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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum


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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Grand Opening and Closing album cover
3.73 | 130 ratings | 24 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sleep Is Wrong (6:35)
2. Ambugaton (5:38)
3. Ablutions (6:05)
4. 1997 (4:48)
5. The Miniature (0:59)
6. Powerless (9:30)
7. The Stain (6:46)
8. Sleepytime (10:16)
9. Sunflower (7:52)

Total Time 58:29

Bonus tracks on 2006 & 2016 releases:
10. More Time (2:48)
11. Flinch (4:46)
12. Powerless (live at Great American Music Hall, SF, 1/06/06) (9:42)

Line-up / Musicians

- Nils Frykdahl / 6- & 12-string guitars, Tibetan bells, autoharp, vocals
- Carla Kihlstedt / electric violin, percussion guitar, autoharp, harmonium, vocals
- Dan Rathbun / bass, electronics, Fx, autoharp, slide-piano log (9), vocals, co-producer, mixing
- David Shamrock / drums, piano
- Mario "Moe!" Staiano Jr. / percussion, marimba, timpani, guitar

- Frank Grau / drums (7)
- Michael Mellender / guitar (10-12)
- Matthias Bossi / drums, percussion & vocals (10-12)

Releases information

CD Seeland ‎- Seeland 523, (2001, US)
CD The End Records ‎- TE075 (2006, US) With 3 bonus tracks, previously unreleased

2LP Blood Music ‎- BLOOD-155 (2016, Finland) Remastered with 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Grand Opening and Closing ratings distribution

(130 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Grand Opening and Closing reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by 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!!!

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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

Review by J-Man
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.

Review by Sinusoid
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.

Review by TheGazzardian
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.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Neu!mann
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. ]

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Review by Kempokid
4 stars This band is the prime example of how much presentation can add to the overall appeal of an artist, as while I'm sure I'd still get a kick out of this album if the primal nature and aesthetic of everything here wasn't so intense, it's definitely what separates this band from many other dissonant, dramatic avant garde metal bands out there. The strange sounds that all the instruments give off, such as the often unusually high pitched guitar, further adds to the manic nature of this album. The band clearly takes inspiration from bands such as Mr Bungle for their core approach of throwing everything at the wall to create songs that seemingly jump around from idea to idea sporadically, yet unlike a lot of other bands that try this approach, SGM manages to pull it off really well, maintaining the disgusting, downright demented tone of the music in order to complement such a compositional approach. One other aspect that I find works exceptionally well here is the extremely dissonant nature of basically every song, especially in the vocals, the extremely low vocals of Nils Frykdahl both complementing and causing major contrast between the shrill performance of Carla Kihlstedt, further perpetuating the sense of unease that this entire album has.

While the band as a whole is extremely dynamic and eclectic, the opening track, Sleep Is Wrong, is what I consider to be the most indicative of their sound, the riffs that sound like they're collapsing in on themselves, the vocal acrobatics and layering, switching between groaning, to full on screaming, and then to what could vaguely be considered singing, heavily rhythm focused and filled with major shifts throughout. The main section of the song consists of a singular note repeatedly hit, acting like a sledgehammer repeatedly bashing you over the head as a plethora of unnatural, off putting sounds are thrown into the mix, before picking back up the pace and introducing the female vocals to further heighten the intensity, all before devolving into utter chaos, making for an absolutely incredible song. Ambugaton takes on a groovier approach, being almost entirely instrumental and considerably less noisy. Rather than jumping around from one idea to another with reckless abandon, there's a much more natural progression here. Despite the groovier approach the song takes on as it continues on, during the more subdued sections of this, I can hear a lot of Mahavishnu Orchestra in this, albeit a far more off kilter version of them, especially with that violin. Once the song introduces the more metal oriented aspects of it, it becomes even more enjoyable especially since it still features the dissonant, scratchy violin that demonstrates incredible interplay with the guitar and percussion. What I find further separates Sleepytime Gorilla Museum from a lot of other bands is their ability to make their quieter moments just as great as whenever they're going all out, especially with Carla's vocal performance, all of which is displayed well in Ablutions. I feel like this song does go on for a bit too long, but that doesn't change the fact that I enjoy it a lot, especially since even during its louder moments, it's far more dramatic than it is overbearingly chaotic.

