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

OF NATURAL HISTORY

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

RIO/Avant-Prog


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5 stars I'd like to begin this review by stating that in my opinion this recording is the best release of 2004 in any category - not just progressive rock. It reminds me of my coming of age years in the late 60s/early 70s when (some) new album releases seemed to go beyond entertainment to give essential information and perspective concerning our shared situation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the band, it's worth saying that although I can discern a variety of influences here, these musicians have created a collective sound which is entirely their own. In many respects the instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums, tuned percussion,violin) hearkens back to progressive rock of the past. I hear Lark's Tongues era Crimson, Art Bears, Zappa and others in this mix, but I suspect that this is a reflection of my listening habits more than anything else. There are also heavy metal elements - to me perhaps reminiscent of Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan along with "serious" composition technique. All of this combined with unusual homemade instruments gives the music a very dense texture. Nevertheless, the compositional logic is sufficiently compelling to render every detail clearly.

The subject matter of the album reflects an overarching concern for the state into which the human love affair with technology is leading us. One of the songs is an epic (and I don't use this word with tongue in cheek) concerning the Unabomber. There are also quotes from the Unabomber and the Italian Futurists in the booklet that comes with the CD along with very interesting and compelling artwork.

The hallmark of this recording is that it has an intensely visceral impact. It combines considerable compositional, instrumental, and storytelling techniques with a directness which makes it very accessible (at least for this listener).

I've heard tell that this band is even better live.....

Report this review (#34205)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This album is actually almost impossible to describe, one has to listen to it, and not only once or twice to discover its beauty and uniqueness. It's really an incredible experience and revelation listening to it. Probably one should take the lyrics not too seriously, these guys really love to mock about everything with their nice funny humour. One has just to read the "common questions" on the front cover. Or is there anybody reasonable who can take such questions seriously? Anyway they are great, the mixture of BJORK-ish vocals and SEPULTURA-alike metal together with avantgarde music is just awesome and unique. This record is in fact a 200 percent improvement to their debut, that I find absolutely unbearable, just a big mess of noise IMHO. But here with their second output they created already their masterpiece. At some moments it's a bit hard to support and slightly nerve-killing, like the longest track "Baby-Doctor", which is certainly not the best one of the album I'd like to say, but the rest is more or less quite enjoyable and for sure very unique and outstanding. I think we still can expect great things to come from this band. This album is for sure the most unique and innovative release of the year 2004 in any category of music. That's why it deserves the five stars rating!! Everybody looking for some music that is not common and ordinary should run for this one immediately!!!
Report this review (#34206)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars As it has been said, this album is almost impossible to describe. Not everything becomes evident to ones ears right away, and even now I'm still hearing new parts in songs. The excellence of the songs does not become clear right away either. At first, 'Babydoctor' may seem like it has a first half that is almost uninteresting or "skippable". But after a little while, it becomes a very much needed part of the song.

The use of instrumentation on this album is phenomenal as well. There are even some homemade little beauties to be heard. The bowed spatula just being an example of one. For anyone that has ever said that drums and percussion are only for rythm and are otherwise boring or pointless, this album will change that. For anyone that has ever said that the bass is an unnecessary instrument, used only as a backbone in music, this album will change that. The musical talent of this group is tremendous; a force to be reckoned with.

As far as the songs go, they build up and up until the they implode, causing a post-apocalyptical euphoria of sound to sweep over the grounds of the listener's mind. It's truely incredible.

This album is not to be understood at once, but with time, it reveals itself to be a truely astonashing masterpiece.

Report this review (#34207)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars There are many bands that are catagorised under the umbrella of "progressive" that are scarcely deserving of the moniker. The genre is awash with hordes of Dream Theater clones and Neo Prog bands that are simply rehashing the glory years. I was beggining to tire of progressive music, that is until I happened upon this amazing album.

It is very difficult to describe this music. There are some references to King Crimson and perhaps Tool but in reality this album is very much its own entity. The music is often tense, dissonant and aggressive but never lacks melody and has a bizaare sense of beauty. The addition of several "homemade" instruments also adds to the originality, some pieces resemble world music with a heavy emphasis on rhythmic complexity. Highlights for me are the insane "The Donkey Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion", the downright bizaare "Gundays Child" and "Babydoctor".

I cannot recommend this album highly enough. If you are searching for something new, fresh and inventive I implore you to purchase immediately.

Report this review (#34209)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars i saw them open for les claypool's fancy band a few months back in milwaukee and they blew my mind. the fan response was not good, unfortunatly. But to the few people in the crowd who got into it loved them. I was one of those people. I immediatly downloaded the tunes off their website the next day and eventually bought their cd. This album is dark, mysterious, entrancing, and very very well composed. I'd recomend it to anyone searching for a new brand of music or any metal fan out there. This album will open your mind - no doubt.
Report this review (#61285)
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Oh good god .. Im glad I was abble to hear this in time (iow: before my death), it was so hard to find something about this band, I think Im the only brazilian to ever hear SGM, since they never released any album down here. What a pity.

