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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening And Closing CD (album) cover


Sleepytime Gorilla Museum


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4 stars The record opens with a minute that sound like instruments tuning and some vocal excercises, but then enter the drums & bass which lay a synchopated groove, a guitar solo comes in a counterpoint, you are getting ready to listen to an excellent Crimson clone, but something tells you that it'll be a different trip. BANG! What the hell is this industrial nightmare the song turned into? Dissonant guitars soar around, a metal shout comes in yelling about sleep being wrong. The music changes a few times, while repeating the chorus, having male-female duet a few some rocking riffs, quiet and heavy parts, et cetera.

That was the opening song of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's first album 'Grand Opening and Closing'. From there on it goes even crazier. From cliche prog-rock start & stop rhythms to heavy metal to free-form instrumentals with homemade instruments and thrash can percussion, this record never stops blazing with originality, weirdness, humor and energy. Lyrics are generally weird, though might have some metaphoric meaning - hence the rock against rock label or the Art Bears influence.

Particular highlights could be the aforementioned Sleep Is Wrong, the heavy 1997 (Tonight We're Gonna party like It's...), or the symphonic ballad(?) 'Spirit is A Bone'. There isn't much filler here, except the acoustic closer Sunflower.

You may notice that the madness here is more restrained and composed than in Nils Frykdahl's and Dan Rathbun's previous band Idiot Flesh. The production is superb, the playing is tight and the band is highly imaginative.

If you like Mr. Bungle or The Residents you shouldn't be reading those last lines but running and getting this album. For those wondering how this album is compared to 'Of Natural History' - it isn't weaker, perhaps more dynamic and fun. If this music isn't your cup of tea think twice, and listen to a few songs before buying this album, though it is recommended as one of the most original progressive rock albums of this decade.

Report this review (#74929)
Posted Friday, April 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars this is a really nice album, like mentiones before you dont know really what to expect, not just between the songs but with in the song it self. Most of the songs follow a Metal based organization wich is followed by a series of Mr. Bungleesque guitar riffs. Ambugaton strats of with a really soft selection of tunes almos Folkie like, then topped of with the same hard tunes as the previous songs. the songs keep on swiching on and off with the mood, one hard one and one soft, someof them resembeling some of the more fluid stuff from the Residents, i.e. The Berlin Sessions "un-american band" The female vocals on "Amblutions" also remind me a lot of the soft-whispering kind of helpless vocals of that of The Residents. The album is topped off with a, if I may use the word so blatantly, brilliant, and again unexpected turn of events, song "Sunflower" wich is just a one instrument song, i still cant tell wich one it is, some type of chord instrument wich seems to follow a random choice of notes and arrangements, but wich im pretty sure was nothing close to being random. I think this is a really good album to start off a nice RIO/Avant prog collection, because it can be accepted from a variety of different traditions, heavy rock-metal.
Report this review (#86665)
Posted Friday, August 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "A showing of artifacts from the first years of the Non-Apocalyptic Era has been culled further for inclusion in the present volume as the humble assortment of lullabies and headsplitters you hold in your dirty hands," begin the notes in this CD. It continues with this band's intriguing world of fables, "We drape it in the millennial mythology which clothes ancient fears (and hopes) in the guise of the technological god, cybernetic creator and destroyer of worlds. This pestilence of digital utopia even now burns brightly on the horizon, but over the ashes of its glory will crawl the patient, damp, senseless triumph of the mollusk."

I'm not sure what it all means but it does add to this group's mystique and to the superb packaging of the 2006 reissue of this album, with beautiful artwork, interesting prose and old world charm. What is important, of course, is the music and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum takes you through a bestial maze of it. A kind of dark carnival where one moment a clown is juggling and the next a trapeze artist is falling to his death. A musical exorcism, seething and undulating, building in front of the audience to its violent and painful but necessary finale, and no one gets out unscathed. Such is the bread and circus of Grand Opening and Closing, an astounding and tightly played collection of definitive American avant-garde rock music. Dave Shamrock of Thinking Plague plays drums & piano and some moments on this record are reminiscent of 'A History of Madnes', but also of Present, Univers Zero and Henry Cow. Laced throughout this neo-chamber foundation, however, is a healthy dose of thrash-metal riffage and primal growling from guitarist Nils Frykdahl. Plus powerhouse performances from drummer Matthias Bossi, percussionists Michael Mellender and Moe Staiano, bassist Dan Rathbun, and Carla Kihlstedt on a haunting violin, autoharp and pump organ.

Like a ripe wheel of stinky cheese, SGM's unsettling fare is only for the adventurous and I wouldn't recommend them for family gatherings, friendly get-togethers or dates. This stuff will take the enamel off your teeth so pull it out sparingly and make sure no one is home when you do.

Report this review (#104825)
Posted Friday, December 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Grand Opening and Closing is the awesome debut album of the RIO/Avant-prog band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. The album sounds in general really loud and deep. Anguished is the music. SGM mix different instruments in an inventive way. Their rhythms changes, guitar riffs and vocals are often unexpected, surprising. SGM are really good to create particular atmospheres and to bring us in a dream world. The principal lyrical themes of that album are bravado, powerlessness, apocalypse, fear, aspirations, future/past, hidden things... There are two lead singers in SGM: Carla Kihlstedt and Nils Frykdahl. Other band members play a lot of unusual instruments in addition to guitar, keyboard and drums.

Gran Opening and Closing is totally brilliant! 1. Sleep is Wrong (6:35) The song begins with a fade in. Voices set the rhythm in parallel with the drumbeats and the notes produced by the down-tuned bass. At the end, the guitar is juggling and it makes me think to a pursuit. The sound continually changes from a speaker to the other one while the singers repeat constantly "Ah!" and imitate some dog barks.

