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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum picture
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum biography
Founded in Oakland, California, USA in 1999 - Disbanded in 2011

This very unique band using some home-made instruments known from avantgarde music is existing since 1999 and became quite famous on the westcoast for their impressive dadaistic live shows.

The members are Nils Frykdahl (guitars,voice), Dan Rathbun (bass), Moe! Staiano (percussion), Carla Kihlstedt (violin, voice) and David Shamrock (drums, piano) who has been replaced on their second album by Frank Grau.

Although being almost unclassifiable their style could be roughly described as a Metal/RIO hybrid. The music can be very heavy at times but as well very atmospheric with plenty of different layers of all sorts of instruments also classical ones like violin and piano. Sometimes it reminds to SEPULTURA, sometimes to ISILDURS BANE or late KING CRIMSON. All musicians are very artistic on their instruments, the male voice is quite growling but still pleasant and Carlas voice is very reminiscent of BJVRK.

The band's final album as 2007's In Glorious Times and broke up in 2011 after three final concerts in San Francisco with Carla & Matthias moving to the east coast & forming Rabbit Rabbit.

Four fifths of the band re-emerged in 2016 under the name of FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT, a worthy successor to SGM.

People who like both Metal and RIO/Avant-garde music will love it immediately. If you mind some Metal or high-pitched female vocs check it out first. Any adventurious listeners should give it a spin at least.

: : : Dieter Fischer, GERMANY : : :

See also: HERE

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SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.68 | 108 ratings
Grand Opening and Closing
2001
4.14 | 231 ratings
Of Natural History
2004
3.92 | 120 ratings
In Glorious Times
2007

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.82 | 11 ratings
Live
2003

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.15 | 7 ratings
The Face
2005

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Grand Opening and Closing by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 108 ratings

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Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

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.

 Grand Opening and Closing by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 108 ratings

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Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Of Natural History by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.14 | 231 ratings

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Of Natural History
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars The primal nature aesthetic established on Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's debut was a big aspect of what made the album such an incredible listening experience, the dark, often demented and disgusting imagery being further accentuated by the often slow, plodding nature of the music, the intensity coming from the seemingly unstoppable force created by the immense riffs and rhythmic, sledgehammer-like beats being repeatedly being driven into your skull. This slow wall of unstoppable power is juxtaposed by the approach taken on Of Natural History, bringing forth a downright massive, thunderous, apocalyptic atmosphere, much faster and more traditionally aggressive in nature, honing in on the more dramatic side of the band's sound to create an album like no other. The much faster, tighter sound of the compositions present make for a far more manic listen than its predecessor, along with one that is even more engaging, carrying not only an oppressive atmosphere, but immense power, being able to create some more melodic moments throughout to further complete the album, preoviding a varied, yet still extremely cohesive listening experience. The instrumental interplay is just as precise and interweaving as on Grand Opening And Closing, except the increased speed makes this an even more impressive feat, and is able to convey an even more chaotic tone to further add to all of this.

The first track, A Hymn To The Morning Star was an unexpected song to hear when starting off on this album, the eerie animalistic growls and offputting, low pitched instrumental humming becoming absolutely beautiful and melodic, almost ethereal, the backing vocalisations complementing the deep, clear voice of Nils Frykdahl perfectly, almost lullaby-like in nature. The harmony of falsetto vocals added in as the song pregresses slowly introduces the more dense, creepy nature of the album, almost sounding like something you'd hear from Mike Patton. All of a sudden, the cheerful facade put forth is ripped away as what beauty was displayed is replaced with a dark, ritualistic chant that segues into the beginning of absolute insanity with The Donkey Headed Adversary... . Frenetic twangs of the guitar slowly become increasingly fast paced and chaotic as the percussion creates a veritable storm of energy, further accentuated by the absolutely insane vocal performance that goes on. Everything is ridiculously fast paced, the percussion especially being downright unhinged in how it's being played, especially due to the downright bizarre sounds that it produces. The song manages to convey the sound of the apocalypse incredibly, less in an atmospheric way, and more in the sense of it being downright disorienting in its breakneck pace, jumping from one pattern of insane screaming and rambling to another, even the quieter secions revealing unconventional time signatures and instrumentation to maintain such a strange atmosphere. Even when the song ends, the chaos doesn't cease, ending with just as much energy as when it started. Phthisis focuses far more on dissonance, scratchy, squeaking violin and the vocals of Carla Kihlstedt, reminiscent of a more off kilter Bjork creating the vast majority of this feeling. The song progresses exquisitely, beginning with a repetitive riff and a dissonant approach. From this, it develops into a much more full sounding song, the 2 main vocalists complementing each other perfectly as everything gradually becomes louder, less melodic and more agonised.