Well the sound is CREPPY, its DARK, and it has some heavy ATMOSPHERE. It could easily be rated as some horror film soundtrak, i dont know why, but it gave me this sensation, i dont feel totally confortable while hearing this at night alone in my room. To sound more technical, it has a lot of ambience noises, just like the best prog albums does have. It has a lot of orchestrated stuff, AMAZING vocals, from either Nils and Carla, the backing vocals also rocks. It is also very heavy at times, to tell the truth i don't like this prog metal crap, but SGM metal isnt BORING like Porcupine Tree, its always fresh and creative music, so the guitars here just give a sweet plus to the whole thing. Well, Im just repeating what most of the others reviews already says, so Im stoping here.

I just wish someone could tell me where to find some other bands like this, its so RICH and COMPLEX. Im amazed it dont have that much reviews and ratings, its a sing you must hear it ASAP. SGM is, along wifh The Mars Volta, the best surprise I had since the 70´s golden days.

Report this review (#68640)
Posted Tuesday, February 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars For anyone wondering if there is any good progressive rock after the 70s prog, this is an album for you. This album continue the spirit of the old prog without duplicate it. The envelope here is prog metal, but inside it is much more diverse. There are many more elements and styles, such as stylistic kitsch, quieter and calmer moments, home made instruments, field recordings such as flies, bees etc, which can be heard between the tracks and at the end of the album, and a lot of percussions. The music is excellent, innovative, creative and original, without being a true avant guard (IMO). Catchy melodies, complex harmonies, a-symmetric rhythms, and interesting developments. And all these happens over 70 minuets, without one dull moment.

The main musicians here are: Dan Rathbun, who played bass and another instruments, produced, recorded, and build all those amazing homemade instruments, I wonder if there is something he couldn't do. Another member is Carla Kihlstedt who has a great feminine presence. She is a real artist, played violin, in addition to other instruments, sang, and also took part at the field recordings. Her singing style is influenced by BJORK style, and not in the "nice" and quite oldie style we used to at progressive rock when the vocalist is a woman. The main, great vocalist here is Nils Frykdahl. His singing style is very powerfull most of the time, at the heavy metal style, but still sounds very unique, and he sings very well at the calmer moments, also.

The concept here is complicated, and generally discuss about the futurists, an artistic movement from the early years of 20 century, who admired technologies and was against preservation of the past. The unabomber present the oposite ideas: Against technologies and for returning to simple life as in past. Both of them are violent, but in fact the unabomber is much more violent since he actually murdered people for his ideas. Most of the songs deal with animals and their relation with humanity. We have here donkey, cicada, cockroach and more. in fact there are much more details about the concept which I don't know well and wont discuss here. But I have some details about the cicada:

The cicada is an insect who has 17 years circle of life. Most of the time they stay under earth as pupa and in the 17 year they get out as insects, fertillise and dies. There is a theory that the circle life is a prime numebr (17) because in that way they can avoid meeting with parasites, who has also life circles. (it is explained in more details at the book "The last theorem of Ferma" by Simon Singh). the illustration for the cicada here is a short piece of one repeated motif in complex rhythm, in 10/8 time signature, played with an interesting tuned percussion homemade instrument. another percussions, some of them tuned, play over it, and a violin and a flute who played notes in a very high register, which create an interesting effect, along with the field effects that goes on throw the whole piece. I tried to find here something concerned with 17 but didn't succeed. Anyway it sound suitable, complexity rhythmical and interesting. This is just one example to show the diverse and uniqueness of this album.

In particular, I think that anyone who looks for today innovative, original music, should look for the american music that comes from the west, such as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Thinking Plague, Hamster theatre, and others. These people are really doing something good to progressive rock and art rock of today.

Report this review (#70747)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dark, disgusting, and different. Don't listen to with the lights out.

In these musicians you'll hear a heavy Henry Cow influence taking on metallic edge. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum create their sound with a wide array of instrumentation, over-dramaticized vocals, and a healthy bit of insanity. An array of homemade instruments grace this album granting a listening experience which will have you ask "What is that?" only to respond "It doesn't matter."

Of Natural History chronicles the "disease" of mankind and technology and their ultimate downfall, drawing from Dr. Theodore Kaczynski's (better known as the Unabomber) manifesto, "Industrial Society and it's Future." This makes for some interesting lyrics to back up the remarkably unique and challenging music.

Taking a look at the instrumentation one could almost expect a symphonic band. However, nothing of that sort is to be found here. Of Natural History has a distinct hard edge and a relentless chaos. The album has isn't something just for metal afficianados, while its always darka and lacking anything interms of conventiional beauty it does have its softer and slowed down moments. Of course, though it has a unique beauty all its own. If you hear something you don't like hear listen again; you probably heard wrong. Modern masterpiece.

Report this review (#80664)
Posted Thursday, June 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Prog metal in Avant sauce

Prog. metal has never been my cup of tea. Even though they are listed under RIO/Avant category. This particular release is definitely in the Prog metal camp. I have enjoyed their previous release "grand opening and closing" a lot more since the balance of that record was more towards RIO/Avant then Prog Metal.

The album opens up with "A Hymn to the morning" Somehow the singing voice and style reminds me of Canadian folk singer Stompin' Tom Conner. Too much country tinge for my liking. Then it turns into a death metal style screaming and grunting.