2. Ambugaton (5:38)(ambugaton means millenial apocalypse) This is an instrumental track (except they say "Ambugaton!") quite progressive or I could be more precise by saying it's evolving. The guitar is really melodic at the begining and the drums take more and more place while the song advance. The distortion guitar entered. It increases until the singer shout a booming "Ambugaton!" The guitar is going a little bit psychedelic at the end. 3. Ablutions (6:11) Ablutions represents the atmosphere of a haunted place for me. The keyboardist play horrendous, dramatic chords and is doing worrying sounds. Carla Kihlstedt starts to sing with a mystical voice. After a couple of strange sounds, she and Frykdahl sing along in an intense moment. But Kihlstedt leads the vocals in that song.

4. 1997 ( Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's... ) (4:56) 1997 begins with the sound of a backing up vehicule. This track is one of the most heavy on the album. Nil Frykdahl is singing in a kind of heavy-trash metal.

5. The Miniature (1:03) Really short. A soft track with electric violon, marimba, and tibetan bells. Ends with with keyboards downbeats.

6. Powerless (9:32) A marvelous track with indescribable sounds. It's transcendent. It gives the impression to enter the underworld. At the begining, Frykdahl sings with a soft deep voice. Guitar and bass becomes more predominant while he shout "Powerless!". After that, comes a duet of Frykdahl and Kihlstedt in which Frykdahl takes a high-pitched voice. The last 3 minutes are wonderful. It's like a dialogue between the guitar and the bass. The singers get in, saying with intensity "La la la la la..." . It fades out with some whispered "Powerless" accompanied by mysterious squeaky guitar sounds.

7. The Stain (6:46) The vocals are done by both Kihlstedt and Frykdahl. The track is based on surprising guitar effects that reminds me the most crazy guitar part (4:46 to 5:08) of Yours Is No Disgrace (Yes), but in a more heavy vibrancy. "The Stain" is a really strange, unexpected and impelling song. It's one of the most inspiring track on this cd at my point of view. 8. Sleepytime (10:28) Really calm and meditative track. It's sleepy time... Both vocalists sing in a musing way for half of the track. In the second part, their voice is going out-and-out and it finally concludes to some mellow "Sleepytimes".

9. Sunflower (7:52) Keyboards, guitar, and marimba plays notes separated in time. All the musical piece is instrumental. The purpose of Sunflower seems to create a relax and pensive mood. The music is a little bit predictable, so I think it's not the best track on the album.

10. More Time (2:47) This short track starts and ends with a repetitive sound (pendulum). The guitar and the singing are really insistent throughout the song.

11. Flinch (5:24) At the begining, "Flinch" gives the impression to be penetrating a forbidden place on tiptoe. This song is a like a lament, and it is sung by Carla Kihlstedt. The song atmosphere is oppressive; it results a really nice ambience. I'm highly strung while I'm listening to that one.

12. Powerless [Live] (9:42) Hmmm... What to say? It's a reprise of Powerless live. Maybe overmuch. It wasn't necessary to put the track twice. And I think a live track is less interesting, because of the bad quality sound and hand clapping.

I would say it's an awesome album; a lot a creativity and unexpected sounds! The album communicates very well an anguished atmosphere. If you like avant-gardist music, Grand Opening and Closing is for you! For me, 4 stars.

Review by guitar_ode (Josiane Fortin)

Report this review (#111631)
Posted Sunday, February 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is altogether silly, revolting, offensive, over-the-top, and yet, a wonderful debut album by one of the strangest bands in recent times. Hearing this band, you may question how this is in anyway related to Frank Zappa, the most esteemed musician in this subgenre (and misplaced, if you ask me). But there are, actually, some similarities. Though, unlike Bungle, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum do not jump from genre to genre endlessly, and unlike Zappa, they do not have an addictive jazz feel. Sleepytime do not do anything that could be compared with anyone else. They are wholly unique. This is a band that invents their own home-made instruments, a band that throws in unforeseen, momentary breaks in their song's structure. This is an extremely progressive album, with a massive array of odd sounds and noises passing for music.

The songs are sometimes too chaotic and dirty for immediate enjoyment, but primarily, but after many listens, it is very easy to enjoy every song. They are extremely diverse and constantly captivating tunes. They use a huge amount of unrealistically complex rhythm surprises, along with ridiculous and sometimes purposefully dissonant melodies. Sometimes, the melody actually is quite pretty, but the way they play or sing it, and the instruments playing behind it, make it sound completely chaotic and violent (see Powerless).

The rhythmic experimentations they perform throughout the album are really extraordinary, and very interesting. Ambugaton has a simple rhythm, but as they repeat the melody, the beats land in a different place on the riff. Ambugaton's first half (or so) is very excellent and passive, with great percussion and riffs. Then it changes drastically and turns into a crushing metal song with a catchy and exhilarating riff. At one point, the whole band cuts out and we're left with a single voice shouting the song's name. The band comes streaming back thereafter.

Some of the album is quite relaxing and ambient-like, in stark contrast to the rest. Sleepytime is a nice 'lullaby', with silent melodies and softer instruments. However, just because the song is quieter, doesn't mean that Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is going to hold back with their experimenting. There's a lot of piano that is purposefully played out of key (or so it seems). Sleepytime begins slow, but picks up and turns into one of the best songs on the album. The Miniature is also another quieter song, though it lasts for a mere fifty-seven seconds, and is completely odd (even compared to the rest of the album). Sunflower is another 'lullaby', and it is very odd indeed. It is extremely quiet and meditative in nature (with even traces of minimal music). It doesn't, however, pick up like Sleepytime. It remains silent and closes the album on a jagged and meditative note.

In the end, this is a fantastic album with a pitcherful of creativity and originality. Each song is unique and the band itself is nearly beyond comprehension. This is a fantastic release that is not for everyone, but those who do respect this style of music will love it.

Report this review (#118737)
Posted Tuesday, April 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Avant-Folk-Prog-Metal from Hell.

SGM's rather enigmatic nature make it hard to understand anythying about this album, let alone the band as a whole. My first impressions, based on the cover were something along the lines of "What on earth is this?" While some bands are hard to label as a definitive genre, this band seems to have made a niche of it's own entirely.

