REVIEW: Unexpect – Fables Of The Sleepless Empire
Album: Fables Of The Sleepless Empire
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.
Song to try: