Review Summary: Groundbreaking early '70's act invokes progressive, folk, and psychedelic rock all at once.
Comus' first effort, First Utterance, is a notable plunge into an odd pocket of the 1970's progressive music field, namely progressive folk. Comus takes some of the ideals of progressive greats of their time such as King Crimson and mixes it into something entirely original, utilizing tribal percussion, violin, and gorgeous acoustic arrangements in order to pioneer this sound. It is almost unyieldingly promising that this album was released in 1971, because it is obviously far ahead of it's time.
Admittedly, Comus' debut starts on a rather sour note with "Diana". The track showcases the band's primal percussion work, but it is rather bland and uninteresting for a track that's almost five minutes. Luckily, follow-up "The Herald" is twelve minutes of relentless beauty: it begins in earnest with a typically folky backdrop under drifting female vocals, but really takes off halfway through, with amazing heartfelt acoustic guitar work and somber flute and violin arrangements under the same afore-mentioned vocals. "Drip Drip" is more of a step into the surreal, almost seeming like a rock song with heavy percussion work and dynamic build-ups using violin parts, and yet it consistently has an air of strangeness to it that shows why the band is truly unique. It is hardly unexpected when this track also becomes stripped-down near the end, with the entire band playing off odd instrumentation placement.
"Song to Comus" is just as adventurous, focusing heavily on dynamic interplay, most notably in the vocals, as leads slowly drop under backups and give way to climaxes, and "The Bite" continues to display the band's skill for interweaving vocal and instrument work as well as their ability to drive a song with only a few elements. After the mood track "Bitten", "The Prisoner" is a fine enough ending to a great album, although my version has a few tracks tacked on from an EP that do even more to compliment the band's songwriting skills.
Comus' debut hardly feels like fifty minutes, as the songs flow together so coherently and it is so easy to get lost in that it will seem to go by in no time. Many people interested in this sort of music will undoubtebly listen again and again, however, as it has a tremendous amount to offer on repeated hearings. "First Utterance" is a clear representation of a band far ahead of their time; even with the obvious minus in "Diana" it is definitely worth a listen from anyone interested in early progressive or psychedelic/folk rock.