Comets on Fire - Avatar (5/5)
If you play this CD in reverse it says “Jesus is Satan.”
Comets on Fire are dense. Blue Cathedral was a punishing wall of noise. Listening to it I felt like one of those explorers in the black and white Tarzan movies equipped with a machete inching through the foliage. However, once you carved out your own path the album rewarded you tenfold. Comets are unapologetically classic rock, but instead of just breaking out the old Hendrix and painting by numbers they added some proto-punk and an echoplex.
Some thought Blue Cathedral was more attitude than it was songwriting, and to them Avatar is the perfect rebuttal. Here the Faces riffs and Robert Plant vocals are slowed down to further reveal the songs to the point where someone who hated Blue Cathedral might actually like Avatar. Don’t worry, there’s still use of the echoplex, and the songs are drawn from six to eight minutes in length (with one exception), but Comets have traded in some of their feral energy for a more dynamic sound.
Benefiting the most from the new dynamics is the bad acid sounding “Lucifer’s Memory,” a song that sounds like a flower wilting. There’s a certain cadence that plugs along with the chugging vocals pushing the song towards its seven minute mark. It has quickly become my favorite new song of this year.
While there are still some rockers, such as the opener “Dogwood Rust” which sounds as if its beginning should be found somewhere before you pressed play, just as the closer sounds as if it ends before the song has stopped, even these rockers sound less brutal than their predecessors. Only “Holy Teeth” has the same long-haired head banging attitude as Blue Cathedral, and it only lasts three minutes (only a minute in Comets on Fire time).
At almost nine-minutes “Soup Smoke” pushes the limits of pseudo-tribal beats. Instead of punishing noise Comets are pounding repetition into our heads. Just thirteen more seconds and I think I would have had a spiritual vision.
At only six minutes long the closer “Hatched Upon the Age” proves that it takes more than just length to be epic (six minutes is pretty short for a Comets on Fire song) and more than just noise for a crescendo. The miracle of the album is that through all of the interplay between the instruments sometimes it needs just a couple of simple repetitive piano keys to bring it all home.
Avatar is easily one of the best releases of ’06. Very few bands can bring me back to that feeling I got discovering classic rock bands in middle school. But don’t break out your eight tracks and dust off the old bong yet. Unlike with most bands, retro is only half of the story for Comets on Fire. Comets on Fire are ultimately timeless. Try as I might, I cannot lump them with all the other seventies rockers, but their sound hardly seems contemporary. It’s as if they’ve found some time wormhole so they can rock on across the ages. I’m there, man, I’m there.