Unexpect
In a Flesh Aquarium


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tyler Munro EMERITUS
August 22nd, 2006 | 110 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist


To anybody who's heard UneXpect, you should be more than aware that they're about as unconventional as can be. When I first head Novae off the _We, Invaders EP, I was at a loss for words. Having no idea what I'd just heard, I shrugged it off as non-sense. Several months later I listened to it again and was, quite frankly, blown away. Fast forward three years and UneXpect have once again left me wondering. With their second full length, In a Flesh Aquarium, the Montreal 7 piece have, for better or for worse, turned everything up a notch. Returning with the same line-up of guitar, vocals (both harsh and clean, male and female), violin, keyboards (usually playing a piano sound), drums and of course, my favourite element of the group, ChaotH and his 9 string monster of a bass. Everything you loved about the EP is back, and more. They've gotten weirder, faster, slower, heavier and softer, all on the same release. I guess that also means everything you hated is back too, but, how could anyone hate these guys?

Perhaps the greatest indicator of the bands progression, Chromatic Chimera --which some of you may remember was the closing track off _We, Invaders-- starts the album off just as it ended the EP. On _We, Invaders, Chromatic Chimera was comprised entirely of piano/keyboards. On In a Flesh Aquarium, Chromatic Chimera opens the album with the same familiar, classical sounding piano, only this time around there's an extra dash of weirdness; this time it's laden with effects, as well as being accompanied by violin. Around 52 seconds in, you realize that this was in fact a song split between three years, as the drums kick in and all out chaos begins. The song retains it's very classical sounding piano, only this time it's a little jazzier, a lot weirder and, at times, almost circus-like, yet somehow it still manages to fall into the metal category. A major highlight of this song, and the album as a whole, is the bass. ChaotH really goes to town on his 9 stringer, and thanks to the production, you can hear it in all its glory. Throughout the frequent time and sound changes, you'll find ChaotH tapping, slapping, popping and running across his bass like no tomorrow. The next song, Feasting Fools, begins with some bass popping and guitar shred, only to speed up into a more death-metal style song, though with a violin and choir styled vocals. Much like the album as a whole, the song goes through many time and tempo changes; from fast and chaotic to slow and melodic. The vocals seem to be even more diverse this time around. The wonderfully executed operatic female vocals (done by Le├Člindel) are still there, and seem to have been pushed slightly to the forefront, and rightfully so. The rest of the vocals are done by Syriak and Artagoth, and they range from chant-like harmonies, pirate-like chanting, screaming, growling, talking and of course singing. The band often breaks into several part harmonies, as well, which adds to their grandiose sound.

UneXpect excel in the very same ways at which they fail. They're bizarre, perhaps a little too bizarre for an album as long as this. Clocking in at exactly one hour (1:00:32), I felt myself spacing out by the time the three part Shiver track kicked in. Perhaps this was why the EP was such a hit; the weirdness, absurdity and chaos do become a little overbearing after such a long play time. It's not to say they don't do it well, because the musicianship is literally breathtaking, it's that with such a long record with so many things going on, you might end up remembering the album as one blur. Some parts tend to drag, such as the breakdown during Desert Urbania. In fact, Desert Urbania seems to more or less drag as a whole, eventually fading out sounding like an unwound music box.

To go to the positives, for a minute, and there are many, I've got to talk about the bands ability to adapt and change instantly; the transitions and segues on the album are phenomenal. Somehow, UneXpect have managed to find a way to contravene your expectations even further, switching between tempos and styles at the drop of a hat. How the band manages to go from a jazzy clean section to an insanely fast chaotic Death Metal passage is beyond me. The way they manage to mesh the 9 string beast of a bass with violin and a piano (Keyboards) is certainly something worth the acclaim they will undoubtedly receive.

I realize that the basic sound hasn't exactly been addressed much, the main reason being UneXpect are totally unique. It's nearly impossible to describe what's going on. Perhaps the only way for me to go about describing the sound is to describe one of my favourite tracks.

Summoning Scenes

The song begins with quick piano playing with all three vocalists saying "Let us paint", only to briefly speed up briefly before revisiting the introductory sound. 16 seconds in. The song speeds up again to a violin accompanied death metal part, only to (at 0:21) turn to a clean, smooth jazz passage. Several seconds later, the song speeds up again with both male vocalists shrieking and screaming in the background at varied levels, while the operatic female vocals croon overtop. As the song progresses, all of the sounds mesh together, until at 1:18, the song turns to a slow bass tapping interlude, alternating from the tapping spot to a faster build-up, which brings the song back to the more death metal feel, which of course lasts mere seconds before it begins alternating with the clean jazzy part. Take note, we're only 2:11 into the song so far. While the song doesn't necessarily introduce any new sounds than what I've mentioned, for the next 5 minutes it alternates flawlessly, varying itself nearly every 10-30 seconds. It sounds confusing, but they manage to create segues, allowing it all to mesh together flawlessly. One of my favourite parts of the song is at 4:24, where the song mellows out and strips itself down to just violin, soft female vocals and Victor Wooten like harmonics, only to begin what sounds like a journey through hyperspace. Summoning Scenes is truly an example of the bizarre musical journey the listener will undertake when listening to this album. The tasteful application of the violin, and it's accompaniment of the guitars, along with the powerful bass and unique, diverse vocals, make all of the time and tempo changes go down easy.

