The world is full of surprises. I’d never even heard of Coma from Malaysia, who are to be distinguished from the other eight similarly named bands, even though they’ve been around since 2006. When first introducing Coma to me, band member Samm loosely spoke of Asian Western dreams, but said no more. I didn’t know what to expect of “Sirr”, but I didn’t expect this level of expanse.
You see, this is an album with no straight lines. It’s filled with foreboding and sinister suggestion. We writers get obsessed with genres, and let’s throw in words now like stoner, black, doom, drone, noise and post metal, but this for me is about the depiction of atmospheres. It’s not one atmosphere but many. Coma know how to prolong tension and use minimalistic techniques to keep us in suspense. It’s very real. This is no Blut aus Nord extra-terrestrial experience but whilst grounded in some ways, it takes us beyond. It most certainly has the darkest elements of Reverorum ib Malacht, the darkly sonic playfulness of ówt krì, and a distinct association with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, which the band itself acknowledges on their site. While searching for further information, I read of Coma’s previous work “Black Moon” (2014) that “its soundscape is crafted to cover a wider frequency spectrum”. So too “Sirr” is unusual. I have no hesitation in describing it as experimental, but this is evidently a band which knows what it’s doing and so it’s controlled experimentation. The production is undoubtedly helped by its connection with the renowned, in Malaysian circles at least, with the Soundmaker studio in Penang.
The whole piece starts in a children’s playground. The soft chime of a bell makes it sinister. The children continue to play. Now many bands would move on quickly and we’d just write that off as the intro, but not here. It is integral to “Ignite” and serves to prolong the tension. Slow and distorted stoner-like sounds signal decay. Eventually the void opens up. Distorted jazz sax and post metal add fuel to the confused fire. The children are still playing. Coma even make use of silences. Noise interrupts the silence. Big chords ensue. The world is a harsh place. This is the experimental end of experimental prog metal. Coma exploit sound. I wasn’t so sure about the crackling sound – maybe this is a personal hang-up as it just makes me think of knackered old vinyl records, but I suppose it’s also representative of a crumbling past. Meanwhile the children represent the real world, the present and the future. But so too and the welling black clouds of doom are the future. It’s not a bright one. Well that’s how I saw it. It certainly created an impression in my mind.
“SWT” – presumably an Arabic abbreviation meaning “May He be glorified and exalted” – allows momentary breathing space with its slow and patient build-up, but the scene expands into a grey, fuzzy and leaden-heavy world of stoner doom. The “W” could stand for weight. Industrial cosmic doom-laden confusion ensues. The human voice is garbled. As the drum sets the pace and a sense of urgency is instilled into proceedings, it is no less confusing. “SWT” summarises what nightmares are made of. Its quiet and woozy ending leads us into “Migration”. The nightmarish sound sample gives way to a compelling tribal rhythm. It’s earthy. I felt a glimmer of hope. Underneath the rhythm is an exotic (to a Westerner anyway) Eastern rhythm. The sound is powerful and for a few moments it is joyous. “Migration” is like a pumping heartbeat, a rare breath of fresh air. We are then returned to the world of darkness again with the brief and doomy “Utopian”.
Earth calling – drone penetrates “Bleak” with cosmic interference. Doomy tones imperiously make an entrance, expanding to fill every space. Drifting, dreamy sounds with a touch of the symphonic enter the picture. The samples are handled sensitively over this album. But now this is like an apocalyptic clash of the titans. Melancholy mixes with majestic death. We started this album with children but we have moved past this now and the distorted drone sounds transports us away into an infinite void beyond.
At about 30 minutes, “Sirr” is quite a short album but it is intense and kaleidoscopic in its nature. It never stands still. Other than during the dynamic rhythm of “Migration”, it’s a world of uncertain patterns. Coma manage to fill the spaces with both horror and life. It’s recognisable as a depiction of life with the children and the sadness but it’s not a reality you’d ever want to be part of. While experimental in nature, images are captured almost cinematically of life scenes and beyond. If a video montage were created to accompany this work, if done in the right way it would be expansive and scary. So “Sirr” is no ordinary work. It’s challenging and mind-invading but that’s what makes it so good. The images I took from it are vivid and Coma’s clarity of thought is evident. This creative journey is well worth it.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)