[16 July 2014]
Comet Control’s debut album opens with the eight-minute song “Blast Magic”. It’s a mid-tempo track filled with fuzzed-out guitars and bass while shimmering mellotron and organ fill out the background. The drums provide a simple groove throughout before gaining some forward momentum in the song’s final two minutes. Meanwhile, singer/guitarist Chad Ross’s high, spacey vocals float on top, adding the same sort of atmosphere as the keyboards. “Blast Magic” doesn’t contain any real twists or turns, just a thorough exploration of a musical idea, which pegs Comet Control as a solid stoner rock act. They spend the rest of their debut album reinforcing this idea.
Comet Control is the type of album where the uptempo rockers seem to exist mostly for a change of pace from the slower, groove-based songs. The compact four minutes of chugging guitars that is “Future Forever” is perfectly placed on the album as the follow-up to “Blast Magic”. It feels like a palate cleanser after the long opener. The album’s other two rockers come smack in the middle of the album. The bright-sounding “The Soft Parade” may be the closest Comet Control comes to having a genuine vocal hook, where the melody is almost strong enough to be a sing along. Although, it should be noted, the guitar riff still shares equal billing here. “Century” tries something different, as the group rides a driving drumbeat and a single guitar chord for as long as they possibly can. This gives the song an unusual sense of tension, and the band only releases it during the chorus before resettling right back into that same chord. Because they stick with this chord throughout, the tension doesn’t really resolve until the final chorus at the very end of the song. It’s an interesting musical tactic, and it’s very effective at making the listener feel a bit off-kilter.
As for those slower tracks, the shuffling “Ultra Bright” may be the best Comet Control has to offer. The song thumps along on Jay Anderson’s powerful, tom-based beat and Nicole Howell’s steady bassline, while Ross and fellow guitarist Andrew Mosynski trade solos and effectively crescendo and pull back. It’s a great piece of fuzz-rock that essentially sounds like their (very effective) attempt at a Queens of the Stone Age song. The other downtempo tracks all come at the end of the record, which may not be the best way to finish out an album. “Hats Off to Life” works by managing to rock hard even with its slow speed; it doesn’t hurt that it sounds like the band came up with the song right after listening to Radiohead’s OK Computer track “Lucky”. That’s a pretty good template for a slow rocker.
The album’s final two tracks, “Fear the Haze” and “Master”, don’t land particularly hard. “Fear the Haze” is appropriately psychedelic, with a prominent organ line tucked right behind the wall of guitars. But it doesn’t stand out with a memorable melody or riff or anything besides its psychedelic groove. “Master” is one of those crawling tempo, sparsely arranged album closers where the drummer essentially has to sit out for two-thirds of the song before coming in for the climax. The problem here, which is mostly covered up in cool fuzzy riffs during the rest of the album, is that Comet Control doesn’t have much going on in terms of vocal melodies. So without a compelling vocal performance, there’s essentially no center in “Master” and it ends up falling flat.
Listeners who are already inclined towards stoner rock and heavy psychedelia will find plenty to admire on Comet Control. Although not every song is great, the album is at least good for most of its running time. The band has the fuzzed-out guitar riffs and locked-in rhythm section necessary to be effective. Their debut album is a confident start. This makes sense considering that the two guitarists were formerly in the band Quest for Fire, which made two similarly-styled albums before calling it quits.