Review Summary: Crazy beyond comprehension at times, yet still somewhat rewarding.
To anyone who has heard of Unexpect and mad enough to have listened to their music, they will all know that Unexpect are no average metal band. Hailing from Canada, Unexpect are an avant-garde metal group who bend extremely away from any accessible music out there. When I first heard of Unexpect, the first thoughts I had were something along the lines of dazed and confused. The music sounded like a true mess! But messy music isn't necessarily a bad thing, and certainly not in the case of Unexpect.
The idea of Unexpect to me comes across as a very drunk Dimmu Borgir headed to the circus where they thought adding whatever instruments they could find would sound pretty awesome. They were so drunk in the end, that they forgot all their songs and ended up doing a free jazz style performance but instead with the instruments they had. I hereby now present Unexpect's 3rd full length LP, "Fables Of a Sleepless Empire". This band in general, play on many many different sounds and styles and throw them all into one pot with various outcomes, and Fables Of a Sleepless Empire is certainly part of that pot. Upon listening to the album for the first time, I struggled to last any 30 seconds without having to raise my eyebrow in confusion about what I had just heard. Whilst mainly having a kind of speed metal or death metal base, this band add many other styles which would be far too long to list in this review. "Bat *** crazy metal" is how my friend described it, and that's probably as good of a description as it gets for these guys.
After listening to the entire album a number of times, it feels as if Unexpect simply tried to make their music messy because it's just what they do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is a bad thing and it doesn't work at all, It works very well in some songs, but no song is without their flaws. The problem is, almost every song sounds like multiple ideas, riffs and progressions stuffed together in roughly 6 or 7 minutes of utter chaos at times. This is a real problem for the truly bright, innovative riffs and passages in songs, which are over a bit too quickly, only to immediately be replaced by another passage just as soon as you finished enjoying the first. A good example of this for me is track 6 "Unfed Pendulum". In this 7 minute song, the first 5 minutes caught me immediately as strikingly different and quite enjoyable. It had the right combination of sounds and the vocals complemented the jazzy/baroque piano vibes very well all in good balance. Unfortunately, in the final 2 minutes, the song shifts completely from it's cheery style and enters a more heavy style dominated by the death growls which sound out of place and thrown in for the sake of making the song longer. But that small part of the song, no matter how minute, ruins the entire thing in the end. This trend happened throughout the ENTIRE album with every song simply having different degrees of tolerable and intolerable parts that you had to weigh out to see if the intolerable parts were worth it or not. This is the inevitable price of making the music so purposely cluttered, it doesn't draw on any one idea completely and the whole thing can sound like lost potential. As a result, the only song I can say satisfied me fully from start to finish ended up being one of the interludes. Track 7, "In the mind of the last whale". Standing at just under 3 minutes long, the entire track sounds like feedback and layered vocal hums with accompanied piano throughout. This is the kind of experimentation I would have hoped the rest of the album would follow. It offers a different realm of sound to the other songs with different textures and colours of sounds throughout which neatly climb on top of one another, rather than battling out the others in order to be heard. It truly would have given the whole album more edge if they decided to incorporate these experimental sounds into most songs, and it's not even like they haven't done it before! From their previous album, "In a Flesh Aquarium" on the first minute of the opening track "Chromatic Chimera" and "Silence 011010701". Songs end up sounding repetitive and hard to distinguish from one another. Tracks such as "Words" and "Orange Vigilantes" simply did not interest me in the slightest with (what I felt were) uninspired progressions.
However, this isn't all to say this album is a failure in any form. The production on the album is astounding for example. It highlights some of the best moments from ChaotH's 9 string bass by making it sound prominent at all times, such as on the first track "Unsolved ideas of a distorted guest", where the bass lines absolutely tear past the ethereal strings and harmonies beneath it. As mentioned earlier too, the album is certainly not short of some amazing moments and some of the combinations of clean and unclean vocals are breathtaking.
Overall, Fables of the Sleepless Empire is one of the most original albums I have come across in a long time and any metal fan looking for something completely out of the box and 'unexpected' (hehe) then this is certainly an album to try out. Whilst not perfect, it can at least render you startled at exactly what the *** you just listened to.
- Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest
- Mechanical Phoenix
- Unfed Pendulum
- In The Mind Of The Last Whale
- A Fading Stance/When The Joyful Dead Are Dancing