1997 is a bit of a step back, simply because while it features such an amazing riff, it does end up feeling repetitive and extremely messily executed, with some moments of absolute genius, specifically when the rhythm isn't all over the place, providing moments where headbanging ends up being an almost certainty, but there's a lot of needless fluff here I feel. Powerless is the first of 2 epics on the album, and by far the more chaotic one, along with being one of the few cases where there are clear sections of repetition amongst the chaos, of which there is an immense amount. The most prominent memory of the song that I'll have throughout this entire album after listening comes from the various bizarre sounding instruments throughout, especially during the closest thing this song has to a chorus. I love the slow, creeping nature of the song, composed of large gaps in between the short riffs that are filled with various small details such as moments in which is almost seems as if the drumming falters right before picking up again, or oddly timed sections of guitar, everything coming together perfectly, extremely rhythmic in approach, once again. The Stain is another song that simply misses the mark in a lot of ways, as while I really appreciate the off kilter, janky sounding instrumentals, the song doesn't really do anything interesting, and is easily the most repetitive, undercooked moment on the album, barring the closing track Sunflower, which is quite pleasant, but also completely unnecessary and tedious. Sleepytime may just be the best song on this album, for the first few minutes alone. It sounds like some sort of demented lullaby from the start, but devolves further and further into madness until guitar sections reminiscent of the riffs from Sleep Is Wrong completely destroy any slight tranquility provided by these first few minutes, everything falling into chaos as harrowing screams are let out from both vocalists, all while continuing to flow perfectly. This explosive delivery seals the deal for this already amazing song, and brings the album to a fitting close, Sunflower more acting as 8 minutes of calming sounds to settle after the utter insanity that came before.

This album definitely has its weak spots, that much is undeniable, both 1997 and The Stain being subpar. With this said, this album for the most part is absolutely amazing, being able to blend seemingly endless amounts of chaos and dissonance with enough cohesion to make the songs easily discernable and extremely memorable after only a couple of listens. The instrumental interplay works absolutely perfectly to further create utter chaos, yet is executed in such a way that it rarely feels messy. The whole presentation and aesthetic of this album is really what sets it apart from other artists, and this is definitely an excellent album, despite some clear sections of weakness.

Best songs: Sleep Is Wrong, Powerless, Sleepytime

Weakest songs: 1997, The Stain, Sunflower

Verdict: This band in general is one of my absolute favourites despite the fact that I only love 2 of their albums, and it's all down to their wonderfully unique sound. This is the album I'd say you should start off with from them, as while it's not quite as good as their sophomore release, it's far more cohesive and easy to get into. Absolutely incredible avant garde metal album brought slightly down by a couple of noticeably weaker moments.

Review by Wicket
2 stars Atonality is a fickle mistress.

Once it used to be the darling of 20th century composers everywhere. To classical music, it was the culmination of 400 years of repression by the Christian Church during the Council of Trent essentially outlawing sequences and modes the church deemed barbaric or satanic. So in order to satisfy the masses, happy tonal music was forced, and for good reason: people like pleasant sounding music.

Of course, atonal passages add spice and life to music, but purely atonal music is too much. It was fine when Schoenburg and Webern did it in the 20's and then Babbit and Stockhausen in the 50's but by then classical music was confirmed dead (Russia never even had this problem thanks to Communism) so by the late 20th century composers were reverting and composing music with more tonal structures that still echoed sentiments of a modern era, especially in the 21st century.

So even progressive music today, while far from the boundaries of radio play, still atones to some standard musical properties, there are some bands that push it past to the point of absolute absurdity. Case in point, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and their debut album "Grand Opening and Closing".

Now I get it, I was a contemporary percussionist in college, I'm well familiar with John Cage and Steve Reich and how their works, although not really accessible to the larger crowds, are commendable in their own right, and I indeed commend SGM for creating music completely and utterly unique to themselves, but each song lacks something that keeps my interest. Sure I'm used to atonal music and progressions but I can only take so much.

Put it this way, atonality is like hot sauce. Add a little bit here and there, and it adds some excitement, dials up the flavor another notch. Too much and you're just adding it for the sake of adding it. Too much hot sauce and you get less flavor and more heat. Scientific studies show that people who love hot sauce and continually seek out the hottest and spiciest things are essentially participating in self torture.

Kind of like me when I decided to sit down and listen to this album all the way through.

From the droning repetition of "Sleep Is Wrong" to the slightly interesting but ultimately plotless instrumental buildup of "Ambugation", there's nothing that really captivates me. Yes, the musical abilities of this band are outstanding, but the way that the band deliberately plays like they're drunk or insane during half the songs just gives off the wrong impression. Perhaps that's the sound they're going for, but I still don't get it. Sure, "Ablutions" is a great song when to play when you're recreating a horror movie scene walking down a dark corridor of a haunted house right before the villain guts you with a machete, but it's just way too dark and creepy to withstand more than once, even live.

