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Free Salamander Exhibit biography
Originally called the Rock Springs Six, Free Salamander Exhibit makes no bones about being influenced by the early work of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. "Yeah, we all have that first record" they mutter nonchalantly. Their new name is taken from the Sleepytime Gorilla Press 1916 leaflet distributed by Pentecostal snake-handler George Went Hensley of Tennessee, wherein the gospel dictum "They shall take up serpents and salamanders" was treated to more or less literal interpretation. "Yeah, we all handle them, salamanders that is" they confess. Yes, they have renounced their snake handling ways in favor of the modern hair-shirt, i.e. the burlap gown. Certainly their outfits are uncomfortable and make playing difficult, especially for the non-rock instruments they sometimes employ, but what price beauty? It seems the past is something this band of burlap brothers would rather put to rest. Free Salamander Exhibit gained some notoriety in the early 2000s by impersonating the members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, even going so far as insinuating themselves into the SGM members households. When it was announced in 2010 that SGM had been 'subsumed' into the very bodies of Free Salamander Exhibit, the music press understood this to figuratively refer to a simple regrouping. Boy, were they wrong. Currently based in Oakland, CA, Free Salamander Exhibit continues to shed its dead skin cells, casting off an accumulated detritus of metal, prog-rock, and art-rock influences. Nils, Dan, Michael, David, and Drew (at least these are the names they claim) meet regularly in an underground concrete shelter. Here they sit at an oval-shaped table in a spirit of constructive argumentation, poring over the nature of memory and the illusory promise of free will. Eventually they emerge, ready again to absorb the environmental stimuli that nourish their world-view.

Free Salamander Exhibit is a 5-piece art/progressive/metal band comprising members of the now defunct art rockers Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Employing a variety of homemade instruments in addition to guitars, bass, and drums, Free Salamander Exhibit doles out barbed rhythms, pungent harmonies, and itchy textures that are somewhat softened by occasionally lyrical and even joyful interludes. With lyrics exploring the slippery passage of time, the fantastical visions of Joyce, and the prison musings of Leonard Peltier, Free Salamander Exhibit delivers a thought-provoking, cathartic experience for the eyes, ears and mind.<...
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4.06 | 52 ratings

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Undestroyed by FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.06 | 52 ratings

Free Salamander Exhibit RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars Twisted and eccentric - and highly unique: 9/10

(Brief note to myself and to readers: the reviewing approach, in this case, digresses from what is common for me to do because assuming this is an album with few reviews I must be as pragmatic and utilitarian as possible. I would also appreciate feedback! If you notice poorly constructed sentences, phrases without significance, weird things, or you have suggestions that might help me improve, feel free to PM. I'm always willing to ameliorate)

FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT is, before anything, deranged. It is the offspring of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM, a revered underground avant-garde band, and it sounds REALLY similar to its progenitor. Their stuff is... weird, even for avant-garde standards. So much so they're Avant-prog. Heck, I don't see much difference between these two names, but since anything with the prog suffix equals a more paradigmatic work, then it's fair to put it on them. No, you won't hear grumpy screams or dissonant drums and flutes, not THIS type of paradigmatic, but instead, the absolutely-unique type. For this reason, I felt it was fair to give them a truly high rating, because not only their music is enjoyable but also unlike other metal styles I have heard (and I'm not that unfamiliar to RIO).

UNDESTROYED can best be approximated as experimental death metal with glimpses of post-rock, although the Avant-prog name should suffice to warn that it can't be entirely labeled as such - doing so is not only an offense but also a severe mistake. It is nowhere as speedy or destructive as the image of death metal genre conjures; what it does is feature a dark, uneasy atmosphere, typical to both mentioned genres. The oscillation between soft and hardness confers a fluidity to the album, and are, respectively, unnervingly calm and creative (with many blends and influences, featuring different instruments [also, here's a challenge for ya: If you can spot the Theremin in any music, PM me. Seriously, I'm curious], with special regard to the effing killer flute) whereas the second is not brutal, but instead, evil, angered. What really glorifies FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT is that their heavy style cannot be sufficiently named "x" or "y". It is, at best, a dystopic, angered expression of madman's creativity. Creativity articulated through the low-effort wet snarling vocals, intended to sound beastly , and through the rather unpredictable arrangements and compositions, which almost paradoxically feature a lack of deeper technical complexity - the inconsistent structure exists not due to intricate mathematics, but instead, because that's how the band prefers it to be. Visualize this as freedom of composition and not as proposal of deconstruction.

Worth mentioning is that the album has a solidly abrasive metallic foundation but it doesn't mean all songs are like that. Here's the fun of Avant-prog: the tracks are stylistically individual, with very little similarities between them aside most fundamental unconscious level (the inclination of adjectives that each song provokes; in this case, crazy and darkness). FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT makes it implicitly clear that they are not proposing a common concept, so the tracks are highly unattached among themselves.

Lyrics are cynical, sometimes humorous, sometimes revolted, but unanimously acidic and sarcastic. The topics covered are approached in a unique fashion, with FLE's own twisted interpretation. They seem to be the type of band that uses music as a form of expression over a form of art; so they're less methodical with things such as beauty and shape. This is reflected in the lyrics that do seem unorganized and which wordplay is rather confusing (there are some German words here and there, for instance), and in the structures, that sometimes makes no damn sense. Not a complaint.