The album itself is sporadic at best, and confusing at it's worst. Though it contains some of my favorite SGM tracks (Ambugaton, 1997, Sleep is Wrong, Sleepytime), it's often incoherent nature puts me off to a degree. Tracks like Sunflower are slow, oddly timed and for the most part, boring in the context of the album. It was apparent (to me, at least) that the band was in the process of pinning down their own unique style and voice, and in the process made some problematic inclusions into the CD. The vocals are sometimes Harsh, sometimes Creepy, but fit the mood of the album perfectly. Even the female vocals add a (again) creepy and interesting dimension to the band. The odd time signatures, even odder instruments and crazy themes make this band a very unique, if somewhat challenging band to get into. Though not as challenging as some of the other bands associated with this "genre", it definatley could take a few listens to fully appreciate this album.

The lyrics on this album, however, are so incredibly cryptic, strange and all around confusing that it's best to just listen to the album as a whole, and not try to delve to far into the insanity that has spawned SGM.


Report this review (#132088)
Posted Monday, August 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Listening to Grand Opening And Closing is akin to walking through the Elephant Man exhibit at a carnival. This twisted collection of dirty, dark monstrosities assaults you with the kind of off-the-wall sound you may expect from an album featuring "thing", "food containers", and "popping turtle" among its array of instrumentation. The completely over-the-top melodramatic vocals provide an excellent companion to the weirdness of the music. The vocals harmonies here are fantastic though they certainly don't emulate the traditional Beach Boys or Simon & Garfunkel harmonies. These harmonies are downright sick. Carla's voice (though not your typical "beautiful" female vocals) provide a great contrast to the demonic mumbling and rasping of Dan and Nihls (I like to think me and the band are on a first name basis).

This album gravitates to the extremities more than its successor would. For the most part we have brutal, busy, heavy songs or soft, almost ambient, slower songs with far less middle ground explored. Not a problem necessarily but it results in less variety than they would have on Of Natural History. Though everything is of nearly the same quality with not a bad song to be found until the album ends on a strange low point with the ambient-noise piece " Sunflower" which really only consists of some scarcely placed chimes and bells.

While not as strong as their follow up and most appreciated album, Grand Opening And Closing still delivers the goods. The band's sound and character are in full force here. The great theatrical and dramatic sense they capture (on par with that of Gabriel Genesis) is here too making for an excellent release.

Report this review (#133096)
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
el böthy
4 stars The Museum of all that is bizarre, grotesque, unsetling, idioteque and slighty infected has opend it´s gates ...and closed it again. The first album of Avant Garde modern kings (yes, they are) would be the one that features the most amount of "music", sort to speak, in comparison to their later outputs, which is neither better nor worst, just different. The introduction to the world of the new beast that is Sleepytime Gorilla Museum would come with a shock and a kick in the balls, and the brain also, why not? For those that were familiar with Idiot Flesh might have anticipated a new adventurous music, but I´m not sure anybody could have anticipated Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. "Grand Opening and Closing" is a fresh stroke of air we so often need in the music scene, be it in Avant Garde, Prog of music in general, even though SGM is not for the general. Most definitly the best place to start with this guys, for it´s not as out there as "Of natural history" and not as dense as "In glorious times", the songs are songs, well, there are pieces of music the less adventurous would not describe as songs, most specially the closer Sunflower... which is pretty much random soft noises.

The stand outs are "Sleep is wrong" for it´s incredible riffs and diversity, "1997" with it´s angry but full of humour feeling, "Powerless" for it´s controlled mess and "Sleepytime"... for having all what they are in 10 min, yet this is album, as all of their albums, bust be heard as a unity, as a big piece, don´t shuffle, don´t listen two or three songs, listen it all, from start to finish... do it!!!

Report this review (#156711)
Posted Wednesday, December 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This was the first Sleepytime Gorilla Museum album I bought and experienced. Since then I've also purchased their two follow-up releases which required some extra effort considering I live in Sweden!

At first I found the material on this album very challenging but I realized quite soon that there were a lot of hidden treasures underneath those compositions waiting to be discovered. That's when the album started to truly grow on me! The only complaint I have is that the final track, Sunflower feels like an unnecessary filler that I usually skip. This is quite disappointing considering that it's one of the longer compositions here and I was originally expecting something truly spectacular. Otherwise there is greatness all around!

Eventually after listening to bands like The Art Bears, Univers Zero and Cardiacs I realized that Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's style wasn't quite as original as I first assumed although there is still enough originality in it to still keep me entertained!

***** star songs: Sleep Is Wrong (6:35) Ambugaton (5:38) 1997 (4:48)

**** star songs: Ablutions (6:05) The Miniature (0:59) Powerless (9:30) The Stain (6:46) Sleepytime (10:16)

*** star songs: Sunflower (7:52)

Total Rating: 4,16

Report this review (#161566)
Posted Monday, February 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rating: B+

None of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's members were really new to avant-garde music when Sleepytime Gorilla Museum released their debut (notably, several were in the band Idiot Flesh). This really shows in their debut, as it is startlingly mature for a debut album. It's a little rough around the edges in many spots, and the songwriting isn't as tight as on Of Natural History and In Glorious Times, but Grand Opening and Closing successfully captures a band with a plethora of good ideas and the talent necessary to make these ideas gel into a cohesive whole.

Right from the start, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum give an example of their trademark style, as "Sleep is Wrong" combines riffs that wouldn't be out of place on an Art Bears album with heaviness that would make Meshuggah proud. This is only the base, though, as the fiery violin lines and the wild vocal harmonies turn "Sleep is Wrong" from a good song into a great one. From there, Grand Opening and Closing never lets up, throwing a motley assortment of "lullabies and headsplitters (as per the liner notes) in the listener's direction.

