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Comus - First Utterance CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.16 | 548 ratings

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5 stars The cover of Comus' infamous debut is one of those covers that completely resemble the music on the record. Like MBV's "Loveless" or Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning", it's just one of those records that make you go "wow, this actually sounds like that". And First Utterance most certainly does sound as twisted as it's cover, a quick ball-point pen drawing by singer Roger Wootton, depicting a disturbed and strangely deformed figure in obvious agony.

And it's this obsession with dissonance and the macabre that make First Utterance such an interesting listen. Although hailed today as an all-time great, First Utterance went largely unappreciated, its almost barbaric and medieval sound along with lyrical themes too disturbing to grace these pages alienated most music fans, but it's legacy carried on mostly with active support from initially David Bowie and later Opeth's frontman Mikael Akerfeldt, who has lyrics from the album tattooed on his arm, and even titled his album "My Arms, Your Hearse" after lyrics from "Drip Drip". Akerfeldt was responsible for my introduction into the album, constantly talking about it in interviews, begging for more to discover this hidden gem.

And it's this underground 'cult' following that has brought First Utterance back into the spotlight, even prompting the band, who quickly broke up after it's initial failure, to reunite for a tour and a new album last year. But like any cult album, there is complete reason for its infamous status.

The main tag given to First Utterance is "freak folk", a new sort of genre at the time, with the only other output being Caribbean band Exuma, but the premise being based around folk music, with pagan instrumentation, primarily done with choral female vocals and flutes, to create a very odd sound. But it's the use of dissonance in the layering, and the angular, animal-like vocals that create the horrifically disturbing atmosphere. Although the music it most often quick and hectic, there are some very serene and beautiful moments, primarily in the central section of "The Herald".

First Utterance is a landmark. The beginning of experimentation in the folk world, foreshadowing the later Neofolk and Apocalyptic Folk movements, and in itself being miles ahead of its time. A strange beast of strange and deformed proportions, but a wonderful beast in that.

Gallifrey | 5/5 |


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