REVIEW: Unexpect – Fables Of The Sleepless Empire

Band: Unexpect
Album: Fables Of The Sleepless Empire
Release: 2011
Label: Ascendance
Genre: Avant-Garde Extreme Metal

Some bands claim to be weird and avant-garde. Other bands actually are weird and avant-garde, and it is in this latter circle that Canadian extreme metallers firmly stand. Drawing comparisons ranging from Dååth through Sikth to Cynic, it becomes impossible to pigeonhole this release beyond the basic “metal” umbrella term; 15 genres in one album is not an understatement. After 5 years since their last psychotic outing, In A Flesh Aquarium, they return with Fables Of The Sleepless Empire, a fresher and tighter bout of pure madness.

Right from the opening track, the band demonstrate what they have learnt since the last album in a few distinctive ways. Firstly, hiring Borboën has meant a prominent increase of violin from cacophony-creator to melody-maker, while the vocals have now managed to merge with the music more efficiently than before. The 9-string bass still makes a strong appearance, such as in the intro of “Unsolved Ideas Of A Distorted Guest”, intertwining impressively with Syriak and Artagoth’s guitars and ExoD’s piano on “The Quantum Symphony” when they aren’t chugging away à la Dååth or Meshuggah or following technical tapping lines. Electronic elements also feature from the keyboardist, notably in the tech-black style of “Silence This Parasite”. Indeed, the only sane instrument seems to be the drums, and even they demonstrate their might in “When The Joyful Dead Are Dancing”. What comes through strongly is how everything interconnects; not all instruments fire on all cylinders constantly, but there is more than enough to grasp the listener’s attention.

Three vocalists normally make me skeptical, but here they are needed. Each appear to cover all styles possible, Leïlindel going from an classical-pop clean to an intimidating snarl, and Syriak is akin to a crazier Sean Farber. The lyrics are bizarre, to say the least, and take a lot of digging to unearth the meaning within. “Orange Vigilantes”, as an example, is about vegetables attacking humanity and oranges are going to save us: “Heroic icons of the vegetable supremacy/A mistreated garden, their ultimate purgatory”. They demonstrate their use of lyrics as phonetic tools rather than poetry, given some of the lines which are pure nonsense (“El takidnys sed selliugia/El takidnys sed selliugia eralced (enu everg)/Numbers on strike”) and only contribute to the oddness of the music. One of the few times where bad lyrics actually add enjoyment to an album.

The main flaw with this album is just how bizarre it is for the first few spins. A lot of time is needed to fully understand, let alone appreciate the layers of music and sounds going on within. Another feeling is that the album is slightly weak in structure; having two ambient tracks near the end means they get lost amidst the heavier metal tracks, and so they end up spending all their ammo on the first 6 tracks.

After a long and arduous affair, I can now finally say that this album tickles my fancy. One friend of mine described the album as “written by Bellatrix LeStrange”, and I am inclined to agree with them. I realize that beauty is in the ear of the beholder in this case, but with a bit of open-mindedness and a fair amount of repeated listens, it is possible to lose yourself in the chaos of Fables Of The Sleepless Empire.

Rating: 8.5/10

Song to try:

7 responses

  1. sikth

    I agree with almost everything in this review, including the chosen spots for both instrumental tracks. But the lyrics being bad? You should re-read them, they are top notch and when you start to make sense of them you’ll see. They are fantasy-based lyrics? Yes, but portraying very real and common aspects of the human society. My album of the year for sure.

    June 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm

  2. I’m glad you agree with most of the review, sikth, and to take up your comment on the lyrics: I didn’t say they were fantasy-based, just bizarre, and although some of them fall into place after reading through several times, I still don’t understand some (such as “Silence This Parasite”). Feel free to enlighten me as to what the lyrics mean to you!
    After having heard several excellent releases this year, I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint which is Album Of The Year for me.

    June 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm

  3. sikth

    I just said “Are they fantasy? Yes” because I’ve met many people that quickly disregard lyrics for being fantasy-based. Hey, I can’t explain every lyric as well, and “Silence This Parasite” has me puzzled quite as much as you. But sometimes the lyrics seem to be senseless just to get you in that dark, weird ‘fantasy’ mood of the album. But I’ve definitely found some sense from many of the lyrics, of course this could be just my head interpreting them, but I’ve found abstract mentions of war, love, judgement and racism throughout the album. When the lyrics make people ‘feel’ their meaning (like I’ve read other people do at forums etc) saying the lyrics are bad is just not correct, that’s what made me comment in the first place. Of course, you don’t have to like them, everyone’s entitled to their own opinnion, but they are certainly not bad. And even if senseless at times, they do a great job at being interesting and drawing a very weird picture in the depths of my mind!

    Cheers!

    June 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm

  4. Great article! It is very helpful, I thank you

    Best Regards

    November 6, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    • Welcome, glad you enjoyed it!

      November 7, 2011 at 6:57 am

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