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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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Song To Comus - The Complete Collection -  ComusSong To Comus - The Complete Collection - Comus
Import
SANCTUARY 2015
Audio CD$11.99
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Import
Imports 2017
Vinyl$22.54
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Out Of The ComaOut Of The Coma
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East of Sweden: Live at Melloboat Festival 2008East of Sweden: Live at Melloboat Festival 2008
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East of Sweden: Live at Melloboat Festival 2008 by COMUS (2011-07-05)East of Sweden: Live at Melloboat Festival 2008 by COMUS (2011-07-05)
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First Utterance by Comus (2006-02-07)First Utterance by Comus (2006-02-07)
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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)

4.14 | 489 ratings
First Utterance
1971
2.77 | 92 ratings
To Keep From Crying
1974
3.89 | 110 ratings
Out Of The Coma
2012

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

3.43 | 7 ratings
East of Sweden: Live at the Melloboat Festival 2008
2011

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

4.00 | 5 ratings
Live At The Melloboat 2008
2011

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

4.55 | 40 ratings
Song to Comus: The Complete Collection
2005

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

2.74 | 27 ratings
Diana
1971

COMUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 To Keep From Crying by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
2.77 | 92 ratings

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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
3.89 | 110 ratings

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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
4.14 | 489 ratings

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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
4.14 | 489 ratings

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First Utterance
Comus Prog Folk

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Welcome to the woods!

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

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

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

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

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

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.14 | 489 ratings

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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
4.14 | 489 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.

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.14 | 489 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.

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.14 | 489 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 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.

 First Utterance by COMUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.14 | 489 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 through the Dawn label in February 1971 which was one month after the band released the "Diana (1971)" maxi single. Upon release the album generally didnīt receive positive reviews, and it didnīt sell well either. "First Utterance" has since gained "cult" status though, and is widely acknowledged as a seminal progressive acid folk release.

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

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

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

 Song to Comus: The Complete Collection by COMUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2005
4.55 | 40 ratings

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Song to Comus: The Complete Collection
Comus Prog Folk

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

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.

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

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