A Long, Eternal Fall by ComityRelease date: May 26, 2017
Label: Throatruiner Records / Translation Loss Records
Cripes alive, this one is a heavy one. There was a time in my life when I proactively looked for bands that could provide me the intensity and buzz associated with bands like Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan, and it’s in that period I first came across Comity. They took a nasty blend of chaotic metalcore and added some of the intensity of black metal and added doses of progressive songwriting to create an intense listening experience which can actually feel a little unsettling. A Long, Eternal Fall is the latest dose of dizzying dissonance; the audio equivalent of not being able to recover from a head-rush.
Comity have delivered possibly their most punishing record in their long career, taking their blackened technical metal sound and tempering it with touches of post-metal and noise-rock and coming across like an unholy blend of Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, Isis, Jesus Lizard and latter day KEN mode, with influences and riffs appearing from nowhere, and designed to keep the listener off-balance and unprepared all the way through.
The album starts with ‘I’ – snappily each song is denoted by a numeral presumably to further dislocate the listener from a pre-defined emotional context – a challenging instrumental that starts with a jangly, droning refrain that comprises the first minute of the song, lulling the listener into a false sense of security before blasting drums and tremolo picked lines crash seemingly out of nowhere and at an odd point in the refrain. It is disorienting, but before the listener can regain their footing a Coalesce style riff comes out of nowhere, once again disturbing the equilibrium. The song builds to a screech, holding the note for what feels like a long time, before dropping to the opening refrain, which feels almost wistful after the noise and fury.
‘II’ brings sparse roared vocals and a higher level of technicality, riffs chopping and changing in odd time signatures, blending black metal dissonance, tech metal musicality and touches of Mastodon style riffage in ways that shouldn’t work and yet really do. It’s a perfect paradigm for the album as a whole; dense, labyrinthine and layered, difficult to love in places but never less than compelling, and prone to give the listener a headache if they think about it too long. There are enough flashes of groove and melody in the song to keep the listener engaged, but they are swiped away before tedium sets in. The construction of the songs is immeasurably aided by a muscular production that manages not to sacrifice clarity for chaos, sounding dirty and sludgey but also enabling a clear understanding of what is being played.
Now a whole album of this might get too much; it’s a particular type of sadist that likes feeling off-balance all the time. Comity wisely introduce some variety into the songs later in the record to keep the listener from flat out exhaustion. ‘IV’ ushers in arpeggios and tone of a black metal album, utilising the jangly, almost math style and tone to the guitars to add a different tonal quality before dropping the tempo drastically and delving into a sludge style second half – this acts as a perfect palate cleanser from the fast paced technicality of the previous songs. ‘V’ follows this this with more groove and some spazzy Dillinger and chuggy Everytime I Die isms, and some almost jazzy touches, before accentuating a Southern groove in its mid-section, again very welcome.
The near 12 minute ‘VIII’ is probably the crowning achievement of the album though, bringing in elements of all of the record – the technical riffage, the dizzying drums and off-kilter rhythms, but tying it to a slow build which leads to a vastness in its denouement that is somehow missing from the rest of the record. It steps away from the intricate detail for a few minutes, reaches for bigger sounds and hits them dramatically – it’s a powerful end to the album and as a listener I would have appreciated a bit more of that throughout the record to balance the intricate playing, although that feels like a small qualm when held up against the excellence of the album as a whole.
It is intentionally not an easy listen, but A Long, Eternal Fall serves up a record that demands and rewards repeated listens. It can be a frustrating experience, partly due to the sheer volume of ideas crammed into the song structures and in a couple of instances the album as a whole might benefit from a bit more ‘space’ – as evidenced by the more nuanced and emotionally effective latter half of the album – but nonetheless this is still a delicious slab of wilfully technical noisy metal. It’s well worth your time, just don’t expect an easy ride.