"1997" is basically industrial metal on bath salts, with its drunken rockabilly freakouts, but it's still brash and vulgar and disgusting in every way possible. "The Minature" is a pointless slightly tonal minute long ditty, "Powerless" is another drunken stupor, this time nine minutes long and "The Stain" is essentially an instrumental percussion ensemble taking a page or seventy from the King Crimson "VROOM" days.

"Sleepytime" is the lone highlight off this album. Here we actually get some structure over a prolonged buildup and while it eventually showcases the band's traditional atonality, there are some moments of respite that bookend the track in (semi) peaceful tonal passages. But then we go into "Sunflower" which again is a contemporary ensemble showcasing finger cymbals and what sounds like a clavichord. "More Time" is drunk again, and "Flinch" is just screaming bookended by ambient sounds.

To be honest, this is a band that, while phenomenal musicians, can only really be appreciated live. The instrumentation they use is astonishing, and some of the more ambient pieces I feel would be more appreciated when performed live. That's the only downside to music like this, it can only be at its most effective in a live setting, where the listener can see the band, see them perform. Listening to this album through headphones does absolutely nothing for me.

This band therefore can really be considered performance art, which it is. Yes, these guys have a rabid cult following, and I get it, but the fact is while the band's best tracks are still tough to digest at times, their worst songs are borderline unlistenable. It's a sound that, while very and truly unique, is so pigeonholed for a very specific audience that it's only really worth a shot if you're willing to dig into the deepest recesses of avant garde rock and introduce yourself to more contemporary classical pieces of music.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Producing some of the funnest, funniest, darkest, scariest, quirkiest, most unusual, and complex music in modern progressive rock, one can only scratch one's head at the genius, lunacy, and chaos that must be on exhibition during this band's brainstorming and practice sessions.

1. "Sleep is Wrong" (6:35) a song whose music reflects the adolescent petulance of its title perfectly. I wonder how it worked out . . . when (and if) they grew up. (9/10)

2. "Ambugaton" (5:38) the amount of tension one can exude with simple, spacious chromaticism. The intro of this instrumental reminds me of PRESENT or UNIVERS ZERO while full-on ramped up belly of the song reminds me of LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT or BRUFORD-LEVIN UPPER EXTREMITIES. (8.75/10)

3. "Ablutions" (6:05) this more delicate ("fragile" might be the better word) is otherworldly eerie like a YUGEN or --at least until the three minute mark when the Stygian chorus "chimes" in. Weird but genius for creating a mood--and amazingly performed--especially by vocalist Carla Kihlstedt. (9/10)

4. "1997" (4:48) almost "straightforward" death metal! Not their strong suit; this kind of music places the band back in the categorical range of "normal" for emotive metal bands. Luckily, there is the passage in the fourth minute in which they shift to an odd time signature. (8.5/10)

5. "The Miniature" (0:59) chamber music! Gorgeous! I'd like to hear more of this side of the band's talents on display! (5/5)

6. "Powerless" (9:30) with an opening that sounds like a microphone was left on in a piano stringing factory, we are prepped for another doom-and-gloomer. But, man! are these guys talented musicians! (and creative song-crafters.) I think they've out angulated Fripp and the Crim as well as Danny Elfman and his Tim Burton soundtracks! And I love that they didn't have to use death metal growls to convey it (other than in the one-word choruses). Unfortunately, it does drag on a little bit too long in several places. (17.5/20)

7. "The Stain" (6:46) The descending chromatic scale used for this vocal--over a "musical" palette of very sparsely "decorated" industrial noise--does not work for me. The staccato Crimsonian interplay between the instruments also fails to engage me. This song is best described as an exercise in disharmony and disciplined turn-taking. (12.75/15)

8. "Sleepytime" (10:16) Another delicate attempt at Elfman-ish creep and sinister, the beginning section is simply too long, the middle "bridge" too drawn out. When the music does finally reach full scale at the end of the sixth minute, it is slightly dragged down by the continuation of the vocal chorus from before. The final 90 seconds is the best part of an otherwise disposable, sub-par song. (16.25/20)

9. "Sunflower" (7:52) eight minutes of playing around with the acoustics of a hammered dulcimer (and a couple of bells). An unfortunate way to end an album that started so dynamically. (10/15)

