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


Sleepytime Gorilla Museum



3.68 | 117 ratings

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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.

Kempokid | 4/5 |


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