Album: Coma Ghosts
Genre: Symphonic Progressive Metal
Purchase: Label Website
It is quite rare for me to encounter new music these days that is good enough to motivate me to write a review. In the over-crowded genres of heavy/symphonic/progressive metal, it seems that these days there are a million new bands all vying to become the next Opeth or Dream Theater. Some of these clones are even quite good, but, alas, they are clones. Carbon copies of a superior original, destined to live in the shadow of what they often accurately and skillfully imitate, but bringing nothing new or original to the table. So, when I heard about this band Effloresce for the first time, and when they were described to me as a band that plays music in the style of Opeth, I have to admit that I went into it with low expectations, perhaps even a touch of cynicism.
I do not encounter many albums that I can't stop listening to. In a typical month, I probably buy 8 to 10 albums and many of them receive a few listens then end up on my CD rack, destined to the occasional spin, if that. Some of the better ones make it out to my car and the really good ones go on the iPod so I can listen to them through headphones, immerse myself in them, wrap myself in their textures, learn their intricacies.......these are the great albums, many of them I even use the "M" word to describe, but I'll come back to that.....Effloresce's debut effort, Coma Ghosts is one of those albums that has made it both to my car and to my iPod. In fact, I've lost count of how many times I've listened to this album. It really sort of snuck up on me, and in a way, that seems appropriate given the overall mood, feel and warm dark glow that emanates from this music.
The contrasts here are one of the things that make Effloresce's sound and style unique in the genre. Yes, there are going to be Opeth comparisons. I would be remiss to not acknowledge that there are passages here where I was definitely reminded of Blackwater Park-era Opeth, but I would certainly not call Effloresce a clone or carbon copy. No, this band has their own identity and it's the contrasts that, in large part, establish that identity. Nicki's silky, almost formal approach to her clean singing lays a smooth melodic silk sheet on top of the pounding and often intense and intricate rhythms laid down by Tobi (Drums) and Sebastian (Bass). Tim (Guitars) and Dave (Guitars/Keys) slice swaths of sonic aggression into the mix with their riffs, which are often delivered in fist pumping bursts interlaced with subtleties and intricacies that do not typify a debut release. The lead guitar work is never flashy and acrobatic and devoid of cheap tricks. Instead it is carefully crafted and in service of the piece at any given moment. This is such a refreshing departure from the typical mindless shredding and histrionics that plague the genre at times. Dave’s keyboards bring depth and like the guitar work are used in service of the songs. The sounds are varied, but tend to stay in the area of warm, analog-sounding classic organs. It's a nice touch that helps widen out the overall sound.
While I am on the overall sound, I must commend the band on having achieved some of the best heavy guitar tone I've heard in some time. The guitars sound warm and crunchy, the bass is fat, deep and wide, the drums are gigantic and the vocals lay on top of all of this at just the right level. Overall, it's an excellent sounding disc that is well-mixed, well-crafted and extremely well-delivered on all fronts, including the sparse but very nice use of flute by Nicki.
The album is deceptively complex while being almost immediately accessible. That, in and of itself, is quite an achievement. Do listen multiple times before you decide what you think. Effloresce is a band to watch. I think their biggest challenge now will be to come up with a follow up album that is on par with this debut.
Getting back to that "M" word thing I mentioned earlier. It's not a label I take lightly, so, in the spirit of offering an objective and honest assessment of Coma Ghosts, I will not use it here. But I will say this: It's very, very close. And I believe this band has it in them to create their masterpiece. Perhaps it will be the next one. Until then, like all great albums I encounter, I have Coma Ghosts on my iPod, in my car, at my office and in my media room at home, so that I can listen to it and enjoy it often. And I still listen to it frequently, and even after 50+ spins Coma Ghosts still reveals a different nuance with each listen.
4.5 of 5 stars.