. 'The Bite' seems to be about suicide. Another morbid track on a morbid album. 'Bitten' is the most unsettling song on this album. Short and instrumental, it doesn't last long, but it manages to capture a lot of fear in two minutes. 'The Prisoner' is a song about the mentally ill. A nice, grim closing to Comus's first album.

 Song to Comus: The Complete Collection by COMUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2005
4.47 | 47 ratings

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Song to Comus: The Complete Collection
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A 2CD collection collecting the full output of Comus from their original incarnation. Admittedly, of this material only the debut album, First Utterance, is truly essential, but if you regard this as getting that plus the inferior second album (To Keep From Crying), plus the Diana single, plus All the Colours of Darkness (an unearthed track), plus a solo single from band member Roger Wootton. It's about as good a way to get an instant Comus collection in one purchase as exists, though if you decide you are only really interested in First Utterance, which is certainly the only part of this I end up listening to regularly.
 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 649 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by nikitasv777

5 stars 19 February 1971 one of the most interesting, surreal, mysterious and scariest albums ever came out on the Dawn label. First Utterance is the first Comus album and is one of my favorite albums. Easily the most alluringly creepy folk music I've ever heard. But i'm fascinated. Fascinated by the interplay between the acoustic guitar and the bass, percussion and violin. Fascinated by the flying flute and lyrical, almost Arcadian, female harmonies. Fascinated by off-kilter rhythm. The musicianship here is top-notch. Thankfully there isn't a single weak moment to be found here. It's a mammoth achievement, both for folk music and music in general. The way the dark themes are handled gives this album a very intriguing, bizarre and captivating atmosphere at the same time. First Utterance one of the most inventive and distinctive works to come out of the 1970s progressive rock movement. Comus debut has achieved a remarkable cult status. First Utterance is a masterpiece in every possible way.
 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 649 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Argentinfonico

4 stars Definitely a work that all fans of the subgenre should listen to. A sound as concrete as no other, accompanied throughout the album by macabrely beautiful and angelic female voices. This contradiction of the entire album between the celestial and the demonic provides a very attractive miscellany for the listener, always using exact chords and leaving the instruments to glow in the dark playing a very sinister role in most of the songs. I feel like every time I listen to this album I'm going to grow a little more attached to it. The highest point is The Herald, the longest song and where all the magic and creativity flow excessively, weaving a sound that cannot displease you.
 Out of the Coma by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.94 | 142 ratings

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Out of the Coma
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Archangel

5 stars Comus is Out Of The Coma really. Comus is back after a couple of decades (not to count the years) with this album coming back were they started in the first place, although less raw than "First Utterance" but still eccentric and crazy like good AcicFolk music must be. Music is crafted in a similar style like their early works, but with the new rich sound of modern production and really good set up of arraignments in compositions. Really like the addition of soprano sax. After all this time they even manage to get the same people, counting 5 original crew members from recording of their first album. There is only one bad thing with "Out Of The Coma" and that is there are only 3 songs on the album really. Although lengthy still we need more music like this. Can't get enough of Comus it seems. What to say else, strongly recommend to every lover of Acid Folk to get this album and enjoy once again Comus experience. Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music
 To Keep from Crying by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.87 | 120 ratings

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To Keep from Crying
Comus Prog Folk

Review by Archangel

4 stars I don't know what to say. Either this kind of music is highly underappreciated or not really understood. There is nothing wrong with Comus second Album "To Keep From Crying". Actually, there is nothing wrong with all of their work only what is wrong with the story about their music is that there is no much music like theirs out there in the world. Sure Comus second album is not as raw and eccentric as their debut album, but that comes only as natural growth and the next step in the progress of creating music. Music is in similar style as their first album "First Utterance" although is some way calmer, like the band did not feel that it needs to provoke to attract attention. I don't feel like I need to explain the music itself. It is AcidProgRockFolk at its best. There are no songs that really stand out album sound very compact from beginning to end without fillers and all tracks are there to encircle the experience of listening the album. Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection really (if not more).
 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.16 | 649 ratings

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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 | 649 ratings

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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.

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