It seems not too long ago I reviewed Bitch Falcon‘s debut album, something that could be best described as “dream-grunge.” Well now I’m back with another debut review for an album that’s being described as “grungrgaze”. It’s a fairly different sound from Bitch Falcon, but I’m happy to report that Comatose‘s debut album A Way Back is another successful grunge + shoegaze combo!
Comatose are a recently-formed group consisting of musicians from the bands Chrome Waves, Fail To Decay, and Amiensus. Unlike the work of their other bands, A Way Back sees the group going for an almost entirely clean-sung approach. The blackgaze of Chrome Waves and Amiensus has been swapped out for driving, yet atmospheric rock.
The band sets the tone for the record right away with the opening track “Circles”. They set the stage not only sonically, with the lush guitars, hefty drums, and soaring vocal harmonies, but also lyrically. With lines like “Wasting our days, sitting tight / Look at the hour / The Sun comes up, the moon’s too bright” the overall theme of mental health becomes very apparent. Depression specifically is explored on several tracks, as both “Inside” and “Further” use the line “There’s nothing left inside”. These lines and others like in the song “Spread” are really striking, especially when set against the backdrop of the band’s dreamy but driving instrumentation. Those of us who have experienced the isolation of mental health issues will find solace in these tracks.
Not only is the band consistent in theme, but also in quality. While all of the songs fall under a similar grungegaze vibe, the songs are all distinct and stand strong on their own as well. The only time the retread ground is on the song “Skin”, which is a rework of the Chrome Waves song “New Skin”. The song gets a glow-up as part of the A Way Back tracklist, as this version benefits from the new album’s stellar production. This results in an all-enveloping outro that is simply stunning. Comatose’s chorus game is really strong too. The songs “Gone”, “Spread”, and “Inside” have choruses that rival the band’s 90’s influences, which are bolstered by huge vocal harmonies. The band may kill me for saying this, but some of the harmonies remind me of the band 311, especially in “Gone”. As a not-so-guilty pleasure listener of that band, I do not mean that as a slight to Comatose in any way. They may have been going for Alice In Chains with those harmony fourths and fifths, but wound up at 311, and I love it! For a less contentious comparison, the song “Further” reminds me of the best of Astronoid. The song has this glitchy sounding fuzz lead that works so damn well. Additionally, their general ability to jump between tempos at a whim is impressive, and this song is the best example of that.
I really don’t have much to criticize the band for here. The only bit I really have an issue with is at the very end of the album. The closing song “Sinking” starts off strong, but the latter half feels tacked on. The buildup is anticlimactic, and the ending is a bit weak. That said, I think this song suffers mainly because everything that came before it was so strong.
I don’t do “album of the month” type posts on this site, but if I did, A Way Back would definitely take the title for January. This is an incredibly strong showing for a side-project, and I hope that it becomes more than just a one-off thing. If you fell in love with Hum’s comeback album Inlet, I highly recommend you give Comatose’s debut album A Way Back several spins – you can thank me later!
Comatose‘s debut album A Way Back was released on January 22nd via Transcending Records.
Best Tracks: Further, Gone, Spread, Inside, Skin
Weakest Tracks: Sinking
FFO: Hum, Cloakroom, Holy Fawn