"Donkey headed adversary of humanity opens the discussion" starts with interesting drone and back ground guitar but very quickly it turns into a Meshuggah style metal but only to metamorphose into bizarre concoction of instruments playing a soft melody. Then back to death metal. You get the idea. I think this song is the best song in the album.

The third song "Phthisis" features female vocalist (Nils Frykdahl). At times this song has the tinge of Thinking Plaque in it but less developed.

"bring back the Apocalypse" starts with stadium noises and develops into a rhythmic chanting tempo. A dark chorus takes over with gradually increasing rhythm section volume. Song continues and ends with the variations on the theme.

I described the first four songs to provide bit of a picture of the sounds and styles of this album.

Overall music is a mixture of prog metal washed in typical stylistic Avant noises.

For those who enjoy prog metal can get into RIO/Avant genre through this album

Report this review (#104295)
Posted Saturday, December 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars First of all...what´s with all the Metal talk about this album? Yes, there are some Metal moments, but not enought for be taken as an Avant garde metal band... well, at least I don´t think so.

Well, but let´s get down to busines, this album is NOT for everyone. If you are a fan of beauty in music, stay as far away from this as you can. If you are openen minded...well, come right in. There is just so much in this album, to go into detail would take a whole book or so, so I´ll try to keep it simple. Well...the music... is like...mmm well, Avant garde with rabies would be a good discription, and yet I am no where near of what Sleepytime Gorilla Museum really is, this is very original music, that´s for sure. The songs sometimes aren´t really songs, but collages of sounds, rythm paterns and maybe a voice speaking, or singing in a narrative way... and other times a track is just full of complexity, melodys, soft and growling vocals, violent drumming and percussion, homemade instruments, Bjök like singing and violin solos... and you know what? They get away with it...and man do they get away with it! You can sence that all musicians are real artist, not just people playing their instruments...this is art. Actually, I think the best discription of STGM would be...Ga Ga music! So, yes, this is serious stuff... yet at times it all seems like a big joke, specially when it comes to some of the contend of the songs, which are pretty metaphoric, or alegoric should I say? A good example of this is the track "The Creature" (one of my favorites) where you have a voice telling you the story of a creature that takes advantage from a village, eating all of their food and sucking the life out of the people in exchange for protection of something...that of course never comes. Let me tell you that the lyrics here are as grotesque and down right disgusting as they come (" They learned to dinne on fecal matter, so that the creature would grow fatter")... and yet, they are brilliant. The whole album is just like that, brilliant. From time to time you forget you are listening to an album, and think this is some kind of bizarre play or creazy dream... or nightmare.

As I said before, there are homemade instruments in this album, so you get to hear some really interesting sounds that you might have never heard before... actually, I dont think you have ever heard something like Sleepytime before for that matter.

The stand out songs here are the opener "A Hymn to the Morning Star", with Nils Frykdah welcoming you to this ...thing! in a very teatrical voice, "The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion" a brutal song that goes into your brain like a chainsaw, "Phthisis" with Carla Kihlstedt singing very similar to Björk, "FC: The Freedom Club", this might be the best representative of the whole album, a great song, and "The Creature", which I have already named and discrived before.

This is not some album, this is...this is something else. Excellent, but not for eveyone, yet I can´t not give this album anything but 5 stars, as this is not just outstandingly original, but succesfully good thrue out it too, a winning combination if you ask me.

A word of advice...I would not listen to this at night and alone... yet, in a sence, this might be the best way to listen to it...hmmm... might want to try it

Report this review (#112880)
Posted Tuesday, February 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't recall I had hear something like this ever before.After hearing single track on Progarchives I decided to give this album a try.Purchased it few days back and i'm still recovering from the brutal attack on all of my senses.Sleepytime gorilla museum is highly original American band likes of which is kinda hard to come by nowadays.I honestly have no idea how to describe music on this disc,AVANTGARDE in capital letters is closest I can come up with.Irregular rhytms,vocals ranging from operatic to metalic-growling to angelic,extremely technical riffs and very dark atmosphere that reminds me of King Crimson's "Power to believe",are some of main points...and then some more that simply I can't describe?!You have to hear it to get the picture,which(after few spins)is not going to be perfectly clear ,I'm sure of it.Perfect soundtrack for anyone's nightmare,this album is going to be my new favourite for many months to come.A blisstering experience!
Report this review (#113436)
Posted Saturday, February 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars WELCOME TO THE MUSEUM OF DELIGHTS AND DREAMS

With their 2nd release,SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM declare clearly their predominant position on the Avant-Garde scene.Band like KAYO DOT,UNEXPECT,AGALLOCH,ARCTURUS and Sleepytime himself make me full of joy when I listen to them.For some years i've always imagined the prog metal like a beach without sea.Some squirt of water has arrived with DT's Metropolis pt.2,and i begun to see it with Out of Myself (RIVERSIDE) and Blackwater Park (OPETH).But the billow of avant-garde's bands like SGM,KAYO DOT...revealed to me an incredible oasis of superb music and creativeness...but we come to the point.OF NATURAL HISTORY is an outstanding masterpiece,not only avant,but also prog.Twelve excellent-crafted songs reveal a small cirkus of sounds and poems,a kind of delirious microcosm kept hidden in the entire musical universe.Beyond to tell that this release has become one of my all- time prefered cds,now I analyze the album track by track.