Bring Back The Apocalypse, while working primarily as some kind of transitional track, also manages to be one of the better songs the album has to offer, displaying a more conventional kind of progression in starting softly and gradually adding more elements in to increase intensity, except a lot of this is much groovier, rather than focusing on the purely uncomfortable nature of previous tracks, much more focus on the bass along with having some more fun elements, such as a glockenspiel. Once the vocals come in, the listener is introduced to a downright strange beat that doesn't last too long before the song ends, but nonetheless is an absolutely amazing touch. This more out there, slightly fun sound continues into the first epic of the album, FC: The Freedom Club, which is fairly easily the highlight of the album, taking the apocalyptic, dystopian feel of the album to its peak, the extremely grandiose, yet twisted sound of the violin and the dramatic vocal performance making the setting and imagery created feel so massive, the lyrics describing such massive, all encompassing aspects of the world, such as its nature further adding to the harrowing tone of it. The incredible riff played during the chorus in itself would be enough to have this be an absolute monster of a song to me, taking the metal aspects of the band and honing in on them to further reinforce the unsettling nature of all that goes on within, having this fairly standard sounding riff still have the unusual guitar tone that the album contains be used here, providing something unnatural sounding in even the most conventional sections of the album. I think that the best aspect of this song however is the very slow way in which it completely dies down until it becomes little more than the sounds of nature, the most bombastic part of the album ending on such a soft, soothin note, right before Gunday's Child comes on. While Carla's vocals are undoubtedly at their absolute best here, being able to create downright pained sounds so perfectly, instilling fear and discomfort, nothing is topping the sinister bridge of the track, sharing the same melody as violin during the intro, sounding like a twisted, demented rendition of a childrens' nursery rhyme.

The album loses a bit of steam by this point, which is honestly expected after such a string of masterpieces, 2 of the remaining tracks being mere interludes that contain far less power than everything before, although The 17 Year Cicada still has a certain charm to it, along with reminding me of Grand Opening And Closing's Abugaton. Despite being less musically interesting, The Creature creates such vivid, horrible imagery that I can't help but also find it excellent, the clearer, more standard sounding vocals clearly focusing on telling a story, rather than entirely focusing on the musical aspects like the rest of the album. It's a far more instrumentally subtle, many more droning notes used and an all around greater focus on making the lyrics be sung as clearly as possible, essentially sounding like The Stain, but with more direction and focus. Babydoctor is an interesting song for its post rock tendencies, being almost what could be considered pretty sounding, and having an almost minimalistic approach to it, being extremely melancholic, feeling as if the event that caused the widespread destruction of much of humanity has come and passed, and this song represents the last remnants of our kind. While I know that this isn't what this song is about, it definitely fits from a tonal perspective, and brings a close to this absolutely monstrous album, unless you count Cockroach, which is fun and goofy, defintiely a different way to end the album if you're looking for something to lighten the mood.