While I was at first overwhelmed by the intensity and chaos of this album, I've now digested the album for what it is. UneXpect have furthered themselves into a league of their own. They've become somewhat of an enigma, indescribable and virtually impossible to pin down. This is what you would get if you mixed Mr. Bungle's self-titled album (The Shiver - Meet Me at the Carrousel has a very "Egg" like feel toward the end), Death Metal, Big Band/Jazz all with a pinch of French Canadian insanity. At one point, they even bring in a sax to add to the insanity, adding an out of this world John Zorn like feel. In a Flesh Aquarium is truly one of a kind, and for such a bizarre and varied album, it's manages to come off quite listenable. I highly recommend it to anyone who isn't discouraged by abnormalities, as they're plentiful on this release. This is what you get when you mix the weirdest of the weird and throw it into an extreme metal atmosphere, and while it may become overbearingly weird at times, it all balances out in the end. If you've ever wanted to hear an extreme metal circus or just something new, check this out. If you're looking for the conventional, well, you've already stopped reading by now anyways. With all that this album contains, it really shouldn't work, but as a whole, it really does. Undoubtedly the weirdest album to be released in the last few years.

Final Verdict

4/5

The Great
  • A bizarre journey through an intergalactic extreme metal circus.
  • Extremely progressive (see: weird) album, in a good way
  • Totally original
  • Excellent musicianship
  • Perfect production

The Bad
  • It's a little too weird at times, even for me.
  • The album is a little long for something so weird
  • Can sometimes become a blur of weird sounds; a cacophony of circus music and death metal.

UneXpect is
  • Syriak - guitar, vocals
  • ChaotH - bass
  • ExoD - keyboards
  • Le Bateleur - violin
  • Artagoth - guitar, vocals
  • Le├Člindel - vocals
  • Landryx - drums




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Tyler
Emeritus
August 22nd 2006


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This was easily the hardest album I could have possibly decided to review.

And to my dismay, I was sick all morning, so my final proof read may have proved less than successful. Anyways, I hope it makes sense.

Txus
August 22nd 2006


75 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Really good review, Tyler. This is a really hard band to describe especially the way you did it, props dude. I was totally blown away with this album when I first heard it, I love the fact that you can actually hear the bass loud and clear.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
August 23rd 2006


3771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

*gasp*

It's out! I had no idea! Will look into it =D Sounds wicked, good reivew man.

Digging: The Flaming Lips - With A Little Help From My Fwends

Det_Nosnip
August 23rd 2006


374 Comments


Wow, awesome review! I kinda forgot that this album was coming out...I'm gonna go acquire it right away.

Shattered_Future
August 23rd 2006


1540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, mate. Well done.

As for this album, in all honesty, the only album that can compete with this in terms of weirdness is Lost In Reverie by Peccatum. And even THAT isn't as weird as this. Somehow, though, the group manages to craft a spectacular album, spiralling through multiple styles of insanity throughout.

Love the production on this too. It's clear, you can hear everything, but it's not overproduced. That was the fault with their earlier stuff, Utopia mainly. The production really takes away a lot of the genius of that album, while on here, it just truly shows how freaking crazy the band is.

Hatshepsut
August 26th 2006


1997 Comments


This sounds incredibly interesting.

circleofdeadchildren
August 26th 2006


119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Some Good Montreal metal!

radianteclipse
August 29th 2006


397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wow these guys are uhh....

very unique.

schitzophrenic is the best way to describe this. And that bass is insane. I can't handle the traumatic blast beats and the 800 different vocals that seem to be conflicting with eachother. It's mass insanity. It's quite intriguing though. I swear I think in just one song I heard a straight up hoe down that reminded me of middle eastern music, irish pub like music, opera-style, black metal, I think I just about heard it all.

I think I love it.

Tyler
Emeritus
August 29th 2006


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, they're silly.

radianteclipse
August 30th 2006


397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

These guys are really friendly, they sent me stuff on myspace about liking Regina Spektor and Sufjan Stefens is cool and then they are sending me a free cd because I couldn't find it anywhere!

Bands that keep in touch with their fans are awesome. These guys own even more because of that.

Poofy 666
September 4th 2006


27 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

http://unexpect.com/en/press.asp

You made the UneXpect website :-D

Seeing them live in 2 weeks :cool:

Colonel Cognitional
September 10th 2006


8 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

A very nice review! I was planning to do this you, but you've obviously beat me to it.

It's "let us paint," NOT "let us hate." Just look at the lyric booklet. It doesn't even sound like "hate."

Tyler
Emeritus
September 10th 2006


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Alright, I'll change that.

ScelusNefas
October 10th 2006


274 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Awesome album and great review.

Pebster49
October 18th 2006


2993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This album is OMG GREAT...I have seriously never heard anything like this, and its soooo good...holy crap where have they been

Tyler
Emeritus
October 19th 2006


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Montreal

Kage
February 15th 2007


1172 Comments


It's pretty cool but seems more like a novelty than anything.

The only thing original about it is that they just mess a bunch of different styles of chaos together, but none of the actual melodies or harmonies are anything out of the ordinary.

Doppelganger
February 18th 2007


3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^I hate you.

Shattered_Future
February 18th 2007


1540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oshi Kage he's calling you out.

In your opinion, the harmonies might not be terribly original (I think some of the stuff they do you wouldn't find that often in metal), but their originality lies in the ability to not mess, but perfectly blend all the styles that they have perfected. To do that, and to come out with a product that actually holds your interest is a feat in and of itself, and I applaud that.

And I like Desert Urbania. I honestly think it's one of the easiest tracks to listen to on the album. It's ALMOST normal. But not quite. It's catchy, even.

Doppelganger
February 19th 2007


3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Feasting Fools, FTW.



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