1. A Hymn to the Morning Star (5:40) = The first track of this album sounds like an epoch carillon,with some disturbed noises on the background (roars,howls,sharp notes of violin) and superb lyrics that talks about new technologies and future.The voice reminds me the presenters on the entry of the cirkus,that invite you to try the more absurd things,so i could tell that this opener is the most appropriate that i have never heard.Not an easy listening,even a hard pill to send down.But if all pills are like this,I should be ill 365 days/year.

2. The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion (6:01)= One of the masterpieces of the disc.A perfect mix of Metal,avant-garde,distorsions,jingle music and excellent lyrics and voice.In some parts (2.40'') it seem dominated by a hypnotic industrial stroll.Very awesome.

3. Phthisis (3:44) = My preferred song on the entire album,begin with a delicious bass riff filtrate by a radio reverberation.It reminds to me the N.I.n of the golden era (THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL),with the beautiful voice of Carla Kihlstedt and the great metal guitars by Nils Frykdahl.A perfect example of how a metal/industrial/shoegaze piece should be.

4. Bring Back the Apocalypse (4:10) = This song is the modern babel of sounds.In this piece you can hear human voices/cries,sharp metal,vibraphone,clocks,gregorian chants,electronic loops,and an interesting jazz drumming.Great bass riff.Probably the less-accessible piece of the album,but also the more experimental.

5. FC: The Freedom Club (10:48) = One of the longest pieces of the disc,it sounds like a jungle by night.The first ten seconds are a cloud of flies that hum on a dead body.After,a beautiful xilophone riff drives the composition to the hardcore nucleus on 2.40''.On the end you can hear birdsongs and crickets's seranades.But don't sleep,the best still come.

6. Gunday's Child (6:56) = Very similar to a Goblin's song on the refrain,this piece,with their razor's edge metal guitars and the sense of glumness that pervades it,is the perfect soundtrack to a claustrophibc horror movie.Begin to tremble.

7. The 17-Year Cicada (3:41) = A pure instrumental piece,dominated by tribal percussions and an incredible violin riff.Like a march of death ruled by a cannibal tribe,this song is very scary.Another act for our horror sountrack.Welcome to the Jungle

8. The Creature (6:00) = A very very avant-garde song,a soft battle against distorted guitars,odd time drums,carillon music and superb lyrics.A pleasant shade of Morricone mixed whit an oppriment stroll.Good taste.

9. What Shall We Do Without Us? (2:38) = The Bjork's birthday song,i suppose.Suffocated voices,hammering drums,crickets and people talking on the end.The shortest piece on the album but a great avant-garde pearl.Nice

10. Babydoctor (13:59) = The longest track on the album,split into two parts,one incredible and the other a little less good,according to me.The first section is pure John Zorn's avant-garde school,obviously without sax.The second instead is more a cacophonic metal diluted with people's conversations and background's noises.Still great,but little less than the first.

11. Cockroach (2:12) = Like a minstrel of the apocalypse,this very simple song has probably the best lyrics of the entire album.The lines "Cockroach, your problems are not mine/I love life, but with you I draw the line/Not to flaunt my superior design/but next to you, I'm practically divine/your problems are not mine." are the best advice that humans can have.Be careful.

12. Bonus-/Hiddentrack (5:56) = The bonus of the album,not a song but only people speaks on a meadow with crickets and toads.A midsummer's night dream atmosphere pervades this sketch.Very funny.

I'll be of few words.This opera is the most incredible thing happened in the 21th century.Keep this album immediatly..buy at the local store,by the mimikry records,but you must have this album.Download it if necessary.Legally is better,but i'm not a saint here...

Report this review (#117800)
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a quite remarkable and unusual album.

It is also an excellent album, which embraces the true spirit of what it means to be a progressive artist. This is a band who are not afraid to experiment with both instrumentation and musical styles. Some of the instruments used are home made and the musical styles are too many and varied to list.

I can't think of any way to categorize this band but this album contains sounds reminiscent of recent King Crimson, Tool, Meshuggah, and male vocals which at times match the operatic majesty of Peter Hammill in full flight. There are female vocal parts too but I can't think of a comparison for these - though I've read that others compare them with Bjork.

The music itself is very rhythmic and percussive and at times subjects you to something of an aural pummelling - it is by no means easy listening. The lyrics also conjure some harrowing images at times, adding to the overall sense of ease. This is perhaps very fitting for an album that seems to deal with the negative impacts of technology and that draws on the Unabomber's manifesto in making it's point. However those who are prepared to persevere will reap the reward of doing so as this release improves with each listen. Both highly recommended and essential.

Report this review (#120490)
Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars For few reasons, this album is one of the best artistic creations i've ever heard:

*"Of Natural History" comibens delicately between classic motives and ass kicking metal mlodies.

