Review / Coma Wall – Ursa Minor

For most musicians, looking back on old demo recordings from years ago can be a cringe-inducing act of self-punishment. Fortunately for the wonderfully talented Coma Wall, reminiscing has been met with reward, as the Oxford based dark-folk quartet have found something they once overlooked in this demo recording, fleshed out into an EP.

The songs on Ursa Minor were realised as far back as 2006, but not actually recorded until 2012, and are only just being released to public ears in 2020. That’s the kind of progress one might expect from a doom metal band – and funnily enough, Coma Wall are actually the doppelgänger band of phenomenal cult doom act Undersmile. Coma Wall’s last and only other release was a cheeky split with Undersmile back in 2013, and it’s no coincidence that both projects resurfaced this year after a long hiatus. Those lucky enough to attend 10 Years Of Chaos Festival in London back in February were treated to a crushing reunion show by Undersmile, which looked to be a long-awaited reawakening that would lead to more shows and new songs, before the pandemic rudely put a halt to that momentum.

Those who are well versed with Undersmile will know of their dedication to synchronicity, with Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown mirroring and mimicking each other’s vocals and guitar lines perfectly – even going as far as to look and dress alike. That synchronicity is also present in Ursa Minor, trading in Undersmile’s colossal riffs and deranged screams for dark-folk acoustic guitar driven riffs and cleanly sung vocals. Though the performances on Ursa Minor aren’t too far of a leap, with the acoustic guitars being hammered so powerfully to the point where you can hear the strings rattle! Across these three ethereal and melancholic songs, Sterne and Corona-Brown’s playing is so tightly wound that the uninitiated may not realise there are two vocalists performing right away, though there are choice moments where the two break apart to harmonise with each other.

The vibe of Ursa Minor still has an air of doom about it, played slow and hard, sounding reminiscent of Alice In Chains wonderful acoustic deviations on their Sap and Jar Of Flies EPs respectively – Themselves champions of vocal harmonies. Coma Wall could also make you think of Hole’s MTV Unplugged concert, only much more controlled; and for a more recent comparison, this will certainly appeal to those who love Thou’s Inconsolable EP. Those who enjoy Coma Wall should instantly go and listen to Undersmile too, as both acts are two sides to the same coin, existing together in the same ethereal plain, like a reversed reflection in a mirror.

Ursa Minor is out now and can be purchased here.

Words: Chris “Frenchie” French

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