Total Time: 58:29

C+/3.5 stars. Were it not for the descending disaster of the final two songs, this would be a near-masterpiece of adventurous and exciting progressive rock musical expression. Thus, I urge you to check it out for yourselves as the first half of the album is certainly something extraordinary.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars One of the most ambitious and interesting progressive acts of recent decades, the Oakland, CA based SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM emerged as the next logical procession in the ever increasing complexities that started all the way back in the 1980s from a band called Acid Rain turned Idiot Flesh. Originally the fertile ground for the demented musical minds of Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathburn, Gene Jun and David Shamrock, the original Acid Rain evolved into the fully developed performance art troupe Idiot Flesh which found Shamrock stepping out but Frykdahl, Rathburn and Jun taking their crazy roller coaster ride of musical ideas to the next level.

As Idiot Flesh these experimentalists took on the idea of Dadaism and surrealism as the basis for their musical expressions and incorporated everything but the kitchen sink (and then that too!) to their bizarre musical concoctions. To say that IDIOT FLESH wasn't obsessed with unbridled creativity would be a gross understatement but the band went from a rather loosely based level of freakery on the 1992 debut "Tales of Instant Knowledge and Sure Death" to stunning precision and avant-prog technical proficiency by the time it reached its third and final album "Fancy" in 1997. The stage was set for whatever was to come next and what came next emerged two years later with the creation of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM.

Taking the essence of Idiot Flesh and elevating it to even further sophistication, Frykdahl, Rathbun and Shamrock reunited and invited some other stellar talents to the freak party. Violinist Carla Kihlstedt of Charming Hostess, another project of Frykdahl joined forces along with Vacuum Tree Head members percussionist Moel Staiano and multi-instrumentalist Michael Mellender aka The Lower Animals. The band developed a strange mythology around a fictitious museum created by Dadaists and Futurists that was named the Sleeptime Gorilla Press. Deemed the museum of the future it was to exhibit anti-artifacts, non-history and surrealist's visionary exhibits. The museum supposedly opened on June 22, 1916 but a certain exhibit which consisted of fire caused chaos and destruction on the day the museum opened thus the source of the title for the band's debut release GRAND OPENING AND GRAND CLOSING.

This mythology encompasses both the band's musical ethos and Dadaist approach. The band's first concert was also on June 22 only 83 years later and thus the band's debut release GRAND OPENING AND GRAND CLOSING was born and released in 2001 after two years of meticulous creativity being infused into its wild and adventurous set of 9 tracks that encompasses 58 1/2 minutes of playing time. Of course the album doesn't represent their theatrical live shows that evolved from the Idiot Flesh years. SGM continued the elaborate routines ranging from erudite fictitious readings from Dada artists and mathematicians to all sorts of bizarre unexpected surprises. Nevertheless, the band proved a musical competence almost unmatched in the world of unusually experimental music.

While SGM is a direct descendent of Idiot Flesh, there are a few distinctions that elevated SGM into the next arena. First of all the violin techniques of Carla Kihlstedt added an entirely missing dimension. Secondly the inclusion of extreme metal to the mix added an entire world of contrast that added yet another missing aspect. Thirdly the band's unique chemistry allowed everything to gel into an extremely cohesive manner where exquisitely demanding compositional fortitude merged perfectly into the world of virtuosic technicalities which all fit in perfectly with alternative tunings, demented musical scales and of course all those brilliant self-made instruments crafted by Rathbun that added even more diversity to the Idiot Flesh paradigm. Needless to say, SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM took the world of avant-garde metal by complete surprise in 2001 and through the course of three albums set the bar so high that few have even dared to attempt to recreate anything resembling this demanding and divinely inspired music magic.

"Rock Against Rock" was the band's motto and indeed GRAND OPENING AND GRAND CLOSING fits the bill with its unique infusion of avant-prog, experimental metal, industrial, avant-folk and freakazoid madness. Rock In Opposition of the highest magnitude, SGM cites such disparate forces as King Crimson, Swans, Stravinsky, Thinking Plague, Univers Zero, Henry Cow, Einstürzende Neubauten, Art Bears and even metal acts such as Mayhem not to mention funk rock acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers as inspiration for its strange amalgamation of weirdness. It's doesn't take long to hear how original the SGM really is with the opening "Sleep Is Wrong" which immediately unleashes a plethora of time signature workouts, vocal harmony tradeoffs, contrasts in folky passages and industrial metal heft. Passive violins cede to dissonant metal chord bombast and moments of self-made percussive interludes nurture group harmony workouts in the spirit of classic Gentle Giant only in a style that is SGM through and through.