This album is more varied and intense than an already varied and intense predeccesor. The performances are all around even better, more aspects of quiet in between the noise, which is one aspect that the debut could lack at points. When dissecting what makes this album work as well as it does, it once again is all about presentation and aesthetic, especially given the more conventional avant garde metal sound often employed here, making the primal aesthetic and imagery all the more important to properly differentiate themselves from other bands in the genre, which works in the band's favour exceptionally well. Of Natural History provides a dark, twisted, apocalyptic listening experience that balances listenability with experimentation perfectly, being challenging upon first listen, but rewarding upon close inspection, and is a must listen for those who are looking for something really out there in the vein of metal.

Best tracks: A Hymn To The Morning Star, The Donkey Headed Adversary Of Humanity, FC: The Freedom Club

Weakest tracks: What Shall We Do Without Us?

Verdict: While it loses some steam in the second half, Of Natural History is a varied, cohesive dive into the depths of insanity, horrific imagery conveyed through every aspect of the music to provide a unique listening experience. A must have for fans of avant garde metal in any degree, as you're missing out if you haven't heard this one.

 Grand Opening and Closing by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 108 ratings

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Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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.

 Grand Opening and Closing by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 108 ratings

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Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

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.

 In Glorious Times by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.92 | 120 ratings

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In Glorious Times
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The final studio album from the Oakland, California art-metal eccentrics was another winner, albeit not for every taste. There's very little middle ground here: the music can be loud and abrasive, or (less often) subtle and melodic, but is always pitched to the ragged edge of sanity.

Don't be lulled into false security by the slow opening verses of "The Companions", kicking off the album like an ominous invocation more than a genuine song. It may sound more subdued than usual for this band, but it's the uneasy calm of a boa constrictor that just swallowed a live pig and is looking for its next meal.

The album is certainly extreme, and yet at the same time incredibly eclectic, with a strange theatrical flair making it resemble the original cast soundtrack to an off-Broadway musical about zombie death cults, as scored by Gentle Giant. Old-school progheads are hereby put on alert: don't expect any concessions from a group using arcane instruments identified as Sledgehammer Dulcimer, Electric Pancreas, and the always inscrutable Thing.

The song titles tell their own explicit story: "Helpless Corpse Enactment", "Putrid Refrain", "Ossuary" et al. But there's an unexpected air of refinement behind all the thrash-dada intensity, with lyrics borrowed from the writings of James Joyce and poet Wallace Stevens. The awesome guttural aggression of singer Nils Frykdahl was likewise diluted by the occasional lead vocal by Carla Kihlstedt, although Frykdahl proves (in "The Companions" again) that he can do much more with his voice besides growl like a starving cannibal.

It's too bad the group couldn't stay together long enough for an encore. But maybe three full albums of hardcore progging was enough; any more would have risked complacency, something musicians and fans should always be on guard against. SGM set a good example by quitting while ahead: how many other bands listed on this site do you wish had done the same?

 In Glorious Times by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.92 | 120 ratings

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In Glorious Times
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is the offspring of "Idiot Flesh", a band that was delightfully crazy and totally out there. SGM rose from the ashes of Idiot Flesh and pretty much continued where that band left off, progressing and getting better and better. Yes, there is still that insanity that runs rampart through the songs, but the music has become increasingly smart and amazing. The sad thing is, that SGM only produced 3 studio albums, again each one excellent, but each one progressing the sound further. The band, for some reason just wasn't embraced as they should have been.

So, by the time you get to this album, if things were always progressing, then you would assume this must be their best right? Yes, I do believe it is. Everything SGM has produced has been challenging, yet brilliant, yet somehow they just kept outdoing themselves. However, the appreciation for the genius of this album seems to not be apparent among most listeners at first, and such was the case with me. Now, however, I sit down and listen to this work of advanced craziness and I have come to the conclusion that their swan song was their best. It's a shame that the band couldn't have been appreciated by those that should understand their music, the lovers of prog rock, specifically RIO and/or Avant-garde metal progressive. Now, calling this band metal progressive is going to throw prejudice on their music because too many proggers will be turned off thinking this is metal. But let me assure you, this is not metal that your burned out brothers listened to. This, like I said before, is genius, and the sound, even though it leans to the loud and noisy side of things, it is still so varied and dynamic unlike anything else in metal. In a previous review, I said that SGM is probably more like some of Mike Patton's crazier side projects, and that is really the closest you can come to comparing the overall sound. But, believe it or not, all craziness and chaos aside, this music is so much more mature in it's uses of musical theory, dissonance, dynamics and overall composition. Each song is so much better developed too.

