With many of the big names in progressive metal moving away from (or at least taking a break from) their classic styles, it’s nice to hear a newer band that can pull off the genre so convincingly. Opeth is definitely the closest comparison to Effloresce’s sound, but with a female vocalist and a greater focus on vocal harmony, the group brings plenty that’s fresh and original as well. Furthermore, Coma Ghosts is packed with variety: from crunching riffs to psychedelic atmospheres to melodic solos, there’s nary a dull or repetitive moment to be found on the entire album.
‘Crib’ begins the album with some classic sounding synths before introducing some heavy, almost martial guitar riffs that lead into the introduction of some very powerful female vocals. All the while, of course, the riffs keep on chugging away, providing an excellent heavy background for the strong melodies in the vocals and occasional lead guitar lines. The group shows some Opeth influence with the inclusion of a softer, more atmospheric part in the middle of the track that features ethereal synths and guitars as well as some minimal percussion. Intensity builds back up, however, towards the end of the track, with the same martial riffs from the opening growing louder and louder before a very Dream Theater-esque guitar solo bursts forth. The song closes out with a reprise of the first vocal motif before finishing off with more of those nice, crunchy riffs.
The proggily named ‘Spectre Part I: Zorya’s Dawn’ comes next, and at 10 minutes, it’s a doozy. Another excellent riff kicks off the track before the track launches into a killer guitar solo that’s again very reminiscent (to my ears, at least) of Opeth. After the solo concludes there’s a softer, less distorted guitar part which leads into another great vocal melody. I really have to commend the singer; her vocals range from tender emoting to strident belting and all of the various styles are pulled off with equal aplomb. Adding to the sonic palette is the introduction of growled vocals at about the five minute mark. I understand that not everyone is a fan of this vocal style, but I’ve always thought that it can give the music a bit of extra punch if used correctly, and that is certainly the case here. Regardless, the growls are used only briefly, and the band shows a remarkable amount of compositional sophistication in transitioning back to a more melodic, atmospheric style. The track closes with a vocal reprise of the track’s central motif before ending with a dramatic thunderclap effect.
‘Pavement Canvas’ begins with another lighter section, featuring some almost jazzy guitar, bass and percussion that play off each other very well in an instrumental introductory section. At about a minute and a half in, a heavier instrumentation takes over, with distorted guitars laying down some crushing riffs that are soon augmented by frenetic percussion and vocals soon after that. ‘Pavement Canvas’ features some of my favorite vocal moments on the album, with excellent clean melodies and growls that sound even rawer and more brutal than on the previous track. Again, I can hear definite similarities to older Opeth material, but the decidedly different vocal tone and occasionally minimalistic and jazzy atmospheres keep the song from ever sounding like a clone.
‘Undercoat,’ the shortest track on the album, starts off with some very cool, spacey sounds that provide a nice moment of respite after the particularly intense previous track. Delicate, wavering keyboards and a psychedelic, melodic guitar solo round out the sound of the brief instrumental track and ‘Undercoat’ ends up being a nice interlude in this intense album.
‘Swimming Through Deserts’ begins with a very psychedelic sound, and has some of the strongest stylistic similarities to Opeth yet, though this hearkens more to that band’s softer material. Excellent atmospheres are the crux of the sound here, with clean, strummed guitar and excellent, understated use of electric as well. ‘Swimming Through Deserts’ is a great song showing that the band is far from a one track pony-if this song is any indication, Effloresce can do breezy and dreamy as well as they can do brutal and intense.
‘Shuteye Wanderer,’ however, swings back hard in the other direction. With growls and heavy riffing appearing in the first minute, the track goes for broke with a 16.5 minute running time and a full-on, epic prog metal sound. For about the first 2 minutes the track features a very heavy sound, displaying instrumental prowess before stripping down the sound to introduce vocals. The singing is understated and nuanced, with great use of harmony as well as melody. After this softer section, the heavy riffs come back, and growled and clean vocals switch off for a little while to great effect. What follows after is one of the most surprisingly effective sections on the entire album; a soft, melodic instrumental interlude of sorts featuring a wonderful flute part that manages to integrate itself perfectly into the heaviness of the rest of the track. Vocals return for a brief moment after this before the track launches into another excellent instrumental section, with a killer guitar solo and more satisfyingly crunchy riffing. The final third of the track features another softer section with delicate, harmonized vocals as well as a final reprise of one of the earlier vocal melodies, this time recast over much heavier music. It’s a great way to give the song some closure, and by the time the track’s last guitar solo fades out I’d venture a guess that most prog-metal fans will find themselves more than satisfied.
Overall, then, Coma Ghosts is an excellent album. While those who couldn’t find the classic sound they were looking for on Opeth’s ‘Heritage’ might find what they’re looking for here, writing this band off as a simple Opeth clone would be a foolish mistake. Effloresce show an impressive degree of sophistication on this, their first full length album, and I heavily suspect that the prog community will be hearing a lot more from this band in the future. An excellent debut and hopefully an album that will be followed by many more releases.
2. Spectre Pt. I: Zorya’s Dawn
3. Pavement Canvas
5. Swimming Through Deserts
6. Shuteye Wanderer
Sections of this review originally appeared on Progarchives.com