As the album continues it only gets more ambitious with the following track "Ambugaton" indulging in a prog metal workout. One of the secrets of the SGM is that all the members were active in the songwriting process as well as being performing artists and multi-instrumentalists making the music some of the most diverse far-reaching soundscapes progressive music has to offer. "Ablutions" written by Carla Kihlstedt takes on a totally different demeanor than the previous tracks with an Art Bears type vocal style augmented by a moody dulcimer and a dark atmospheric backdrop. Despite all the unhinged complexities the band wasn't adverse to more straightforward rockers which comes in the form of "1997 (Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's...)" which is about as "normal" as the band gets but even this track couldn't resist breaking into oddball time signature workouts and avant-metal savagery.

The secret to the album's freshness is how each track offers a completely different glimpse into the strange musical universe of the SGM's own making. While the succinct instrumental "The Miniature" provides the perfect minute-long interlude in avant-folk spender, the Frykdahl penned "Powerless" provides a canvass for his all-encompassing talent for crafting exquisitely designed compositions. He has mastered the art of subtle build-ups, dramatic dynamic shifts and thundering crescendoes that all fit within an avant-framing of a classical composed oeuvre. He demonstrates clearly that he has indeed created a completely new musical paradigm that remains utterly unclassifiable except for the usual "experimental" or "avant" tagging.

The album's complexities just seem to ratchet up into unthinkable proportions culminating in the avant-angularity metal magnum opus "The Strain" but the album offers a bit of relief with the last two tracks which chill out a bit. The track ""Sleepytime (Spirit Is a Bone)" takes its sweet time in its 10-minute plus running time to get started but offers a nice little lullaby effect before unleashing the album's last hoorah of SGM wizardry. The only track that falters on the entire album is the closing "Sunflower" which is more of soul pacifying mechanism rather than a proper track. It is basically an 8-minute meditative chiming of a dulcimer that simply resonates in various ways without ever developing. Given that it's the final track it's easily skippable and personally i find it to be an acceptable palette cleanser after the density and darkness of the album's maniacal meandering through the extremes of time signature workouts, metal bombast and avant-garde Dadaism, it isn't a big deal.

What an amazing achievement GRAND OPENING AND GRAND CLOSING was in 2001 and remains so to this very day. This and the following album are two of my favorite albums of all time and needless to say SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM is a top 10 band. These creative geniuses somehow coalesced their talents with all egos in check for the greater good of making music so magical that i still can't believe it exists. This is the type of music that you can instantly love due to the accessible hooks but can delve deeper and further into all the complexities that allow you to interpret the album in completely new ways. It's the onion peel effect and each layer contributes to an overall aspect that creates a much larger than life musical experience. The original album featured 9 tracks but releases on The End label featured two bonus studio tracks and a live rendition of "Powerless" and they are all decent and worthy but not as essential. This is a bonafide masterpiece with the sole exception of the final track "Sunflower." But even that track works in the album's context so doesn't bother me one teeny bit.

4.5 rounded UP!

Review by Warthur
4 stars The debut album from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, opening with the immediately gripping Sleep Is Wrong, is the shocking answer to the question nobody thought to ask: "What if a band took its inspiration from the most horrifying moments of Mr. Bungle, then crammed in a bunch of influence from Rock In Opposition/avant-prog groups like Univers Zero or Thinking Plague at their most dark?" With Carla Kihlstedt's enigmatic violin work adding an extra dose of tension and widening the sonic palette, and the rest of the group splitting their duties between more conventional rock instrumentation and more esoteric instruments, this is certainly highly varied in sound, but a keen appreciation for their musical influences shines through and makes sure that whilst their approach is highly unusual, there's clearly a distinctive aesthetic vision involved and they're not just making random noise. Grand stuff indeed; their other two albums of the 2000s were great too, but they're clearly building on the foundations already laid by this album. Here is where their truly groundbreaking work took place.

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Report this review (#1886309) | Posted by Luqueasaur | Sunday, February 18, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

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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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#163975) | Posted by Pnoom! | Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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" ... (read more)

Report this review (#133096) | Posted by Equality 7-2521 | Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 defi ... (read more)

Report this review (#132088) | Posted by Drakk | Monday, August 6, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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) ... (read more)

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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 a ... (read more)

Report this review (#111631) | Posted by guitar_ode | Sunday, February 11, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 s ... (read more)

Report this review (#86665) | Posted by Doobie | Friday, August 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#74929) | Posted by vogre | Friday, April 14, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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