Although the German progressive metal scene has plenty of established veterans like Sieges Even, Vanden Plas, and Mekong Delta, the country hasn't had too many young voices to carry the torch in recent years. Judging by their killer debut album, Effloresce may very well be the next big progressive metal export from Germany - Coma Ghosts shows a band with a very firm grasp on how to deliver amazing prog metal while still pushing the boundaries of the genre, and the fact that this level of maturity is obtained on a debut album is admirable. In short, Coma Ghosts is a professional, memorable, and original observation that should be satisfying metal fans well into 2012 and beyond!
Opeth, particularly on albums like Blackwater Park and Watershed, is clearly a large influence to Effloresce. While their sound is not entirely dependent on these Swedish veterans, the mix of 70's progressive rock, melodic death metal, and folk found throughout much of Coma Ghosts makes the reference almost inevitable. Effloresce makes their main distinction from Opeth by keeping the death metal influences to a minimum, and instead including more traditional-sounding progressive metal sections as well as an occasional gothic atmosphere. Female vocalist Nicki Weber also helps give Effloresce a voice of their own, and her powerful clean pipes and occasional black metal-styled rasps are an integral part of the band's style. Although I tend to think that her harsh vocals could've been integrated into the music a bit more convincingly and delivered with more power, it's a rather minor flaw in the long run since the majority of the vocals here are excellent clean singing.
While the Opeth comparison is rather invalid throughout much of the album (songs like "Crib" bear little resemblance to the Swedes), a song like "Swimming Through Deserts" could very well be the creation of Mikael Akerfeldt with the addition of a beautiful soprano vocalist. The 70's-styled progressive rock with a jazzy, folky, and slightly twisted edge will strike a chord with many prog metal listeners, and Effloresce delivers this style just as convincingly as they do when it comes to pummeling metal riffs. Coma Ghosts is one of those rare cases where, even though I'm able to identify plenty of obvious influences in the music, the style is still wholly original. The strength of the composition and execution is what makes Coma Ghosts a truly worthwhile experience, however, and in addition to crafting exceptionally well-written pieces of music, the musicianship is exceptional across the board. Although Effloresce may be relatively new to the scene, their craft as musicians is never questioned on this album.
As an additional bonus, Coma Ghosts was mixed and mastered by Swedish metal legend Dan Swanö of Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, and Bloodbath fame, so you can expect an absolutely killer sound to top things off. Though the relatively unimpressive harsh vocals and occasionally overtly Opethian influence may keep many listeners from calling this a masterpiece, there are still more than enough assets to make this a remarkable album. Effloresce have gotten off on the right foot with this excellent debut offering, and I'll be ecstatic to hear what they have up their sleeves in the coming years. When December rolls around, I have a feeling this will be praised not only as one of the year's most impressive debuts, but also as one of 2012's best progressive metal records - it really is that good! My rating here will be 4 big stars, as well as an easy recommendation to fans of the more organic and melancholic side of prog metal. This is a must-hear if you're into progressive metal that rarely relies on the 'traditional' sound pioneered by the likes of Dream Theater, Fates Warning, and Queensryche.