*the combination between well-known classic instruments and unknown (sometimes weird) new instruments creates unexpressable sound, that leads you to a trip through the dark side of the soul.

*Carla Kihlstedt and Nils Frykdahl are, no doubt, two of the best solo singers there is in that genre (besides, carla is an amazing violin player!).

A real masterpiece, highly recommended!

rate: 4.75 points

Report this review (#123701)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
thellama73
COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars From the first few second of strange and disturbing sound coming from my speakers when I plopped this album in my stereo, I knew I had come across something wonderful.

"Of Natural History" was my first taste of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and ever since I have seen them perform live at every opportunity. There are very few records that truly deserve the tagline "like nothing you've ever heard before," but this is surely one of them. Oh sure, there's some Art Bears and Mr. Bungle in there, but the overall effect is totally unique.

The album opens with Nils Frykdahl's impressive baritone intoning "A Hymn to the Morning Star," interspersed by choruses of creepy falsettos. The tracks immediately gives the album an air of foreboding, which is paid off handsomely in the stunning "The Donkey Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion," a furious avant-metal piece in (mostly) 5/4. In fact, the bands inability to stay in one time signature is heard throughout the album, and provides a restless and surreal forward motion.

The other shining star besides Nils is Carla Khilstedt, an incredible singer and violinist. Her chief composition and showcase of her talents is "Phthisis," a powerful number with a steadily rising melody that you think wlll never top out.

The other highlights on the album are too numerous to list, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the hilarious capper "Cockroach." It must be heard to be believed, and shows that the band does in fact have a sense of humor. "Of Natural History" has quickly become one of my favorite albums by ANY band, and it is a huge improvement upon their debut.

Report this review (#124610)
Posted Monday, June 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the first track i knew i would love it. Probably the thing that got me hooked the most on this album was their creativity and weirdness. I was scared first time listening to this album...and i LOVED it. They use instruments unconvential to those of typical prog. They use the brick, organs, bows, aluminum, tape loops, violin, harp, harmonica, but they also use the conventional guitar bass drums vocals. From their first track Sleep is wrong i knew that this wasnt anything ordinary Avant Garde. It had its Prog Metal, Noise rock, and Avant Garde. Their feel of 4/4 over 3/4 or so i felt, is just amazing, they meet up perfectly. and certainly the ending to Sleep is Wrong is one to scare. The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion is probably my favorite track on the album. I feel slight inspiration and influence from John Cage, serial music, and such. Definetly an eye opener. The most "mainstream" track of the album is Bring Back the Apocalypse. This is where the Prog Metal aspect comes in rather strongly. Thius is a 5/5 album. Just pure excellence in Avant Garde music. Truly a must have
Report this review (#127741)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album has been hard to ignore with all the talk it has generated since it's release in 2004. Many have said that it is impossible to describe the music on "Of Natural History" and that you really need to experience it by listening to it. Let me tell you about my experience.

"A Hymn To The Morning Star" opens with a minute and a half of not much really. There is the sound of snoring a pump organ and a dog growling before these deep vocals enter the scene. These are contrasted with some other vocals as violin comes in later. "The Donkey-Headed Adversary Of Humanity Opens The Discussion" features angry and aggressive vocals and a soundscape to match. I think the hair on my neck stood straight up the first time I heard him say "I am the adversary" early in the song. "Phthisis" is a great tune with female vocals and heavy drums as male vocals yell in the background. "Bring Back The Apocalypse" has various sounds to open before we get percussion and a vocal melody. A sample of someone speaking ends the song. "FC:The Freedom Club" opens with xylophone and vocals before the song kicks in instrumentally and vocally. Nice. The vocals become angry until we get back to original melody 7 minutes in. What a contrast !

"Gundry's Child" opens with nature sounds as haunting female vocals come in. The song explodes before 2 minutes. It settles back down before breaking out once again in a powerful way. "The 17-Year Cicada" has various sounds that come and go as a melody is kept alive with percussion. "The Creature" is loud ! Reserved vocals arrive. What a great sound 3 1/2 minutes in of guitar and drums. It comes back to end the song. "What Shall We Do Without Us ?" opens with a sample of a conversation as female vocals and percussion come in followed by chaos. "Babydoctor" opens with another sample of a conversation. Male vocals with drums followed by violin and with it stronger vocals. The song becomes almost pastoral until 7 1/2 minutes in when vocals get angy and the sound becomes heavy. It ends with an atmospheric climate. "Cockroach" opens with yet another sample of a conversation. The vocals are deep like on the opening track. The " Bonus / Hiddentrack" has another conversation between people out in the woods as you can hear nature. It ends as it began with snoring and dog sounds.

Well everybody was right you do need to experience this record by listening to it again and again.They do a great job with the way they contrast the light and heavy. There is quite a bit of sampling and I really like the female and male vocals. And above all I like the heaviness that is on this record. For me this is a four star record right now. It is a unique album that I think everyone should listen to at some point in their lives.