On the heavier, headsplitting end of the spectrum are "1997 (Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's.)", "Powerless", and "The Stain". "1997" explodes out of the gate with a fury that will single-handedly knock out half the listener's teeth, mixing the brutality of nu-metal with an intelligent, intense violin line. "Powerless" takes a bit longer to build, but features fantastic bass work by Dan Rathbum, particularly on the piano log, a type of bass instrument he invented (and one of the band's trademarks). On the less heavy end is "The Stain", which is a headsplitter more because of its crazy, indecipherable riff rather than its heaviness. This "riff" (if it can truly be called such) jumps around without end (even from one instrument to another mid-riff), starting and stopping at odd places, and just generally does all it can to baffle the listener. It succeeds, and it does so without sounding overdone, avoiding one of avant-garde's most common pitfalls.

Balancing this are the softer "Ablutions" and "Sunflower" (and the relatively insignificant, if beautiful, "Miniature"). The former is a haunting, evil piece about counting oneself to sleep. Driven by Carla Kihlstedt's soft, sinister vocals, it never gets loud, but it creeps under the skin and makes it crawl. "Sunflower", on the other hand, is a far gentler lullaby, a slow, instrumental piece with lots of harpsichord. After all the craziness on the CD is through, "Sunflower" guides Grand Opening and Closing to a calm close. It's one of the least interesting songs on Grand Opening and Closing, and probably could've been left off.

The best songs on Grand Opening and Closing don't really fall into either camp. "Ambugaton" and "Sleepytime (Spirit is a Bone)" both start out sounding like lullabies but end in definite headsplitter territory. "Ambugaton" is an instrumental piece (still the band's finest such piece to date) that starts calm, relaxing, and repetitive, then explodes into a far heavier, wilder instrumental. The highlight of Grand Opening and Closing, however, is "Sleepytime", which, like "Ambugaton", starts calm and relaxing, with Nils crooning "sleepytime" over and over again. The song slowly builds intensity, never really exploding, but eventually reaching a fantastic climax that sees Nils screaming nonsense at the top of his (clearly vast) lungs.

All of the songs on Grand Opening and Closing are well written musically, but what really makes them come together are the fantastic vocals of Nils and Carla. Nils has one of the most versatile voices in modern music, and Grand Opening and Closing is pretty clear proof of that (and he improves on their later releases). He really can do everything, from beautiful to screaming, and he always makes music around him more engaging. Counteracting his harsh vocals are the softer vocals of Carla. Comparisons to Bjork aren't unwarranted, as Carla has a similar voice and uses it in similar manners. Her vocals aren't really used for lead much here (except "Ablutions"), but they are used fantastically to contrast with Nils' on some of the heavier songs, notably "Sleep is Wrong", "Powerless", and "Sleepytime".

Take those vocals and combine them with the fantastic songwriting that's readily apparent on Grand Opening and Closing and you're left with a fantastic if somewhat rough debut CD by one of the most engaging bands around. Despite the prevalence of avant-garde elements in their songs, they are quite accessible, really, and would serve as a good introduction to avant-garde for those who like their music loud. Of Natural History or In Glorious Times would be better options to start with this band (especially Of Natural History), but Grand Opening and Closing lays the foundation for all they've done since, and is fantastic in its own right. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#163975)
Posted Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars EDIT (1/3/10): Score lowered to 4 stars, some amorocity has died off.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is in my opinion one of the best new bands in prog and music in general. They push the boundaries just like Magma, Frank Zappa, and King Crimson. That I have dropped the names of those three bands is no accident, because Sleepytime is on par with those three greats. Grand Opening and Closing is one of the best debut albums I have ever heard, but like every debut it suffers from inexperience.

Sleep is Wrong: completely chaotic, yet completely organized. This could be considered the essential Sleepytime song. The way this group changes tempos and beats so suddenly is just amazing and the stop in the middle adds to the effect. Throughout the song, you can hear a rumbling bass which completely overpowers the listener without overpowering the song. My favorite part is at about 1:50; Nils Frykdahl's barking of the lyrics fits perfectly in this section, and in the entire song as well. The finale has so much energy and the bass gets a boost in the mix, completely overpowering both listener and song, in a good way. Of note is just how well Carla's beautiful voice contrasts with the grating of Nils at the end.

Ambugaton is a much more controlled song. It is quiet through the first 3 minutes, slowly building up until the guitar and drums reek havok. A very good instrumental track until around 4:35, when Nils cries out 'Ambugaton!', which means 'Extreme chaos resulting in a community that was once peaceful.' If one listens to the track again after knowing this, then everything makes sense. One word has never meant so much.

Ablusions begins with Carla's first lead vocal performance. The track could almost be considered ambient until the wind chimes come in. Another good duet between Nils and Carla. One thing which could potentially be annoying is the whispered counting after the duet. But it works in the context of the song. The interplay between instruments to vocals is great, not to mention the more standard instrumental interplay. This song is quieter than the previous two because it is meant to be a lullaby, or if its the Sleepytime I'm thinking of, a satire of a lullaby.

1997, my favorite track along with Sleep is Wrong and Powerless, starts off with a siren in the distance, coming closer until the guitar takes over in an incredible riff. Their most accessible track, and only straightout rocker on the album. Unfortunately, its flaws show after repeated listens. Whereas the rest of the album is a grower, this is a great song which gets bland instead of improves after listening to it. Reason being that it does not have the subtleties of the other songs. Still an amazing track for its catchy riffs and interaction between guitar and violin.

The Miniature is a short little interlude with cartoony violin work. Pretty entertaining actually.

Powerless is interesting from the first bass hit. Guitar and random sounds work around the bass for the two minutes until Nils jumps in with vocals, from then on the song gets very heavy, its probably the heaviest on the entire album. Best part of the song: the bassline at 3:59. Nils gets my vote for best vocalist because of this song. Despite the title, this song is VERY powerful. It potentially could drag on because it is over nine minutes long, but that is only if you do not enjoy avant-garde music. It is nine minutes well spent in my opinion because it stays interesting and changes itself up throughout. Probably the best song on the album.

