Album Reviews

Effloresce – Coma Ghosts

If you are at heavy side of the prog, I have a gem for you today… If you like female-fronted metal bands, you are in the heying right place – with no sacrifice of instrumental supremacy! First off, Dave, one of the guitarists of the Progressive Metal band Effloresce told me about the band and their latest album, Coma Ghosts (recorded and mastered by a legend but I’ll come to that later).

As it turns out, playing in a band with a female vocal is sort of a tradition for Tobi (drums) and Dave as they used to play together in another female lead band, Falling Nature. However, it would be unfair to say that Nicki, the lead vocalist of Effloresce, is just a female vocal as she sings, growls, plays the flute, writes the lyrics, and designs artwork for the band.

In fact, the artwork, booklet and all the bells and whistles of Coma Ghosts were designed by Nicki and Dave.

The other members of the band are very active in the promotion of the band as well. Tobi, “the drummer dude” (as Dave puts it), mostly maintains the band blog where he is responsible of the dry humour, the staple of their blog entries.

It is clear that the band members live and breathe music above and beyond their rehearsals though as exemplified by Sebastian, the bass guitarist, who has taken up the bass only a year and a half ago – and he is already slapping that bass like a boss!!!

Now, as a band, when they compose, they usually start with a song structure, the big picture if you will, and try and follow that going into further detail. Riffs, melodies, solos and finally the lyrics and vocals are etched onto the surface of this picture to give it shape. They generally write more or less equal guitar solos for Tim and Dave – and this is the point where I start to imagine them like one of those famous duos, Bill & Ted, Jack & Kyle, Wayne & Garth… oh, you’ve got the picture.

Their latest album, Coma Ghosts, “is a metaphor for a messed up and nightmarish situation where you’re basically unable to move yourself out of. Just like the situations the protagonists of the respective songs of the album are” as they put it. The band wrote all of the songs collectively while Nicki, the lead vocalist of the band, wrote the lyrics all by herself. It took the band the better part of two years to compose all the tunes in the album.

And here is the kicker, Dan Swanö (yes) mixed and mastered the album!

“Seriously? How did that happen?!?” I ask Dave…

“Well”, Dave replies, “it happened by accident actually.”

“I’m in various forums and some of them are very guitar-specific. One day in a thread about home-recording some dude recommended some piece of gear for recording purposes which I obviously found interesting, so I followed a link to the manufacturers-website and among some others there was a photo of Dan Swanö with some sort of quote like “Yeah, I use it in my studio and it rocks”.

“‘Ahhh, Dan Swanö’, I thought. Tobi and I are huge fans of his work, especially Edge of Sanity of course but also many, many of his other projects. So well, I followed another link to his studio-website and looked around a bit.”

“So I looked around and found that he officially offers his services, so I thought I’ll go for it and drop him a line to see if he’d work with such a small and unknown band like us – with no expectations whatsoever to be honest. I mean, come on… the MAGNIFICENT Dan Swanö and here we come with our tiny EP and some strange songs…”

“But well, to my surprise he responded pretty quickly and super-friendly! Like ‘hey guys! Thanks for your request, sure I’ll work with you, why not?’ or something along those lines…

Apparently, that blew Dave’s mind as it would and they started discussing details like specific procedures for recording each bit…..  e-mailed back and forth for half a year and when all is said and done, they recorded the “drums, vocals, djembé, flute and acoustic guitar in a studio in Germany and the rest of guitars and bass at the (yet not so) famous “Black cat studios”, which actually means: at home” Dave said…. according to him, they are very very happy with the results and they consider, aside from the obvious genius of the man, his most impressive attribute is his kindness.

“From the very first mail it was like chatting with a friend! He was kind, funny and totally down to earth. Really a nice guy and I think we will work with him again in the future.”

“Ah, we also met him for a couple of minutes on last years’ ‘Night of the Prog’ –Festival” he added; “And yeah, in person he was even cooler!”

