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Comets on Fire - Blue Cathedral

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Artist: Comets on Fire

Album: Blue Cathedral

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Jul. 18, 2004

Hairy terrors shooting straight from the monolithic ages of rock, Comets on Fire have returned to lay waste to whatever wasn’t completely incinerated by their last album, Field Recordings From the Sun. With six-string psychonaut Ben Chasny permanently in tow, Comets are poised to enact even wider devastation with Blue Cathedral, thanks to the bold signing by Sub Pop.

Blue Cathedral makes its crushing declarations early – opener “The Bee and the Cracking Egg” is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the skull, with its gritty riffing and echoplex-ed vocals sounding like the MC5 recast as interstellar mercenaries. Speaker-consuming oscillations and sheets of controlled feedback cascade with lysergic fury, never relenting until well after the five-minute mark, at which point the group slither into a hypnotic pulse, building slowly back up into another bleary eyed jam.

At times, the group sounds like a nightmarish cross between Yes and the Grateful Dead, if such a hybrid is possible. Organ, piano, and the laid back shuffle of Utrillo Kushner’s drumming lull the listener into a temporary state of calm, as the band regroups, re-arms and unleashes holy hell in the next turn around the bend.

Guitarist/vocalist Ethan Miller and his foil Ben Chasny are a perfect match; their single string splatterings weave together into tapestries of intemperate fervor. Occasionally, when the howling rests, the band washes into Six-Organs of Admittance style acoustic folk; a welcome change of pace. Elsewhere, on the unearthly track “Brotherhood of the Harvest,” the Comets lay down some Hammond organ beds and silvery lead guitar.

There are nods to Blue Cheer, Pink Floyd – even British mind melters High Tide all over Blue Cathederal. Even the fallen angels of biker metal Blue Oyster Cult haunt the tail end of “Whiskey River,” which shares a similar vibe to BOC’s darkly romantic “She’s as Beautiful as a Foot.”

The wild humor and slash-and-burn methodology of Comets on Fire have outlived any pretense to trend; Blue Cathedral makes a strong case for the permanent re-emergence of undiluted psychedelic rock. While other proponents of modern psych strum away in bedrooms, subways and coffee shops, Comets on Fire are unafraid to show us the movement’s ugly side – a head-on collision with the wild and the weird.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

Other Reviews of Comets on Fire

Field Recordings From the Sun


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View all articles by Casey Rae-Hunter

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