Report this review (#129342)
Posted Friday, July 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
1800iareyay
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's debut was a shaky affair, but they really pulled things together with their sophomoric release, Of Natural History. SGM display all of their talents: good lyrics, excellent RIO composition, and custom made instruments that set them apart from everyone. The sheer complexity of this album gives Mr. Bungle and John Zorn a run for their money, and occasionally they surpass even those titans of metal in opposition. The album is conceptual and deals with mankind's ruination of the planet. Unlike most concept album, this doesn't follow a specific story (though there are several stories in the album). Rather, it present the theory of De-Evolution, created by a member of the original Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.

The album opens with two songs that are interlinked as sort of a story. A Hymn to the Morning Star, which sets up the story as they reveal the true enemy of mankind is not Satan, but the Adversary, and that Christianity, Satanism, and any other religion are too dogmatic and false. The Adversary is SGM's version of Mother Nature, as it represents every plant and creature in the world. The music fits the title, sounding like a perverse church hymn with nice vocals from Nils that get interrupted by some sinister vocals. The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion continues the lyrical thread by letting the Adversary detail how he will destroy the humans who have raped the planet of its beauty. This is a masterful song that blends RIO, metal, jazz, avant-garde, and some stuff nobody has ever or will ever assign a classification to.

Now, the album focuses on the Futurists, a group who favored quick progress regardless of the costs. Phthisis is supremely heavy tune that lets Carla take over the vocals while Nils growls underneath. The spoken segments reveal the Futurist ethos, and the lyrics have an amusing attack on the Futurist philosophy, noting that the future will one day become the past, thus making everything they've attained irrelevant in the face of new change. This seems to sum up the rapid expansion of man in terms of invention and ideas, if you look at how fast we've gone from cars to rockets. Bring Back the Apocalypse is one of my favorite tunes off the album with it's great opening bass riff, and this is where the custom instruments really enter. This song probably has the weakest lyrics (essentially chanting the title of the song), but they are delivered in such a way that makes me think the whole thing is intentional rather than poorly written. Musically, it's one of the strongest tracks.

We now turn our attention to the Unabomber, whose philosophy on the dangers of technology seems to impress SGM. He is the polar opposite of the Futurists, as he wishes to return to a time without technology. FC: The Freedom Club is an avant- garde epic that has gives us spoken segments that relate some of the Unabomber's warnings against such terrors as nuclear war. The best spoken segment on the album is when the Unabomber says "the human race with technology is like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine." Sends chills down my spine every time! The song opens softly with xylophone and the Unabomber's warnings before it becomes frantic and aggressive, almost like a Mr. Bungle or Zorn tune, yet it sounds totally original.

SGM moves things along by focusing specifically on the De-Evolution theory that the album revolves around. Gunday's Child is a downright brilliant anti-war song that focuses on a series of infants born at different times as war draws ever closer. When it hits, the baby born that day will incinerated. There is a haunting lullaby in the middle that brings the Adversary back into the mix as it details the Adversary attacking a little girl. The music builds perfectly from eerie to violent and frantic to match the coming of war. The 17-Year Cicada is a killer instrumental with tribal drums and a downright scary vibe. Don't listen to this song in the dark.

The Creature takes us back to Adversary, who has now assumed total control and is using our dependence on technology to cripple us. It has an amusing spoken part at the end featuring some Southern men. What Shall We Do Without Us? presents the band's view of heaven and it features some dazzling music, especially from the violin. Babydoctor builds ever, ever so slowly until it explodes into he second half. All in all it reminds me a lot of John Zorn. The lyrics deal with individuals who have proven that even amongst the filth of humanity, there are some diamonds in the rough. The album properly ends with Cockroach, a song that is steeped in irony. A human mocks a cockroach for being inferior, yet all the flaws he lists are mirrored in humanity (i.e. trashing a once-green "lawn" is clearly a metaphor for environmental destruction). It's incredibly funny to me since I love irony and satire. The Untitled Track officially ends the album with spoken segments. It all ends with the Adversary warning us to remember what you've heard.

For a more complete summary of the concept of the album, go to progressiveears.com to read Baribrotzer's review, which has been invaluable in the creation of mine, as he managed to decipher this album's cryptic message. SGM prove themselves masters of RIO, metal in opposition, rock against rock (the genre they invented) or whatever tag is thrown their way. Of Natural History takes its place beside Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante as a classic of modern avant-prog. The music is incredibly difficult to describe; think of Zorn's most avant moments, and you'll come close to SGM. No fan of RIO should be without this seminal release.

Grade: A

Report this review (#131229)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars First time I heard this album it completely blew me away, and it just gets better with every listen. No other band I've ever heard seems to be able to create such a nightmarish atmosphere. Almost every element of their music is one-of-a-kind: the instruments used, the impossible time-signatures, their combination of low-key male vocals & spine-chilling Bjork-ish vocals and their unusual folklore implemented in their lyrics and melodies.

From the first song you get the impression something's wrong. It sounds like a really perverted lullaby, but really is as accesible as they get. From the moment you hear Nils growling "I am the adversary..." this album goes on into a nightmare frenzy. The two tracks that follow (tdhaohotd and phtisis) are both hard as hell and just as disturbing. Both absolutely among the best they've ever done. "FC: the freedom club" is an unusual combination of freakfolk and avant-metal, great song once again. "Gun-day's child" continues in this style, only with Carla Khilstedt on vocals and with a weird yet grooving industrial beat. Eerie and epic, just how I like em.