“Anyhow”, I said as a reply full of jealousy 😛 …

Let’s move to the core of the thing and talk about their music…

I know I said they do progressive at the start of the review but it is not a simple thing to pin their genre down. They are using a whole bunch of elements from a truckload of genres… That is to say, along with the classic progressive bits, a lot of elements from melodic death to Gothic, folk to thrash are brought to a nice stew in a tasty mix in this album.

Opening track, “Crib” pulls you into the darkest of atmospheres right away with proggy, powerful drums a la Dream Theater following right behind. Later on, you see that the subtle DT signature is there in the following tracks as well. I’m sure you know that I’m not complaining – not even one bit… It is not a big secret that I’m a DT fangirl…

I keep listening with a smile on my face. Then the vocals make you go a two syllable “niceeee!”

The song is a quick shape-shifter as the elements I listed up there start visiting you with a balanced frequency… different ideas chime in… you can almost see the creative maelstrom these guys went through – and I am happy as a very happy thing as the one thing my soul cannot abide is my ears hearing the same thing over and over again…

While the song sets the mood so, I start listening to the second track, Spectre Pt. 1: Zorya’s Dawn, which scatters my bits all over the heavens… Definitely my favourite on the album! It starts off with a very pretty tempo and guitars and the drums speak to each other locked in a perpetual discussion… A very tasty prog intro snares you into the song with a heart shattering early solo following right after – what a fantastic guitar sound! Then, Nicki’s soprano vocals we all know and love from the first song crawls deep into your hypothalamus (what?) and the bridge makes the overall delivery climb up a notch.

I feel something is in the air, it crawls into our life, I don’t see it, but it’s there… Whatever happened in this night, It’s something we can’t deny… invisible for the whole mankind”

Instant goosebumps!

Then, out of nowhere, awesome death growls kick in… and I’m telling you this lady never disappoints…

This tune is full of surprises I won’t get into – there needs to be something left for you to discover after all. Suffice to say, Bruce Willis is not dead but there are a lot of surprises.

Effloresce… What a promising band! Coma Ghosts plays you like a voodoo doll with the sudden leaps in the vox and the drumming, and the beautiful riff play.

Overall, I dig™ the heavy and dark tone of the album. You can find pretty much everything in it, from a balanced mix of clean vox to growls… From darkest, heaviest metal moments at full throttle to more peaceful “sounds of nature” moments… Evil riffs, a lot of twists… This album has much to offer and gets a 4.5/5 from me!

It would be a shame not to mention the closing track, “Shuteye wanderer” though – it is straight up death metal this time with some growls first and then savage, razor-blade guitar tones… The primal drums jumps around ideas and feels while guitars are like a rainbow cupcake. Both the drum beats and the riffs keep heavy and very “fulfilling” throughout the tune. After the very bold intro, comes the early and ground shaking solo which tells you to keep listening, promising great satisfaction… Then the tune suddenly drops down to a mild, soft vocal sedative… erm, Nicki’s voice, taming your metabolism gone wild at once…

And there comes the bridge making you think that another tune is on – these guys won’t bore you with the same thing, I can tell you that… ‘suddenly outside, the mood changes fast’.. I dig™ that a lot… Listen to it and you’ll know what the hey I’m talking about 😉

Tunes have complicated traffic – which is good if you are me – and while I’m enjoying myself to no end, I can’t refrain from thinking, in parallel, “how the fiddlesticks these guys play this” and “remember every note, remember every note…”

To be honest, that is the most “difficult” bit of the album – tunes have been worked to death, it is clear. Good job these guys can pull off great music with feelings!

It is like the guitars blaze through your psyche like there’s no tomorrow while keeping it sane and avoiding “hey ma, no hands” disasters. Often times, the overall tune turns into a very lovable snack and leaves you eating small bits of chocolate and enjoying it all the same.

All in all, the album is full of very powerful lightning bolt thrashing and progressions with the nicest rhythms cage fighting – with no tops, and ladies, it is sweet!

Nicki Weber – Vocals, Growls, Flutes, Percussion

Dave Mola – Guitars, Mellotrons

Sebastian Ott – Bass

Tobi Süß – Drums

Tim Ivanic – Guitars
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