Metal is often tagged (albeit quite unnecessarily) as stupid dude music. And psych rock (quite necessarily) as music for acid-dropping hippies. So what is it about Comets On Fire that makes their appeal so wide-ranging — especially after a lot of other bands have been dipping their musical toes in both pools?
On their last Sup Pop long player, Blue Cathedral, the abrasive scramble of noisy psychedelia translated very well to the live show, but while hanging out in your apartment washing the dishes, it was another thing entirely. It could bite, scratch and crawl under your skin, but it never settled in. For anyone who gave it a chance, it certainly made you wonder where this band was going to transcend to next. Hell? Space? This time around, Comets On Fire have approached their thrashing mix of metal and psych rock with a recognition of the need for accessibility. For Avatar, they’ve pulled the reigns on their natural inclination for jam-based freak-outs and eardrum-busting exultation, for some bluesy, earthy moments (‘Lucifer’s Memory’ being the finest piano balladry of the seven tracks).
Of course, they’re certainly not going to let you get too comfortable. Temper as they may, they still manage to shake the listener from their greener moments of a somewhat stoned repose. The first track, ‘Dogwood Rust’, is classic Comets On Fire: noisy, tribal and energetic. The interplay of loud and soft throughout the record shows their growth as songwriters and musicians. Avatar gives us range, as heard on ‘Slow Teeth’ where they incorporate handclaps and pianos with Dead Meadow-like guitar wizardry — a song that feels like four songs in one. Awesome.
Goodness, I’m gushing, but there’s not much to complain about on Avatar. Simply put, it’s a welcome progression for Comets On Fire. A place that, whether I knew it or not, I wanted to see them go.