Unreliable Narrator, featuring a common structure (verse-chorus-verse-chorus) begins blasting in the powerful guitar and maddened vocals. Lyrics are focused on the unreliability of religion, as well as the premise of "one true faith" and of trusting the gods because let's be honest almost all gods of almost all religions did some really horrible things. The riffs are simple and even catchy, but the structure, as I mentioned, is iffy. In general, it can be characterized as AGGRESSIVE, SLOW, and PHILOSOPHICAL. (9/10)

We're then presented to The Keep. A construction that provides safety from whatever is there in the outside world, which, on FSE's world, is highly willing to destroy you. Not any lighter from any other track aside the lack of growled vocals, however, the clear singing substitutes its guttural counterpart as aggressively. Probably the best flute demonstration in the entire album. You can think of it as GLOOMY, ATMOSPHERIC and FIERCE. (7/10)

The Gift is a ferocious anti-modern rant against contemporaneous technology such as smartphones, going to so forth as calling the Silicon Valley visionaries "Utopian-cyber hippie" (we can all agree that's an unique way of describing Steve Jobs) who gave a revolutionary tool comparable to Prometheus giving humans fire, but also to opening the Pandora box and unleashing unfathomable evil: now the masses are robotized and live in virtual realities. The vocals are perversely angered, barely distinguishable growls (as usual), and there's an overdose of humor and cynicism, going so forth as breaking the fourth wall in two different fashions. It begins with a high-pitched guitar bridge, proceeded by an absolutely orgasmic guitar introduction to the main riff. The gentler midsection showcases the grandiose flute accompanying the sung vocals, which does sound so mystical and perverse. It is also the prime moment to observe FSE's dadaist composition style, because, frankly, this song is hardly coherent. In my opinion, it is solidly the high point of the album, being VIOLENT, HUMOROUS, and incomparably UNPREDICTABLE. (9/10)

Time Master is the most jocular track of them all. Under many approaches it is divergent to the whole: sane, old-school influenced sonority (as opposed to the post-rock homogeneity), atmospherically light - especially the vocals - and uses comical brass instruments and vocal passages. FREE SALAMANDER jokes with the concept of time: treated as a commodity, but simultaneously, it is vital to us as it is non-renewable, and how do we use our time to enjoy or to waste it, selling it to the Time Masters so we can feed our family - at the expense of not living at all. HUMOROUS, COMPLEX and ANOMALOUSLY LIGHT. (8/10)

Undestroyed begins caroler (world's cutest instrument, glockenspiel, accompanied by flutes), antithetical to the preceding hoarse, tense vocals and deeply dysphoric lyrics that corrupts the song to a drums-led transition, the pathway to, finally, the second half. Angered, sometimes clear sometimes growled singing is initially led by industrial, periodical metal riffs, but as the singer announces he is undestroyed, the mood quickly destabilizes into nonsensical guitar distortions scrapes, randomized sayings, and a return of the Jolly glockenspiel, which progressively sweeps the maddened anarchy beneath its soothing, delicate sound. GENTLE (glockenspiel intro), TWISTED and BLASTING. (7/10)

Glockenspiel meets us for a second ride, Atheists' Potluck. We have learned a lesson, though: we can't trust FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT with a glockenspiel. So it will anticipate something evil, right? Not... really. At most, it predicts a beautiful although terrified song, with dark non-distorted riffs, followed by even darker but distorted riffs. There's tension in the air and your gut feelings make you go uneasy... the clear, indisputable influence of post- rock becomes pristine, which is why I thought it would be fair to claim on the beginning their leaning towards this genre. It sounds kinda like Nirvana-dark or Alice-In-Chains-heavy, maybe? I don't know, I'm not good with post-rock. Nonetheless, a GLOOMY and rather DEPRESSING (I think those are synonyms, but still, you know what they say: redundancy means emphasis) track. (8/10)

Military trumpeting and the sound of horses' cavalcade preludes Oxen of the Sun a counter-intuitive 6/4 intro arrangement. Seems simple, but... it doesn't SOUND really that simple. Reminds me of Proclamation by GENTLE GIANT (bold to compare FSE to those gods, eh?). Growling dives into downright death metal guttural. The music develops into a crushing section with high complexity and unforeseen weight, mildly death metal; on the verses, especially. An eerie commodity is brought in the midsection: a shredding guitar solo, technical to the brim, which sounds SO spectacular especially for its scarcity. It announces an unexpected twist to pure technical death violence (including the typical blast beat), especially on the vicinities of the solo. Following a few overwhelming riffs and squeals (and return to normality), the song and album are over. (9/10)

UNDESTROYED... the cover is introspective, with the seemingly twisted canids (or are those rabbits?) and the eccentric coated chick. Twisted and eccentric. Is there any better way to describe to FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT?

 Undestroyed by FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.06 | 52 ratings

Free Salamander Exhibit RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Eclectic Team

5 stars It seems like an eternity since Sleepytime Gorilla Museum folded and there has been an aching hole in the music scene begging for an angry experimental avant-metal band. Finally emerging from the ashes comes Free Salamander Exhibit, featuring 4 members of SGM and really only missing Carla's violin & vocals, there is now worthy successor to the SGM legacy. To be clear, this is not SGM, but this is a fully formed band releasing a monster of an album that would happily stack up with the best experimental avant metal bands out there. It's great to see Nils & the guys back playing this kind of music. I was a bit worried that it wouldn't meet expectations but this is a stone cold classic.
Thanks to nogbad_the_bad for the artist addition.

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