In their lengthy absence, Comus became almost mythic. Their 1971 debut album First Utterance was revered and inspirational, with many suddenly discovering their charms. Now the psych lords are back with their first album in 38 years, but can they possibly live up to the hype and expectation? The answer is massively affirmative.
While their last record was 1974’s To Keep From Crying, in reality Out Of The Coma is the natural successor to the aforementioned First Utterance, in that the psych and folk deference is clearly in evidence. But so too is a dark density, something that always separated them from many of their peers.
The juxtaposition of instrumentation leaves a tantalising symmetry between whimsy and paganism. Between gentility and violence. Between dreams and nightmares. This is really summed up by the opposing vocals of Bobbie Watson and Roger Wootton. While the former has an almost angelic quality, the latter is a guttural glower from deep within the shadowy recesses of the mind. It’s the sort of diverse approach a lot of contemporary metal bands have tried to emulate, but they don’t even get close to generating the same sort of eerie atmosphere as this pair do.
You can hear it all coming to fruition on the title track, which opens the album. It weaves a spell of death and loathing, making both seem sublime and aspirational. Yet at the same time, this is not a celebration of such fates, more a case of embracing the inevitable. This again pulls them apart from bands in the black metal sphere, who have clearly been influenced by Comus’s earlier works.
The tone continues unabated throughout The Sacrifice and The Return. The complexity of the music dovetails with a lyrical simplicity, helping to build a starkly surreal sonic portrait, one that seems to push away the listener, while also offering a charismatic enticement. It’s this oddity that keeps taking you back to the album, as you try to work out the schizophrenic nature of Comus.
But perhaps the best is saved to last, as we finally get to hear the celebrated Malgaard Suite. This is the first part of an epic musical journey that was to be the core of a second album they eventually ditched, and it provides the climax to Out Of The Coma. It was recorded live in 1972 though and – as is explained in a verbal introduction – the recording itself is flawed.
Yet this doesn’t diminish the sheer scale of the near-operatic achievement on show here. It’s absolutely awe-inspiring, and a fitting way to conclude an exceptional album.