Comets on Fire viciously got themselves noticed with their self titled release in 2000. Blending the energy and feeling of ‘70s rock with the popular end of the “noise" genre, the band was able to find one of those weird meshes of music style that while not making perfect sense on paper, is a joy to the ear. Following their incredibility heavy first LP with the more varied and calmer “Field Recordings From The Sun", also the band recruited rising folk sensation and virtuoso guitar player Ben Chansy (of Six Organs of Admittance fame) for a few of that albums tracks. While “Blue Cathedral" most defiantly had much excitement surrounding its release from Comets on Fire fans, due to the inclusion of Ben Chansy as a permanent member it certainly wasn’t being regarded as a really anticipated album outside of the already convinced base. After it’s release though it was obvious that Comets on Fire had done away with the tedious and at times downright annoying sounds found on their previous records, and finally found a heavy yet unique sound that was completely original. “Blue Cathedral" went on to receive many top end reviews and also garner a much more mainstream success for the band, which can be seen in the exciting anticipation rising up around their new release “Avatar".
I read an interview with Comets on Fire “leader" and vocalist Ethan Miller said that the lyrical content of this band was completely useless and just basically a means for him to deliver vocals. While I do find this hard to believe, due to the sheer passion behind his distorted yelp, I can certainly bet that you are going to have an extremely hard time trying to determine what Miller is exactly saying. This same idea can basically be said about the tones of the instruments on “Blue Cathedral", although they exist and are somewhat coherent, when the whole band gets into a groove, it is just that. At their peak there seem to be no individual players in this band, and while this may be a weakness in some people’s eyes the ability to combine such a large amount of noise into something extremely heavy yet blissful is what keeps me coming back to the band. This can be seen on both the opener, “The Bee and The Cracking Egg" (which has a riff any ‘70s rock outfit would kill for) and also in the final minutes of the last track “Blue Tomb" (which features one of the best guitar solos I’ve ever heard.). Although for an intense and well versed Comets on Fire fan, these heavy sections are no surprise, “Blue Cathedral" manages to throw a few surprises into the mix with the slow instrumental burner, “Pussy Foot The Duke" and the extremely Six Organs of Admittancesque “Wild Whiskey". Also the more present sense of keyboard on this album helps make it stand out in the discography of the band. While every track on the album doesn’t possess the same heaviness as “The Antlers of the Midnight Sun" with it’s extremely intense drum intro and constant guttural yelp from Milller, every song does seem to be “heavy" and rock oriented (sans “Wild Whiskey). Normally, I would find a band that is so richly invested in repetition just that, repetitive, yet Comets on Fire usually find a way to make what could be meandering jams into interesting passages that connect their verse chorus structured songs.
While in my opinion Comets on Fire is a great psychedelically weighted noise rock group, others may be extremely displeased with what seems to be aimless song structure and incoherent vocals and instruments. Sharing a small similarity with early Queens of the Stone Age, Comets on Fire is what many would refer to as “stoner rock" due to their highly repetitive nature and extremely rich sound scapes. While Miller may not be the most talented vocalist, his voice tends to compliment the music well, and at the times it doesn’t the way it is mixed production wise, it poses little threat to the enjoyment of the record. Perhaps “Blue Cathedral’s" only flaw is the fact that at times the songs all seem very similar in the sense that most tend to feature what at first glance seems to be very typical jamming. While this is not extremely bad, it does give the listener the impression he is listening to a song he has already heard by the end of the album.
“Blue Cathedral" is an extremely entertaining look into the world of noise rock, and while its repetition seems to be it’s undoing, it’s mostly an enjoyable ride. The combination of distorted guitars, and whimsically song structures helps this album retain one hell of a heavy sound. Although at times the band does fall victim to its self indulgent nature, the moments hardly make the record suffer to the point of annoyance. Comets on Fire have finalized their voice into an original and great entity on “Blue Cathedral" and its power to move and at the same time rock is what makes this such a fabulous record.