The Stain has the most simple lyrics, presented humorously. The riffs that tie this song together sound random, but when Sleepytime uses random, the result is a completely organized and logical song. Again, the bass' prominent lines blow the listener away. Near the end though The Stain kinda gets into an aimless improv but it picks up in the last minute. More interesting than mindblowing. Not as good as the songs which preceded it.

Sleepytime is an odd song. It builds up slowly for a few minutes and climaxes, sounding almost jazzy, the drums, guitar, and that amazing bass all doing their own thing, fitting in a part of the puzzle. The arrangements are weaker on this track than anywhere else on the album. All in all, a little bit of a disappointment, but worth listening to for the climax I mentioned.

Sunflower...should have been left off.

Grand Opening and Closing has something many great albums lack, an almost impossible amount of energy and emotion not just from the vocalists, but from the instruments themselves. Each song sounds different and unique, from the hard rocking 1997, to the powerful ballad Powerless, to the 'lullaby' Ablusions. The bassist, Dan Rathbun, is a god! By the way, the inexperience I said earlier that it suffered from: it is only noticable when you listen to their next album!

NOTE ON THE RATING: When I rate, I rate based on the website's words next to the stars. This debut is definately a step forward for the progressive rock genre as a whole. In time I would not be surprised if this album was considered as essential as King Crimson's debut.

Report this review (#164242)
Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening And Closing

This debut from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, while sometimes good, merely hints at the awesomeness that would be mastered and fully realized on the follow up "Of Natural History". On this album, the listener is treated with mostly bland songs that focus too much on their avant quirks and too little on their actual structures and deliveries. The overall result is an album held hostage, the album that could have been. Disappointing, surely, but still not wholly unnecessary. While sometimes bland and repetitive, "Grand Opening and Closing" certainly has some good moments, and good hints at what this band would become with later releases.

Now, the music:

The problem, in terms of quality, on this album lies mostly with pacing and organization, although certainly there are a few mediocre tracks that help this along. The album feels much less like an actual album, and much more like a collection of songs or EPs, which it likely is, considering that it is but a debut. Promising at times, conventional at others (this word is not at all a compliment to an album that is supposed to be pushing boundaries in the avant-garde). Many praise the opener, "Sleep Is Wrong", which I feel is rather bland and faceless, especially when stacked up against the two following tracks, "Ambugaton" and "Ablutions", which, incidentally, both begin with the letter "A," which hints towards the quality of these tracks.

The album is just faced with too many blunders to work well, especially when clocking in at nearly an hour in length. It is too clunky and boringly paced to merit full listens, and the tracks are mostly too mediocre to hold much interest beyond a few minutes. The train of thought on this album is all over the place, one could say, and the lack of focus--something that can pay off in some avant music--does little but hold this one back even further.

Some relief is present in moments in tracks like "Powerless" and "Sleepytime", but the concluding minutes of "Sunflower" just seem awkward and overlong, a testament that serves rather well in summing up what this whole album seems to achieve.

It is probably not as bad as I am making it out to be, but when compared with "Of Natural History" and even the lesser "In Glorious Times" it wilts solemnly and goes to hide itself in a corner. Worth the buy for fans alone, and therefore worth 2 stars.

Report this review (#171420)
Posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is the debut album Rio/Avant prog band "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum". No, I did not misspell the name of the band if just the band name alone gives a "what are they thinking?" feeling, the music and awful lyrics probably will as well. With a few exceptions, I generally don't like this genre of music, but this certainly didn't change my mind. Now, before it sounds like I'm giving this a one star review instead of a two, something about this album is strangely intriguing at times. While some of the songs are so unthinkably awful that I'd rather jump off a cliff, some of the songs are decent very experimental (and weird) music pieces. However, there is not a single song without its fair share of flaws. Also, only a few of the musical pieces can be called "songs". Expect almost an entire album blending psychedelic rock, prog metal, and avant garde music similar to Revolution 9. The entire album I was waiting for a song to begin, let alone one that would actually grab my attention. After listening to this, I actually thought pop music was better.

What makes this album worth two stars instead of one is its ability to occasionally fascinate me with all of its weirdness. As a result, sometimes I will voluntarily listen to this album when I'm in the mood for something very creative and different. Unfortunately, many songs are worth skipping. This album includes, for better or for worse, a lot of odd time signatures with odd starts and stops. The arrangements aren't very typical either. Just look at what the band members play! Food container, "thing", popping turtle- this is very different music! There are borderline experimental/prog metal sections in addition to lighter sections (unfortunately) with unlistenable feminine vocals. There are some points where the vocals go so high that her voice can't hold the note, and she has a voice crack. Yet, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum decided to leave that on the album. Sadly, the male vocals aren't any better. It's simply lower pitched screaming that is completely unbearable.

Well, the people who are singing the lyrics certainly don't do it well, but I can't write this review without dedicating a paragraph to the awful lyrics. None of the lyrics here can be taken seriously, and they are actually some of the worst I've ever heard. While there isn't a single good lyric in the entire album, I'll just point out some of the worst. From the song "Powerless" comes this awful quote; "Finding some shoes. Losing you feet/Finding some food. Losing your teeth". The next quote is from "Ablutions"; "She hangs her skin up by the window and looks to see that all the doors are open". I've heard more than enough times that this is an intelligent and intellectual band, but the lyrics certainly don't prove it, even if it were to be true.

"Sleep is Wrong"- This is one of the few decent songs on the album. It starts out pretty weird, but about a minute in begins a complex section that sounds very promising. It experiments with odd time signatures and an awesome complex melody. This turns into a heavy section with just a repeated note with odd starts and stops. The singing is absolutely horrendous, but the reprise of the opening is very good. It is a good song where, unfortunately, the singing ruins almost the entire experience.

