Review Summary: Progressive folk band from the 1970s pushes the bounds of avant garde music.
Comus’s “First Utterance” proves that indeed, the ‘70's were an experimental period. Pinning together the mindset of folk with the constantly evolving nature of progressive rock, Comus was able to release a record that experimentally will, in my opinion, never be dated. “First Utterance” exists in its own realm of music, because that’s what the members of Comus wished to do when they set out to make the album. Often critics compare the release to the melodies one would hear around a “witch’s brew”, and this reference is completely true. The ethereal and almost primitive feel of “First Utterance” is partly due to the fact that the only electric instrument found on the album is the bass; other than that we have acoustic guitars, bongos, violin, and extremely layered vocals.
I have a cassette tape recording of “The Hobbit” I bought at a flea market when I was younger. It was originally played on the BBC and its soundtrack is just gorgeous. Whenever I think of Comus, that recording always pops up because they both have the same atmospheric effect on me. Both recordings remind me of mountains, and issues associated with fantasy. “The Herald” on “First Utterance” is a perfect example of the atmospheric power of Comus. There is a long instrumental bridge in the song and it’s absolutely image-inspiring. Where other bands are concerned with emotional impacts, Comus has rather side stepped that motive and is instead focusing on transporting their listener to another plateau. While bands like Pink Floyd and Yes were attempting this in the ‘70's, none of them did it as well as Comus. “First Utterance” is not so much a record as it is a vessel for transporting the listener to the artist’s own realm of violence, fantasy, and nature.
While “First Utterance” is flawless in its execution instrumentally, the lyrics leave something to be desired. They words to the music do suit the music, but they just don’t reach the level of excellence the instruments behind them do. While my opinion should be taken lightly since lyrics are one of the main reasons I listen to music, I do feel the band could’ve done a more appropriate job writing lyrics for the album. Even with this small nitpick, Comus’s “First Utterance” is an incredible record, especially considering the period of time it was released in. For fans of the avant-garde and progressive rock genres, “First Utterance” will not disappoint.