The Band: Mike Patton (Vocal sounds)
Buzz Osbourne (Guitars)
Trevor Dunn (Bass)
Dave Lombardo (Drums)
Released: 2004 (Ipecac)
Imagine being in hospital. Imagine going through major surgery while being awake; feeling surgeons dig into your body, scraping away impediments, while all the while you're lying helplessly awake, screaming inwardly for some sort of release from emotions of pain, fear, and abject terror. Now, imagine this idea set to music. Think about it for a second, and wonder how exactly you would do it in a way that actually coveyed these emotions successfully. I'm sure we can agree that it's not particularly easy, right? When you listen to this album, that's what you get. Indeed, the scariest thing about this album is not the fact that it can genuinely freak the hell out of people listening to it. The scariest thing about it is the fact that it came out of the mind of Mike Patton, a man who has quite possibly crossed the line between genius and what can only be described as insanity. Because make no mistake about it, this album is completely crazy stuff.
Patton is still best known in the mainstream as the guy who did those weird rap-rock vocals on Faith No More's smash MTV hit, Epic
. However, the rest of Faith No More's output, including their masterpiece of Angel Dust
shows just how wrong this perception of him is, and basically every other project he's worked on is pretty much guaranteed never to penetrate the consciousness of popular music. To be quite honest with you, that's completely understandable. Not only is Patton hugely busy, having worked with groups such as Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Fantomas themselves, but his music frequently transcends genres, taking in elements of everything from jazz to funk to death metal, often within the same song. In short, this guy is weird, and he's attracted a seriously devoted fanbase as a result of it, since he can be responsible for making some of the freshest, most original music around. Put it this way, if you ever buy a Mike Patton project knowing what you're going to hear, you're either psychic or stupid. However, due to the experimental, challenging nature of his music, his projects have never really got the attention they deserve from any sector of the media. Even when releasing albums that get acclaimed as truly exceptional, like California
with Mr. Bungle, they get shamefully overlooked. While some of you may be wondering where I'm going with this, my actual point is pretty simple: given that his more "conventional" projects are ignored, it's no surprise that this one does, because Delirium Cordia
may be the weirdest damn
thing that he's ever appeared on.
What exactly is Delirium Cordia
then? Well, for a start it's over 74 minutes long in spite of being one song. To put that in perspective, let's think of some of the longest songs that get played on the radio. Stairway To Heaven
is just over 8 minutes long, meaning that this is 9 times the length of that. Immediately, any chance this song or album has of entering the popular consciousness gets blown away. It also means that it's very hard to listen to individual bits of the song. You can't skip to the bit you want to listen to without using the fast forward button, meaning that if you really want to get the album at all, you have to listen to the whole thing, which may well be something that you're not overly keen on. Oh yeah, and the last 20 minutes or so of this? Basically complete static, before someone shouts "1, 2, 3, 4" at the very end of the song. So, if you don't want to listen to the entire thing, that's the bit which you could skip. To get there though, you've still got nearly an hour of music (9 Stairway To Heaven
s) to sit through. While you may be thinking that at least you've got Patton's voice to keep you interested, that's where the next bit of news comes in. Some of you will have noticed that I've credited Mike Patton with making vocal sounds on this album, rather than actually singing. That's because there are no lyrics. Patton makes a lot of noises with his voice, but he doesn't actually sing anything recognisable as a word throughout the entire album.
OK, so no singing, vocal noises, static...what else is on this album? Well, I don't really think it's an exaggeration to say that there's not much in the way of conventional music here either. Quite a lot of the album is very ambient, punctuated with bursts of complete insanity (bear in mind that we do have Dave Lombardo on the drums). The overall feel of the music is created by thrilling, dark keyboards as well as basslines that sound as if they've been created in some deep cave where they've gestated until they were ready to scare the living hell out of people. However, the key to the song does lie in the vocal sounds. There's a lot of screaming here (not in the sense of Maynard Keenan screaming...screaming in the sense of "Holy Christ, I'm terrified" screaming), as well as, possibly more chillingly, effects of doctors talking, bones being scraped, clocks, and everything that would actually be heard in an operating theatre. Think Pink Floyd gone evil, and you kind of get the idea about what I'm talking about here. Naturally enough, given Patton's seeming obsession with it, there's Gregorian monk style chanting going on as well, making everything REALLY ominous (in case you haven't got the message yet). A lot of the menace of the music lies in its simplicity though. Around the 30 minute mark there's a repeated, very quiet piano part, which sounds like the type of thing a child is told to play when they first sit down at a keyboard. It's very creepy though, in a way that seems to defy any real logic.
If from this you're trying to work out what the album actually sounds like, that's very understandable, but I can't really convey it that accurately. It's not a flowing work of music, but it also can't really be broken down into individual songs, as there's no real turning points in the music. Personally I wouldn't even call it a work of music so much as a work of art. While that may sound hideously pretentious, the CD is a soundtrack to an as yet unwritted horror film, and due to the hugely experimental nature of the music, there's definitely no way that I'd even attempt to put it in a genre beyond the all-encompassing label of "alternative". As I've said, it has jazz, metal, electronica, heavy percussion (some of which is just Patton's voice), as well as all sorts of crazy effects like wind machines which fade in and out. The concept of the album leaves the listener with even more to reflect on, in particular what exactly is going on. Of course, ultimate opinions on what the music is meant to mean are left down to the individual listener, but it's pretty clear what the overwhelming concept is. Something slightly unsettling is the final 20 minute static sequence. Has the patient gone into a coma, shockingly recovering at the very end? Of course, no-one knows, but it's just a very unsettling thought.
So, onto the final rating. For the first time in my life, I have absolutely no idea what to give this CD. It obviously isn't for everyone, to the point where it's not something that most people will enjoy at all. Even if you do listen to it, you won't exactly be playing it for weeks. There are no hooks, and even if there were, finding them would be a challenge. That said, it's a fascinating album. I first got it a few weeks ago before losing my copy somewhere and downloading it again yesterday. It's a hugely compelling listen, and one that I would honestly advise everyone to check out, just to see what it was like, since there are no real ways of describing it. Having said that, if you get this, be prepared to hate it. This CD pretty much defines an acquired taste. One final word of warning: do not attempt to listen to this when falling asleep, driving, walking somewhere alone, or anything like that. Although people insist that you can, having walked through a park near me at night with this on, I can honestly say it was one of the weirdest, trippiest experiences of my life, and not in anything approaching a good way. Listen to it, but not in circumstances like that.