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Unexpect - In A Flesh Aquarium CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.16 | 256 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This Montreal band uneXpect must rank near the top of weird albums in my collection. I stumbled across them on MMA while checking out top-ranking Canadian albums, which included mostly Rush and Devin Townsend. I had never heard of uneXpect and decided to give them a listen. Whoa-ho! I knew right away that this band was going to be a challenge to listen to. So I bought "In a Flesh Aquarium" partly because it was their highest rated album and also because it was the only album available on Amazon in Japan for a normal price. Someone is selling the "wE Invaders" EP for something like $2,500!

First, if you don't already know, uneXpect is essentially an avant-garde metal band that combines thrash, black, progressive and symphonic metal styles with a bit of traditional metal thrown in. Add to that some excellent classical piano used frequently and some violin with strong gypsy music tendencies, and some industrial sounds sprinkled with bits of circus type music and a trio of voices that are comprised of clean female vocals and male vocals that go from growls and snarls to shouts and System of a Down-like Tasmanian Devil whatevers. And now perhaps you can begin to imagine what this band must sound like.

There is simply nothing in my collection that comes close to this although if this album were a mountain peak then partway up we might find bands like Suspyre, Disillusion, Dark Suns, or even a bit of Haken. When the mood gets mellower with piano and touches of industrial, and female vocalist Le´lindel sings slowly and clearly, I'm reminded a bit of some White Willow. I've read reviews elsewhere that mention bands like Arcturus, Ulver and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, so if you're familiar with those (I'm not) you might also have a clue about uneXpect's sound here.

It's not easy to describe the songs or the music well. All the styles I mentioned about are mostly mixed together in nearly every song. The image that comes to my mind most often is a kind of horror puppet show where the scary puppets look like they are ready to slice your face open but are actually just having fun singing their bizarre songs. Maybe like a "Nightmare Before Christmas" deal without any suggestion of cute or adorable spooks. There's a feeling of insanity and intensity as the songs careen from musical passage to passage, often changing in only four bars. You can have a symphonic metal segment that is threatening to veer into thrash while a tasteful piano plays along or a quick exchange of shouts and growls while a violin swings and swerves over blasting double bass drum kicks and some progressive guitar riff is flying out like bats from a cave at dusk. A song may suddenly break into a bass solo, a violin solo, a piano solo, a frantic sax solo, a circus music segment, an eastern European folk bit, or absolute chaos and cacophony. Then you might abruptly get a dose of intense metal polka swiftly followed by voices calling and chanting, or some other seemingly incongruous and totally unexpected musical motif. For about 4 to 8 bars. Then it changes again.

It might sound like complete swill and truthfully to some people it does. Ratings I encountered went anywhere from praising this album to blue heaven with upwards of 92% scoring, to middle ground ratings with comments about some excellent songs and several failed efforts, to the album being a complete heap of rubbish. Some reviewers claimed the band had tried too hard to be avant-garde and simply thrown haphazardly together a grocery list of ingredients. Others say it is all done well but doesn't sound original. As for my opinion, I find the album an excellent listen in part because it's so crazy but also because the actual playing is achingly top notch and it is incredible that so many different sounds can be woven together to make an insanely wild collection of music. I admit that at moments I wish the vocals wouldn't sound so much like a death comedy musical, but on the other hand, that's part of the charm of the album.

Regarding the individual songs, I've read people praising "Chromatic chimera", "Desert Urbania" and "Psychic Jugglers" but being less kind to other tracks. I actually found things to like in every track, including the sometimes maligned "Feasting Fools" and overlooked "Summoning Scenes". Special mention should also go to "Silence 011010701" for its industrial sound and powerful symphonic conclusion.

This is not an album for everybody. There are no "Living After Midnight" sing-a-longs on here. It's intense, ultra-busy, and possibly even exhausting. It might take to you ten listens to enjoy or only one. Or you might hate it. I'm rather impressed with it and can enjoy playing the album from front to back or pulling selected tracks off for daily mixed playlists. If possible, I'd like to get one of their two other albums. Hail to the mad marionette musical masters of Montreal!

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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