"Ambugaton"- This is by far the best song on "Grand Opening and Closing". It is almost completely instrumental, so the singing can't ruin this one like it did to the last song. This isn't nearly as weird as the other tracks, and is almost a standard prog metal song. This is a great song simply because it has no awful vocals and isn't quite as experimental. I wish the whole album would be like this.

"Ablutions"- A good thing can never last. After an excellent previous track, we have this unlistenable mess. This possibly has the worst lyrics on the album, and that is no small feat. The singing begins with the awful female vocals I mentioned earlier. The melody goes way too high for her range, and she can't even hold the note. Then later, the male vocals begin screaming pointlessly, and destroy the song even more. This is a perfect example of where singing can ruin a song. The music, even though it drags on too long, isn't that bad, but the singing turns this into a disastrous mess.

"1997"- Significantly better than the last track. This has pretty bad lyrics with unnecessary profanity, but the vocals don't seem as horrible here. The screaming is actually used pretty well because it fits the tone of the song. The music is more straightforward, which I find to be a plus for this band. It still has an experimental rock/metal feel, but it is much better.

"The Miniature"- This is a very short almost classical-like piece of music. I wish that more of the album would have used this sound. While it is pretty boring, it is far better than some of the other stuff on this album.

"Powerless"- This has okay moments, but definitely didn't need to run for over 9 minutes. The brief choruses are pretty cool, but most of the song is passable at best. One minute near the end there is what sounds like a cool jam session. But just when you think something good will come out of this song, both vocalists start annoyingly screaming "LA LA LA LA LA!!!!!!". It ends oddly, and this is almost a completely terrible song, possibly the worst on the album.

"The Stain"- From the awful lyric "The man is thin and hungry because he's lazy/The seeds are sprouting in my garden" to the wannabe music, there's only one thing to say about this song. Skip it!

"Sleepytime"- This has a very strange and oddly intriguing opening that shows how both voices can sing if they actually try. After 5 minutes it gets pretty repetitive, but it introduces a new section with a cool build. This is far too long for the small amount of material that is in it, but it is a very good song. About 6 minutes in it has a guitar solo that almost reminds me of something from Yes. This is one of the better songs on the album, but of course, it isn't without its flaws.

"Sunflower"- This is almost 8 minutes long, but could easily get away with being 2 or 3. It's extremely repetitive, has no buildup, and just has a boring melody using psychedelic instruments. I never listen to this one.

Grand Opening and Closing falls into the "what could have been" category. It has some cool musical parts, but is ruined by the lyrics and singing. If this were all instrumental with some repetitive sections cut out, this could be worth a three, and maybe a four if I was feeling extra nice. It's clear there are some skilled musicians here with good ideas. You just need to get past an album where at least half of it is unlistenable, and the other half is decent at best. This album pretty much defines the two star rating: Collectors/Fans ONLY. This will only appeal to fans of the Avant prog genre. This won't convert you to the genre if you don't already like it. So, people like me, stay away from this one!

2/5 stars.

Report this review (#224382)
Posted Friday, July 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars My mind has been perverted, and I'm loving it.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum are the most demented band I've ever come across. They're a strange hybird of metal (various forms), avant-garde, ambient and others into a strange thing that can only be described as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. They're over-the-top in the vocal department almost to the point of sounding disgusting (sometimes Carla's voice cracks, and that's not good). That aside, their songwriting is actually quite impeccable.

Other than the plink-planking that lasts too long in ''Sunflower'' and the filler track ''The Stain'', every track is a hidden gem. From the Genesis-meets-Faith No More-meets Tim Burton opener in ''Sleep Is Wrong'' to the party-death metal of ''1997'' to the prog metal/RIO instrumental workout ''Ambugaton'', we have a hodge-podge of highlights of sick, twisted, theatrical prog. ''Ablutions'' is an insanely twisted mental problem under the guise of a quaint ballad.

Two epic-esque pieces highlight the album in tremendous fashion. ''Powerless'' is notable for its synth like sounds and the start-stop verses that sometimes go into screaming and noise guitar. But we're all waiting for the big ''Sleepytime'' track, a track that I interpret as someone slowly descending into madness. It starts off innocently enough with a more folksy setting before adding some electric guitars. The way the vocals get more and more passionate with each passing stanza adds to the intensity and really his me in a weak spot every time.

I usually don't consider bonus tracks, ''Flinch'' and ''More Time'' are both interesting enough to make me think, ''I wonder why these weren't included on the original...'' But I'll let minor complaints go knowing that this is one of the most unique takes on prog rock I've heard, even if SGM overdoes it. Not to be missed out on.

Report this review (#299536)
Posted Friday, September 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum announced that they are calling it quits after they finish their current projects, an announcement that fills me with sadness as I just started getting into their music with this album and am already enjoying them immensely.

The music contained on this disc is a blend of weird song structures, odd vocals, industrial elements, heavy guitars, and avant-garde sounds. The band does vary in the music but in general these are the main ingredients that make the band intriguing.

Almost every song on this album is a gem, with only a couple of songs damaging the flow of what is an otherwise near-perfect album. The album starts with the violent, almost paranoid "Sleep is Wrong", which pretty much demonstrates everything there is to love about this album. The guitars and drums are noisy, the vocals far from standard, with great interplay between the male vocals (provided by Nils and Dan) and the otherworldly female vocals (provided by Carla). One of the "whoa" moments on this track is when Carla is slowly singing the "When, I, grow, up" while the male vocals sing the main chorus quicker behind her, before quite a nice climax.

Ambugaton displays the bands great instrumental prowess, and when it really starts rocking in the second half, it is difficult not to head bang along with the great rhythm and riff. This is definitely a song that sounds better the louder you play it.

Ablutions is one of the quieter tracks on the album and once again makes use of Carla's voice. In a way this reminds me of "Serialist Killer" from Yugen's 2010 release "Iridule", mostly because it is a song with somewhat of an edgy, crazy sound lead by odd female vocals. Beyond that of course the two are musically miles apart (ah, the joys of avant). I do like how this track demonstrates that the band is capable of more than just rocking out (and much better than later track Sunflower - more on that later).

