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COMUS

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Comus biography
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
Get Back 2011
Vinyl$27.98
$46.32 (used)
Song to Comus: The Complete CollectionSong to Comus: The Complete Collection
Import
Castle Music UK 2005
Audio CD$16.68
$12.00 (used)
Out of the ComaOut of the Coma
Import
PID 2012
Audio CD$13.38
$29.94 (used)
East of Sweden: Live at Melloboat Festival 2008East of Sweden: Live at Melloboat Festival 2008
Gnostic Dirt 2011
Audio CD$13.39
$13.20 (used)
To Keep From CryingTo Keep From Crying
Import
Japanese Indies 2005
Audio CD$41.70
$47.00 (used)
LIVE IN JAPAN 2012LIVE IN JAPAN 2012
Deluxe Edition · Special Limited Edition · Collector's Edition
Captain Trip Records
Audio CD$35.29
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COMUS shows & tickets


  • VillaManuela Festival 2014 on 2 Oct 2014

COMUS discography


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

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

4.12 | 386 ratings
First Utterance
1971
2.75 | 74 ratings
To Keep From Crying
1974
3.86 | 92 ratings
Out of the coma
2012

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

3.33 | 3 ratings
East of Sweden: Live at the Melloboat Festival 2008
2011

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

4.13 | 4 ratings
Live At The Melloboat 2008
2011

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

4.46 | 38 ratings
Song to Comus: The Complete Collection
2005

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

2.71 | 21 ratings
Diana
1971

COMUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.12 | 386 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by MJAben

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 directionless at times. I had a great deal of trouble with how I should rate this album, on the one hand I feel the album deserves respect for taking the risks it did and having them pull off so well, on the other hand (as I mentioned earlier) the album can feel directionless and it's easy to lose focus on it.

It's an album that you have to listen to very carefully, all of the subtle nuances and minor shifts in the music can be lost at first listen. It's a challenging record that fortunately I feel will pay off for most listeners.

I found out about Comus (like a great deal of people nowadays) through Mikael Akerfeldt who has been plugging the band for a great many years now. Naming songs (Baying of the Hounds), albums (My Arms, Your Hearse) and various lyrical content directly from this album.

I've seen a number of reviewers complain that this isn't prog, that it would be better described as something like 'acid folk' which I can't precisely argue. Nonetheless the album has progressive elements strewn throughout, not to mention symphonic and jazzy moments that couldn't simply be pigeonholed under 'acid folk' either. Of course this is all arguing semantics, the music is entirely progressive, best shown through songs like 'The Herald' and 'Drip Drip'.

Pulling in influences from jazz, folk, rock, psych, african drumming, choral music, gospel, blues any many other places this album is eclectic to say the least. One reviewer said that this might be what Crimson would sound like had they gone prog which I think sums the sound up quite well.

I do find the first half to be (if only a little bit) stronger than the second. That being said 'Song to Comus' and 'The Prisoner' from the second half are extremely strong. To be quite honest I don't think there is a weak song on the album but, in some way, everything begins to feel like a letdown after 'The Herald' / 'Drip Drip'.

That being said this is some of the most adventurous, technical and, at times, beautiful music I have ever heard. This album has been on non stop repeat for the last week and every time it plays I am more and more fascinated by it, everything just seems to fit together so beautifully. Never have I heard an album where the lyrics match the music so perfectly and every song seems to depict it's meaning in every way. Strong lyrical content and, more importantly, fitting said lyrics with the music is a real unique gift that seems to be missing from far too much prog rock.

The vocals play over top of each other and all compliment each other extremely well, even if all vocalists aside from the female vocalist aren't what you would call, talented or even good vocalists, I don't feel as though it would fit anywhere outside of this music but that just goes to make the music all the more unique and magical. The album is a roller coaster that at times you may want to get off, afterwards though, you'll be glad you went along for the ride.

For its complex musicianship, challenging compositions, driven sound, adventurous nature and stunning lyrics this album deserves no less than 5 stars.

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 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.12 | 386 ratings

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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.

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 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.12 | 386 ratings

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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 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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 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.12 | 386 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

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 itīs 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. Itīs 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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 Song to Comus: The Complete Collection by COMUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2005
4.46 | 38 ratings

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Song to Comus: The Complete Collection
Comus Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy

4 stars Here you have it all. The entire COMUS output up to 2005 . And at a very fair price it is the perfect one stop shop if you want to explore the first two albums FIRST UTTERANCE and TO KEEP FROM CRYING along with the DIANA EP which contains the songs "In The Lost Queen's Eyes" and "Winter Is A Coloured Bird." Both of which are very good but not quite of the caliber of the first album.

