Review: Comatose ‘A Way Back’

I ’m the sort of person who once I get wildly passionate about a band, I’ll immediately start investigating members side projects. Such is the case with Swans, Melvins and now Chrome Waves (James Benson). Comatose began life in the winter of 2019/2020 in Rochester, Minnesota and consist of aforementioned James Benson on guitar/vocals, Jacob Carlson (drums), Daren Menz (bass/vocals) and Adam Carroll (guitar/vocals).

Comatose 'A Way Back'

According to James the band name ‘was chosen as a result of being a part of the lost generation. One that is faced with multiple major global economic crises, racism and terrorism, a pandemic and climate change, it only felt right to choose something that reflected the mental health of an entire generation’.  The genres Comatose fit into have been described as atmospheric rock and ‘grungegaze’ and certainly the woozy effect created by the album cover of a midsized city (Rochester?) would imply this.

The album gets underway in a robust fashion with the track Circles, which made me nostalgic for overlooked alt-rock heroes Failure, (I implore you to purchase a copy of Magnified ASAP). The vocals take a back step to the crunching muscular riffing. Gone takes a post-hardcore approach and is the kind of track I could imagine Walter Schreifels of Quicksand/Rival Schools devising. There is a little of Hum’s atmospheric space-rock thrown into the mix too, oh how I miss the 90s/early 00s. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘pop’ to describe third track Alone, but there is certainly more of an anthemic quality to it than any of the preceding numbers and you could easily find yourself humming along. Imagine a noisier version of Filter (Title Of Record era) and you’d be in the right ballpark.

Comatose reminds one of a time when bands were unafraid to both experiment and write melodic tunes…

Skin sounds eerily familiar and lo and behold I find out it is a reimagining of the track New Skin from Chrome WavesWhere We Live album. This is no bad thing seeing as I described that number in my review as ‘a slice of shoegaze centered loveliness’ and a similar epithet can be applied here too. Spread takes one a little by surprise, there is more heaviness as well as a quicker pace, summoning up the spirits of Barkmarket and Helmet, making for a welcome change in sound.

The heavier vibes continue with Inside that reminds me a little of the murkier sludgier tones of Ministry’s Filth Pig, especially their cover of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay. Further sees a return to the Failure-esque alt-rock with some black metal shrieking kicking in towards the song’s conclusion. This makes for a delicious juxtaposition of both catchiness and the subsequent descent into madness. Much like its title, Sinking ends the album on a sombre note and feels less immediate and more progressive. You may need to listen to this one a couple of times so as to fully absorb its effect, which seeing as its more depressive, may not be entirely a good thing depending on your current mood. A fine track nonetheless.

Comatose reminds one of a time when bands were unafraid to both experiment and write melodic tunes. A Way Back taps into this fine tradition but with a more contemporary sheen and the tracks feel the right length that never outstay their welcome. It should be pointed out that just as the aforementioned Filth Pig divided Ministry fans who expected the industrial thrash of Psalm 69, so with fans of James’ traditional output, who may be left a little bewildered with this here album. For less purist types however, this is a fantastic array of tunes that will satisfy that nostalgic 90s fix.

Label: Transcending Records
Band Links: Facebook | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills