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Free Salamander Exhibit - Undestroyed CD (album) cover

UNDESTROYED

Free Salamander Exhibit

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.08 | 63 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TCat
5 stars After almost 10 years with no more 'Sleepytime Gorilla Museum', and what is this? A new band with a similar name, 'Free Salamander Exhibit' . . . hmmm sounds interesting. That's how I stumbled across this band in Prog Archives, and imagine my delight to find out that 4 of the 5 SGM members are in this band. FSE is only missing Carla Kihlstedt, which is a shame, but I had to find this album. Well find it I did. And I am happy to have the eclectic, wild music of 'Idiot Flesh' and SGM once again.

So far, Free Salamander Exhibit has only released this one album, but hopefully there will be more to come. If you have heard the previous incarnations of this band, then you know what to expect. The music is correctly placed under the RIO/Avant Prog category, but it also has elements of Progressive Metal, but with the effective use of dynamics. It is closer to the music of SGM than Idiot Flesh, in that it is heavier, but if you don't like the heaviness of metal, you shouldn't shy away from this. There is nothing like this music out there, it is complex, heavy, funny, and brilliant. The other difference from Prog Metal is the fact that it is totally unpredictable, and has a very complex sound with changing meters, non-standard structures, and the use of various instruments not found in Prog Metal.

This starts out with 'Unreliable Narrator' which begins with a dirty, somewhat growly vocal, which you will get once in a while. It is heavy, so be warned. But also know, I am usually turned off from these kinds of vocals unless the music is interesting enough that the vocals don't diminish the quality of the instrumental parts. But you will notice that the vocals are more melodic in the 2nd track 'The Keep' and you will also notice the complexity and the absolutely unique song structure which makes this a heavy avant-prog production.

'The Gift' continues this complexity as this song stretches to 10 minutes, and in this one you will get both dirty and clean vocals, but you will also notice that the vocals are also dramatic and sometimes quite crazy. It's because the songs are more story-like than what you normally hear in heavier music. The complexity of the music and the lyrics is what makes this music so excellent. The different vocalists also create different characters in each track.

'Time Master' moves away from the heaviness a bit, but continues with the lunacy. The guitars are more jangly in this one, there is some cowbell, and some brass in there too. This is also a lighter track, but not in complexity, more in tone, with a comedic edge to it. It is more similar to the Idiot Flesh sound, but with the dark and dissonant harmonics of SGM. There is some similarity to the oddness of some of Frank Zappa's more eclectic music.

'Undestroyed' is the 10 + minute title track. It starts out in a pastoral mood with bells, bass and flute. You actually think there might be some sanity in this music, that is until vocals start, sung softly but in a high register, and sounding quite paranoid. The vocals become more normal and the pastoral sound continues, but becomes more intense. Both singing and spoken vocals continue, then a nice flute/reed melody plays over the nervous vocals. The 6/8 meter is the most conventional meter played on this entire album, and also the most consistent, since in all the other tracks the meter is always changing. Things get more intense as it continues and vocals get harsher. Then at 7 minutes, the inevitable happens, the consistency of the song falls apart as it gets more progressive and heavier. A minute later, it finally falls into a standard 4/4 meter, but by this time, everything has gone nutty, so it doesn't matter. Then we return to the pastoral beginning, but somehow, everything isn't okay anymore.

'Athiests' Potluck' is a great instrumental, that starts out sounding like it might be accessible, but as it continues, it becomes more progressive.

'Oxen of the Sun' is the closer of the album and it goes over 9 minutes. Distant sounds of horses and an army trumpet starts off, but is quickly interrupted by dissonant power chords. The track is carried by a slower tempo, but with an odd meter. Crazy, nervous vocals start along with some strange guitar effects. There is a great progressive riff that pops up every so often as the unconventional singing continues. A sudden change in tempo at around 3:30 turns the song quite frantic. Several different vocal styles are present, some growling, some more dramatic. Then a wild guitar solo starts at 5:30. Awesomeness follows with some extreme prog.

Ahhhh it's so great to have these guys back again. I do miss the influence that Carla had on the band, but the complexity, the avant-proginess, the drama, the insanity is all still there. I just love this music, it is so unique, so dynamic and so untraditional. You just have to hear it to believe it. I only expected maybe a four star debut for this new incarnation of SGM, but the music is just as great as before. Easily a 5 star album. I can't believe they are not as popular on this site as they should be.

TCat | 5/5 |

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