My favorite track on this album is Powerless, which is once again in the lines of the heavier tracks, this one just manages to merge texture, atmosphere, rocking, and vocals in a way that always pumps me right up. After Ambugaton, I would describe it as the second most head-bang worthy track on the album.

As I stated, there are very few tracks on this album that I wouldn't describe as excellent or amazing, but the ones that I did like less really hurt the flow of this album. The worst part is there are only two! I imagine these tracks may be enjoyable to some, but for me, 1997 (Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's) is a bit too generic compared to the other stuff the band is doing on the album, and I tend to stop paying attention when it starts playing.

But the real stinker is, unfortunately, Sunflower - which in itself is not so bad, and even has a distinct purpose on the album. It's pretty much an atmospheric instrumental track using Asian instruments - it sounds nothing like the rest of the album and has no vocals. In many ways it reminds me of Jade Warrior, even using the same tone to start each phrase that I recall Jade Warrior using in a few places in their album "Kites". The only thing is, it's so dang long, and not hugely interesting! It does nicely add contrast to the album so that, for the last few tracks, the heaviness still feels epic and heavy and you're not numb to it. But Sunflower is nearly 8 minutes long and I just don't find much in it to appreciate other than it's role in the album of providing contrast. If it were 2 minutes, it would be perfect.

Don't let these two tracks fool you though, for beyond them this album is a gem. It's too bad I seem to have discovered it a few years too late.

Report this review (#428338)
Posted Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars When this album was still new I was recommended it by Mr. Bungle fans who figured, if you like Bungle you will probably like this too. I did but I don't think it sounds too much like Bungle. SGM was formed by former members of metal band Idiot Flesh. The violin work and vocals of Carla Kihlstedt are an important component of the music. Her vocals contrast with the more angry, metal type male vocals. The band uses some home-made and custom-made instruments that make their music unique. The music itself is hard to describe but is generally a mix of experimental metal and avant-prog.

"Sleep Is Wrong" is the leadoff track and one of the better songs on the album. I like the gibberish chanting. There are parts where it sounds like different instruments were recorded at different speeds. Around 2:45 you hear voices that sound like they are broadcast on an old radio. Some snoring noises in the middle. Love the ending where everything gets more intense. "Ambugaton" is my favourite song here. Almost completely instrumental. The first half sounds like some kind of post-rock/chamber-rock hybrid. Nice violin. Almost Crimson sounding at times. Love the delayed guitar at the end.

Eerie harmonium dominates "Ablutions," which reminds me of Art Bears, particularly Carla's Dagmar-like delivery. Things get more dense with the addition of other sounds. In the middle gets loud with guitars and distorted bass along with male and female voices singing together. Carla counts numbers in a strange way as the instruments around her get very avant-garde. "1997" sounds more like Idiot Flesh. This song is almost a cross between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica. Very dated sounding now. Only after 3 minutes does it get more interesting and avant-rock-y.

Cool sounds at the beginning of "Powerless." Love the bass sound after a minute. Nice and catchy singing in this song. The music is fairly structureless until almost 3 minutes when it starts grooving on a riff. Just love the bass sound starting around 6 1/2 minutes. Crazy "la la" vocals at one point. More cool sounds at the end but completely different to the ones at the start. "Sleepytime" has the title repeated in a lullaby voice for awhile before some harmony vocals. The music is some kind of bizarre mix of a children's music box and archaic folk music. After 4 minutes the song changes to almost a waltz. Keeps changing till it gets more metal sounding with some guitar soloing. Interesting repeated lyrics near the end before some great melodic singing in a "lie, lie, lie" fashion.

"Sunflower" is the most avant-garde song but also the most boring. Good idea to put it at the end. SGM are known for their theatrical live shows. There is a mythology connected to the band's name and the title of this album. Heady stuff. I like the follow up just as much but don't enjoy the third album as much as the first two. Great modern avant-prog. 4 stars.

Report this review (#435079)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM is one of those bands that I hadn't really expected on Prog Archives. Not that they shouldn't be here, but they owe a lot to bands like FOETUS, COP SHOOT COP and other punk/noise/industrial terrorists from the end 80's/early 90's and Prog isn't exactly the first thing that comes to my mind in that context. And of course I shouldn't forget to mention a certain MR. BUNGLE.

Especially the first track sounds like a tribute to FOETUS's noise-jazz-avant approach, it's nothing new under the sun but executed really well. Next on is "Ambugation", starting with a gentle jazzy piece before launching into a heavy continuation with odd-time punk-prog riffs that remind me of NOMEANSNO. With the atonal 'Ablutions' the band show their avant chops. The eerie female vocals and dissonant accompaniment compete with similar KAYO DOT moments. Wonderful piece. After the relative calm comes the storm. '1997' is another Foetus-meets-Metallica-meets-Red Hot Chili Peppers slab of noise-rock. SGM may not be very original here but they do this type of swinging over-the-top brutality really well.

On to the first of the two 10 minute epics. 'Powerless' is where SGM fully come into their own and allow us for a peek into their own deranged mindset; sometimes noisy, sometime industrial, this is also a very proggy track with a superbly entrancing and groovy mid-section. After the bass-heavy dissonance of "The Stain", "Sleepytime" offers a more subtle threat, one lurking underneath a seemingly innocent lullaby that gradually turns into a nightmare. The peaceful and beautiful avant piece "Sunflower" is a great choice for an album closer.

SGM may not be the most original act around but they hit all the right buttons for me with their mix of avant and heavy noise-rock, achieving a catchy rocking vibe that I often miss in real full-fledged Avant Guarde rock. Approach with care though, both the avant and the noise-rock angle will be not be easy to get into if you're used to more traditional melodic material. A near masterpiece for me.

