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A hidden gem - 100%

Writhingchaos, March 12th, 2016

Being a huge fan of Opeth, I was going through a couple of forums on the net discussing bands that were similar sounding to them and one fellow mentioned this band. Well that sounds like an interesting name, I thought. After one casual spin of Coma Ghosts, my jaw was still scraping the floor. I could not believe what I had just heard. A combo so fresh yet so intriguingly unique in its own way. A truly flawless combination of the progressive death metal of Opeth (around their Blackwater Park-Ghost Reveries era) along with gothic and technical death metal elements merged into a perfect whole. No excessive brutality or wanking to be found here; every instrument including the vocals has its perfect place sonically which is what makes the most difference, especially in the case of this album. Coming from Germany which is known worldwide for its pummelling thrash and death metal scene, this album is truly refreshing and a stunningly crafted treat for the prog senses. See what I just did there? Even the mystifying interlude “Undercoat” fits in beautifully with the bleak nature of the album.

From the very start of “Crib” a bleak sorrowful atmosphere paints the landscape of the entire album with the chugging mania interspersed with the slow brooding riffs, only to be further reinforced by the introduction of Nicki’s vocals. Check out that supremely catchy riff at 4:26. Heck that’s bound to get you headbanging in no time. Her vocals have both a dreamy and haunting texture which pushes parts of the music forward into even more desolate landscapes. Listen to the ballad “Swimming Through Deserts” (probably the albums most straightforward song) to see what I mean. The song could easily be an extra song from Blackwater Park with female vocals instead. Even 5:15 of “Crib” where only the keys and vocals dominate for a while should be enough for you to see what I mean by her vocals pushing the music forward.

Undoubtedly the one song that shows the bands blazing its guns through and through in a whirlwind of progressive brilliance is the cliff-hanger experience of “Shuteye Wanderer” in which the band superbly blend all the heavy and melodic elements that they have demonstrated on the previous 5 tracks into a winding 16 minutes of intelligent songwriting with sizzling technicality that very few prog bands in general can boast of. That riff kicking off at 1:24 just has to get you moving, no two ways about it, and after a soothing folk section at 8:42, the song flows into a doomy section with some excellent vocal work again with Nicki reaching for some crazy highs. At 11:12, one of the meatiest technical riff stomps you into the ground leading back to the main riff during the first minute of the song itself. What a journey indeed.

“Pavement Canvas” is one hell of a riff-monster exuding a very oppressive atmosphere, even more than the rest of the songs and “Spectre Pt. 1” begins with an avalanche of riffs leading to a very dark lead part with even more desolate riffs underneath finally branching out into a fantastic floating clean picking part at 2:11. After settling into heavy territory for a while, there are even ferocious black metal shrieks at 4:50 kicking up the brutal factor by another notch. After a quite folk section there is another lovely clean sequence at 7:50. Marvellous indeed. Even the solos and leads combine a certain atonality with the straightforward nature of heavy metal, sounding both overflowing and dissonantly pleasing at the same time. Kinda hard to explain, but you get the picture. Or at least I’m sure you eventually will, once you’re thoroughly done listening to the album.

Even if you like you progressive death metal on the more brutal side and the idea of a female vocalist turns you off, I’d still suggest you put aside your narrow-mindedness just this once and give this doozie a shot. This album is truly a breath of fresh air in today’s metal scene. In any case I’m off to listen to it again.

Effloresce - Coma Ghosts - 80%

ConorFynes, March 7th, 2012

Some months ago, I was introduced to Effloresce through their first- and at the time only- release, an EP that instantly screamed a fusion of the most trademarked elements of both Dream Theater and Opeth. While I was impressed with Effloresce's musical ability and even some of their songwriting chops, I ultimately felt that the band had fallen short in terms of creating a lasting musical experience, thanks in no small part due to the derivative nature of their sound. As female-fronted bands in metal go, Effloresce were certainly one of the better acts I had had the pleasure of hearing, but I wondered if they would ultimately go down in history as 'that Opeth band with the female vocalist'. 'Coma Ghosts' is now their start in the world of full-length recordings, an hour of progressive metal which has seen some much-desired improvement in the areas where I thought the band could use some work. Although their influences are still evident, I can say that Effloresce has broken out of the Opeth-worship pit that I feared would swallow them, and in doing so, have created one of the strongest prog metal albums to come out lately.

At least one thing I mentioned when reviewing the EP still stands: while I have generally seen the female-fronted metal band to be a format that favours bands who sacrifice instrumental integrity in order to make their vocalist the centre of attention, Effloresce has always been a band that enjoys a well-rounded contribution from all musicians. Vocalist Nicki Weber's voice plays a central role in Effloresce's music, but a sense of instrumental complexity sets this band apart from the legions of cookie-cutter symphonic metal bands that have stigmatized the female-fronted approach. Not only that, but Weber's incredibly melodic voice works very well for the music that Effloresce does. Although the riffs and thunderous drum work seems to take a hint from the European melodic death world, Weber's higher pitched, near-operatic delivery soars over without ever pushing the instruments into the background. This may be in part due to the legendary Dan Swano's expert mixing of the album, but Effloresce have cleverly avoided falling into some of the ruts I may have once suspected for them.

The songwriting and arrangement on 'Coma Ghosts' is nothing short of ambitious. Effloresce are still something of a disciple of the prog-death powerhouses Opeth, but their music feels valid and relevant to the current metal scene. From more mellowed-out jazz tunesmanship ('Swimming Through Deserts') or death metal intensity ('Pavement Canvas') or even that welcome prog metal archetype, the 16 minute epic, Effloresce root themselves very firmly within the 'prog metal' school. Given the aging prog metal canon in 2012, some of the risks that Effloresce take feel superfluous, such as having a 'Part 1' to the second track 'Spectre' and implying a sequel in the next album. Where Effloresce strikes gold however is in their tasteful melange of bands that proggers will instantly identify, but using those disparate elements in order to create something that feels relatively fresh. An excellent album, and it's a pleasure to see the potential I first heard in Effloresce to blossom like this.