The album starts out with a prog epic called "The Companions" which is excellent musical drama that lasts over 10 minutes. This is a well developed endeavor and starts things off quite impressively. The band utilizes an evil thread throughout their music, in the same way that many other avant garde prog bands do, but SGM uses extremes so much better than a lot of other bands. Next is the black metal satirical song "Headless Corpse Enactment" which utilizes lyrics from James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake", however, the words still sound like they could have been written by a black metal band, and the growling vocals back that up. The difference here is that the instrumentals are very complex, yet they are still heavy and pounding. "Puppet Show" however, takes us off in a different direction and actually approaches the Idiot Flesh sound more than anything else on the album, but, again, much more mature.

"Formicary" is a wild ride of vocals from Dan and Carla with the oddest of harmonies. The accompanying instrumentals make this track sound like someone took early Kansas and Tool, but them in a bowl, took a potato masher and mashed it all together. Carla's violin is as heavy and crazy as the guitars and percussion, and fits so well in the music. Without her violin, this band wouldn't be the same. At times, it is the heart, even though it is not always as pronounced as one would expect, it adds dimension to what would otherwise be a lot of crashing guitars, complex rhythms and wild ass percussion, not that that is a bad thing, but the strings are what give the music and individual tracks the character that is needed. And don't worry, the violin is just as crazy as everything else. You will also notice that the almost funky sound of the guitars in this track is very reminiscent of King Crimson's "Thrak" and would represent the sound that would have been produced if Robert Fripp had decided to take that sound another step further, which Fripp did, but while his step was in the "improv" direction, SGM take it in the "even more chaotic" direction.

The album continues to excite and entertain, as in the amazing track "Angle of Repose" which starts off with Carla sounding like Bjork in a band without so many keyboards and then just goes off in it's own direction. Anyway, I think this will give you a good example of what to expect here. The tracks continue to be challenging, to say the least, and the sound on this album at first seems more inaccessible than they others (not that they are always that accessible anyway) and it does have a thicker sound, but it is all done so well.

Again, it's such a shame that the band had to pull the plug after 3 albums. There was so much talent and songwriting genius here, that too often the music went way over the listeners heads. Possibly too loud for a lot of prog lovers, but way, way too complex for most metal heads, you just have to give this music time, but if you are someone who appreciates complex music, then you will get it. At first listen, I would have given this only 4 stars, but now that I have heard it several times, and each time I grasp something else amazing about the music, and I find myself loving more each time I hear it, I have advanced this to masterpiece status. Some may think that is extreme, but for avant-metal-prog, this is some of the best. Easily 5 stars and this is how it should have been done.

 Grand Opening and Closing by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 108 ratings

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Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

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.

 Of Natural History by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.14 | 231 ratings

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Of Natural History
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Memo_anathemo

4 stars To hear RIO music you need to have the time, the mood, an open mind and be ready to listen to the craziest things you may find. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum creates Of Natural History and like an extravagant dish, which some people may adore and others simply reject, the album is very complicate to digest. However, not being a fan of RIO, I must admit that the music is really crazy and complex, the vocals are, as to the guys who sing, really hard and aggressive and weird, as to the girl, mellow but strange. All the musicians seem to have a really high knowledge of what they play, they are accurate as well, and the disonances predominate, typical of RIO. If you are willing to hear something like this, OK, go ahead and take the leap, if not, don't even try!
 Grand Opening and Closing by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 108 ratings

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Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

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. ]

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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