The longest track (and hardest to digest) is "Babydoctor" uses an almost postrock-like buildup. The first half is ambient and eerie, only to continue in the most noisy avant-metal riffage I've ever heard. I took quite a while for me to enjoy this track, but now it's among my favorites. The band experiments with their home-made instruments on "bring back the apocalypse" and "the 17-year cicada", the former being more percussion-driven and the latter more ambient. Though this album is not for everyone, I can assure you if you have an open mind and are willing to give it multiple listens you'll find no weak or misplaced songs. It's an absolutely unique album (not counting other SGM albums) and extremely well performed and produced. I can't wait when (and if) they're gonna tour Europe, but till that time I can still listen to this work of genius. 5 stars!

Report this review (#132920)
Posted Monday, August 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Oh boy, first review. Here it goes...

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's second album, Of Natural History, is quantum leaps and bounds ahead of it's predicessor, Grand Opening and Closing in every way. This would be the review simply put, but I feel that I should expound upon the album's virtues a bit more to do it justice. Lyrically speaking, the album is rich with deep, thinking man's type lyrics about humans and their place on earth (or what people think their place on earth might be). There could probably be no better vessel for this concept than Nils' voice. He could be one of my favorite vocalists working today because his voice can be very expressive. Though he is not the only singer (I also do love Carla's work on the album), his voice is the most promiment and stand out when listening.

Musically, this album is amazingly original to the point where the band has made its own instruments that they play. Though they still do use conventional instruments but instruments like the log make for a very distinct album. The underlying tone of the songs usually lies somewhere between sinister and evil, though tongue-in-cheek is also present. The music is good in that it traverses a prodigious number of styles from ambient, to metal, to just plain spoken word hitting whatever else deemed pertinent along the way.

And now, I do an overview of some of the songs. I first start with a warning that I will not do a full in-depth song by song review that does a detailed analysis of the plot, and I implore people to read other reviews to get a feel for them. Now that that's been said, the albums kicks off with "A Hymn to the Morning Star", which could easily be visualized taking place in a grand cathedral, Nils belting out the lines from a pulpit with Carla as his choir behind him. It then transitions nicely into, "The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion", which is probably my favorite song off the album. It is the heaviest song and wouldn't sound out of place on Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's debut album. It is a fun song to me, and does well to lay down the theme and plot of the album. The chorus, "MANKIND IS A PLAGUE", is sung with a lot of force and could be one of the best lines ever uttered in a song. Another favorite of mine on the album is "FC: The Freedom Club" which epitomizes the album's sound as it describes the mindset of the Unabomber. I also like "Gunday's Child", which is the next song, and a great anti-war song. The final song I give a nod to is "Cockroach" which is just an overall very fun song which says a lot in its brevity. Again, I love Nils' voice here, where the overblown theatrics make it pretty comical.

The album clocks in at over 70 minutes, though it seems shorter. The only place the length of the album is felt is when listening to "Babydoctor". Overall I deem this album not to be missed, and urge those who haven't already gotten it to buy it and listen to it. Those who already have bought it, I tell you to listen to it again and relive how awesome it truly is.

Report this review (#133918)
Posted Monday, August 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars First review here, so I'll make it short and simple.

IMO this is one of the most important prog albums. There isn't much more that I can add, due to the fact that everything has been said about this album and about this beautiful, unique and extra ordinary band.

A combination of intelligent songwriting and musicianship, original blend of RIO influences and metal touches.

This was more of a fanboy appreciation's review, than a proper review. I hope I'll do better next time :P

Report this review (#138696)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This will be the first time ever reviewing an album so bear with me as I voice my opinion. I am always been frightened of listening to anything avagrade or rio just because I figured that it was perhaps a little too weird for my tastes, but after receiving a copy of Alamaailman Vasarat's Maahan, Höyry-Kone's Huono Parturi and finally this album its like discovering progressive rock all over again.

I have to admit, I was starting to tired of progressive rock as releases like PT's Fear of the Blank Planet and Phideaux's Doomsday Afternoon while quite excellent, and masterpieces in their own right didn't over joy me, driving me listen to it day and night like an addiction as say like when I discovered modern prog (anglagard) or Italian Prog (Rosenbach, PFM), and hell, even when I first discovered prog (King Crimson). But SGM's Album Of Natural has been keeping sleepless at nights. I was astounded this and the two other Avagrade/RIO albums so much that it has led me here with the need to write my first review.

I can't really say this is the greatest album ever as I have a few minor quibbles about the album, but when I rethink that statement, I can't say it would be better without its flaws as I have grown to love this album as more of a personality. Apart from say a Ween album, SGM has managed to not only mix several genres into one compact disk, but within many songs. Just as everybody else on this page I am left unable to file this under any category apart from my favorites. Also, unlike many albums this day and age this album has a message which is quite relevant to our current society. Of course, I'm going to review the music, if you want to know the story, there are several other reviews.