Also included are the previously unreleased "All The Colours Of Darkness" which to me seems like a bridge between the divine of the first album and the hilarious of the second with beautiful instrumentation with not-quite-hitting-the-high-notes vocals AND the poppier-than-pop solo singles released by Roger Wooten.

This completely DIGITALLY REMASTERED compilation will give you all the highs of the first album, the lows of the second and the interesting quirkiness of the additional material. Perfect for newbies wanting to explore the entire history of the band and not just the phenomenal debut album.

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 To Keep From Crying by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.75 | 74 ratings

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To Keep From Crying
Comus Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy

3 stars Well, this album must surely rank as one of the worst falls from grace in musical history. After releasing the outstanding phenomena FIRST UTTERANCE in 1971, Comus dropped off the radar for a few years changing up their lineup and returning 3 years later with their second offering TO KEEP FROM CRYING. I'm guessing that maybe the title refers to their loss of inspiration and direct channeling of the god Comus after being lured to the pop side of music, perhaps inspired by Roger Wooten's involvement with Slapp Happy.

Upon first listening I thought this was absolutely horrible! The songs are goofy and clumsy and all I could do is compare them to the previous album. I can totally understand why this album is as disliked as it is. However, I loved this band enough to give it more than a simple brush off and threw these songs on my ipod and heard them pop up randomly. After hearing them off and on for over a year, I grew to appreciate a few of them more. The problem is the kernels of some of them are interesting but they are underdeveloped and some are really, really bad. Some of them are quite amusing. I'm being generous but I think I can give this 3 stars.

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 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.12 | 386 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy

5 stars As a long time reader of PA, I am quite grateful for all the excellent reviews on this site and have expanded my musical universe exponentially because of it. For this oasis in cyperspace, I thank you all :)

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

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

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

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

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 To Keep From Crying by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.75 | 74 ratings

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To Keep From Crying
Comus Prog Folk

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I am a fan of change and development in music. A band needs to develop their sound down the years to stay interesting. And besides, how could a band, as indeed any human, stand immune to developing oneself? It is nigh on impossible, if you are at all sensitive to your surroundings and personal visions. That is why I applaud daring and courage to change, maybe not always improve, but re-evaluate ones perspective.

When Comus recorded their follow up to First utterance, a brilliant piece of demented folk, they found themselves writing songs more accessible than their previous effort. The result was an album of folk rock that while not bad did not reach up to their true powers, as it would seem.

I have approached this album with care over the years, always finding myself puzzled. I could not make up my mind as to the albums contents. By Comus standards or folk rock ones, what's it's worth? I am, probably, plagued by First utterance and also Out of the coma, when I write this. The brilliance of album No.1 and album No.3 is so omnipotent and ever present that it is hard not to compare To keep from crying with these two. Yet I find it to be an injustice. You have to compe each album for what it's worth, not only in comparison to other, maybe greater discs. Still I will attempt to review the album on it's own strengths, rather than on other albums powers.

Now then, what's it like? The album is, objectively speaking, a mixed bag. There are tracks of great worth, such as the title track and "Children of the Universe". These are folk rock and haunting in a good way. Oh, and "Get yourself a man". That is a very good folk rock track aswell. These tracks do appeal to me, as a fan of folk. They are not so much in the vein of First utterance, which is good actually, since I've bellowed out my love for change. But then there are the main bulk of the album, which is so and so. "Down (like a movie star)" seems to be an attempt at askew and dementia in First utterance style, only slightly more radio friendely. For me it doesn't work. I don't like it. I could keep the title track and "Children of the Universe" and only return to the remainder of the tracks if nevessary.

In conclusion, To keep from crying is a decent folk rock album with it's moments but also alot of stuff easily forgotten. The cover of the album is intriguing and gets my attention. The Comus magic is there, as it can be found, though rather hard to detect sometimes, in the music itself. Overall, it could be said, the music differs not only in style but also in the performance, due to the fact that the instrumentation is more contemporary with alot of electrified sounds. This is not bad. Actually, the keyboard in "Get yourself a man" is quite haunting and gives the piece a somewhat uneasy feeling. That is good but it doesn't make the album any better. The material is, like I wrote, a mixed bag. It almost feels as they through it all wasn't sure of the direction in which to go. All accessible or terrifyingly askew, as previously?

The rating has to be three stars, for me. Two for the music and one for the effort. Still, the three tracks I've mentioned are top notch prog folk pieces which ought to be more recognised.

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 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.12 | 386 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by VOTOMS

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

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

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 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.12 | 386 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

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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