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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History CD (album) cover

OF NATURAL HISTORY

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.14 | 229 ratings

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Kempokid
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.

Kempokid | 5/5 |

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