Report this review (#853377)
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars To an old-school Progger like myself the mayhem of SGM resembles a Death Metal update of GENTLE GIANT, complete with tricky time signatures and eclectic instrumentation (some of it homemade, or so I'm told). The difference is mostly in the (much) louder volume, some occasional dodecaphony, and a lead singer who in his calmer moments sounds like Gothmog the Orc general ordering his troops into Gondor.

I'll admit I respond more to the quieter passages (yes, there are some here: parts of "Ambugaton"; most of "Ablutions"), but that's just my age and Symphonic Rock upbringing. The Zen-like album-closer "Sunflower" offers a surprising model of sonic restraint, and the ten-plus minute title track presents an eerie lullaby for brain-scarred insomniacs, at least until Nils Frykdahl starts into his William Peter Blatty act (imagine Linda Blair in full pea-soup mode, wielding a microphone instead of a crucifix).

It's a difficult album to recommend, especially on a website where fully half of the top ten rated albums are currently by GENESIS and PINK FLOYD. The more refined side of my Proghead self is having a little difficulty awarding it more than three respectable stars, but my Avant Rock doppelgänger wants to unleash the opening onslaught of "Sleep is Bad" at a volume loud enough to disturb the neighbors the next time they fire up the snowblower at four in the morning. Bad? You'll find out sleep is damn near impossible, with noise like this...

Regardless of taste, we should all be grateful bands like SGM exist, if only to challenge a generation of listeners growing up in a world of stale cookie-cutter entertainment. So here it is, kids: your own stick of musical TNT, to help blow a hole in those cultural doldrums.

[ A quick postscript. My secondhand copy of the album has an overloaded, distorted sound which may or may not reflect the output of a pristine CD, but it's certainly appropriate. This is truly Rock in Opposition, sometimes to your actual sanity. ]

Report this review (#890653)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is wonderful, loud and quirky music, somewhat similar to Mr. Bungle, but it tends to lean towards the avant-prog metal side of that sound. Yes it gets quite loud and heavy at times, hence the metal reference. But the thing to remember here, is this music is a lot more than typical metal. Yes you get some yelled or growled vocals at times, but you get quite a big dose of non metal music too. This is anything but typical metal, so don't go into it thinking it is. The music is quirky, often quite dissonant and it ventures off into very experimental territory from time to time.

The core of the band comes from the dissolved band "Idiot Flesh", and the music is quite similar to that music, but heavier and larger doses of metal. The 3rd main member of the band is the female lead singer Carla Kihlstedt who is also responsible for the awesome and crazy violins that are added in. Her vocals usually are high pitched and help to balance out the male vocals which tend to be low and heavy. But, don't expect to find much reprieve from the quirkiness of the music, because she usually adds a dissonant harmony to the music.

The band has a crazy sense of humor, but it is a dark humor which is matched by the overall feeling of the album. Some of the humor is obvious, and some of it is buried in the music itself and not so obvious, hence the similarities that people often make to Zappa. They also tend to use a lot of Zappa's more complicated song structuring at times. If you are not familiar with FZ's more complex music, then you will fail to see that comparison. Other than that, the music sounds very little like the Zappa that most people are used to. I find it easier to say the music is more like Mike Patton's more extreme music, but the individual compositions are actually more fleshed out than Mr. Bungle or other Mike Patton projects, the songs tending to be longer and more developed, allowing for more experimentation within certain songs.

Unlike most metal bands, SGM is very dynamic, which is why it was hard for them to be pinpointed by a certain audience. The music is more complicated, complex and varying for the taste of many metal lovers. It is easier for those familiar with avant-garde styles to grasp. Just be aware that it is music that reaches both extremes, heavy and soft, but always dark.

Some listeners will recognize the use of poetry in a few of the songs, where lines from poems are used as the lyrics. This is evident in the totally awesome track "Sleep is Wrong" and also in the epic "Sleepytime (Spirit is Bone)". The music is very dramatic also, and this matches the hijinx that is in their live concerts, which many times involve hand puppets, costumes and elaborate sets.

Not everyone is going to understand this music, I understand that. But, for someone like myself, that loves challenging, quirky, original, dynamic and heavy music that pushes all boundaries, this is some of the best loud avant-prog music out there. It is too bad that the band only put out 3 studio albums, but you can extend that discography if you add in the earlier music of the band "Idiot Flesh", though I find SGM to be more complex. I love this band and hope that someday more people will come to appreciate their music and they will someday regroup. But, as for now, I consider myself one of the few that understands this music, and with so many Mr. Bungle and Mike Patton fans out there, I wonder why many of them never heard of this band. There have been a few people I know of that love Mr. Bungle that I have recommended this album and this band to, and they have ended up loving it also. So there you go...if you love that quirky music, then this is for you. I can't help but give this album 5 stars because of it's originality and it's ability to push the boundaries of heavy metal into avant-garde territory.

Report this review (#1398575)
Posted Tuesday, April 14, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sleepytime Metal: 8/10

Cold and metallically pounding as industrial metal, featuring hypnotic rhythms, dissonance and viciousness typical of no wave, violently unpredictable and creative as true progressive music, with (numerous) momentaneous glimpses of Modernist Classical music, the GRAND OPENING AND CLOSING of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM is a hell of a shower and a truly uncategorizable (other than as of "sleepytime metal") Avant-Prog album. From 1997's "alternative metal" (on SLEEPYTIME's peculiar style, filled with industrialness) to Powerless' no wave feel and twistedly funky bass line and despite a few dragging moments (such as of Sleepytime's intro or Ablutions) there's just way too many tasty avant-metal acts (except boring Sunflower) to NOT think of this as a sturdy-as-steel release.

I listened to SLEEPYTIME after being well acquainted with the band's successor, FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT, which is much tamer and within avant-metal and post-rock boundaries. Not disappointed at all to know how its progenitor is (which is, to say, pretty damn weird). Oh, and don't even get me started on their DIY instruments. Peak dadaism, if you ask me.

Report this review (#1886309)
Posted Sunday, February 18, 2018 | Review Permalink

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