The first track A Hymn to the Morning Star, needless to say caught my attention immediately with an eerie church hymn driven by one of the most powerful voices I've heard in recent memory. The atmosphere because almost overwhelmingly thick as the bass and bizarre homemade instruments kick in at around 2:50 followed by Carla and her violin. This later diverts back into the original hymn before repeating itself once again. 4/5

The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion is not only my favorite song on the album but my first serious experience with a growling voice that sounds like it could be death metal. Of course this song is anything but death metal, or any other genre of music. This song is hard to put into words with many interesting sounds which are completely foreign to my ears, although is sounds very industrial like 90's King Crimson. Just as a little note, I almost skipped this one out of fear that it was death metal, so hang in there, you'll love it. 5/5

Phthisis brings a grand epic sound which reminds me of the power behind created by the orchestras say used by Renaissance or Devil Doll. Of course this power is generated by Carla's majestic voice which yea, I'd admit and agree with other reviews that she does sound bjorkish, but if anything, she outbjorks bjork. 5/5

Bring Back the Apocalypse is a strange collage of sounds which starts off rather slowly but builds into more chaotic sounds and chanting, not very well liked by most, but I have no problems. 3/5

FC_The Freedom Club is quite a long song that showcases the band's talent in playing at several different paces, with different voices and different instruments without anything seeming out of place or unnecessary. Unlike many bands that seem to just have 2 different paces. SGM seem to have no real limits in their abilities. 4/5

Gunday's Child, is another one of those songs driven by Carla's great voice and great violin playing. Has a little nursery rhyme in the middle that I first thought it could do without, but I rather like it now as it adds to the atmosphere. 3/5

You can debate whether The 17-Year Cicada is some excellently executed piece of musical art, but to me, sorry, its quite unnecessary, although, its not that bad, and not that long, although I do like it when I listen to the album as a whole. 2/3

First thought that came to mind when I started The Creature, was, aw, here we go, something that really sounds analytical of King Crimson, the song Dig Me in fact, but lo and behold, it goes off into god knows where as one of the most atmospheric songs I've heard in ages, I loved it. 4/5

What Shall We Do without Us is easily overlooked as it's very short, and 80% of it is just noise linking it to the other songs, making the song very very short. Despite it lacking in length, it is still highly enjoyable. 4/5

Baby Doctor is one of the creepiest songs I have ever heard, and seems too built up momentum in parts that really seems to go nowhere, although this is hardly a flaw. Best way I can destribe it is they they are teasing you, like a girl who starts off strong, getting you all excited, then she just stops, begins again and stops until BAM!!! the song's climax. This song is quite long, somewhat strait forward and doesn't really break any new grounds. 4/5

Cockroach is a satirical song that should be listened to for the lyrics only, although, if I wanted silly over the top satire in songs, I would have listened to Ween. 3/5

Untitled... uhmmmm, this really isn't a song

Highlights for me include the incredible range of voices used throughout the album, the intelligent lyrics, original homemade instruments and most impressive of all, creating a sort of death metal that I didn't immediately shut off and laugh my ass off. Although, these death metal parts arise rarely, it's really not death metal, its just. different and I extensively enjoy it.

Report this review (#138714)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Similar to other reviewers, my opinion is that nothing I have ever heard compares to this; however, that's not necessarily a good thing. I view this album from two competeting perspectives: the theme/lyrics, and the actual music. One I enjoy, the other I don't.

Here is my experience with this album: Based on reviews, I knew to expect the unexpected. I read the liner notes and cover, and these are some of the most interesting I have ever encountered. SGM basically present a parallel, reverse evolutiong theory that puts humanity in some bleak comparisons with the lesser creatures. Absolutely fascinating, with great pictures and captions as well.

Then I get to the music. It's like a movie with the plot of the Matrix (which I enjoyed thoroughly), but the special effects of early Star Wars movies. The production isn't bad, but in places the music is. I understand that's a part of RIO, and I can appreciate it to a certain extent, but I really only find a few enjoyable or fascinating moments of sound on this album. One is The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion, with its rapid fire lyrics and incessant metallic clanging. It's intended to remove you from your comfort zone, and it accomplishes that (as does most of the album), but it also doesn't turn me off completely. Similarly, we have The Creature, which achieves its mission of inciting absolute disgust (lyrics about dining on fecal matter over the apparent sound of smacking lips).

That's about it for highlights in my opinion, with lots of screaming, clanging, sound effects, and other disconcerting material.

If you want anything that resembles the music you're familiar with, you won't find it here. I understand that's a reason why this album receives such high ratings. You may really enjoy the ride that SGM take you on--just know ahead of time that you will be shocked, intrigued and disgusted.

5 stars for the concept, 1 star for the music, in my humble opinion. I need more of a musical carrot to follow where SGM are leading with this album.

Report this review (#141563)
Posted Tuesday, October 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
obiter
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I find the sentiments and moral lecturing of this album objectionable and patronizing at a level that only self-indulgent musicians can reach.

It's all a bit too cliche. Hymn to the Morning Star (that would be Venus/Lucifer then wouldn't it?). Oh and the donkey headed adversary: here we go again. Metally thrashy bits that to me lack any real grating edge: too nice, too clean: trying to be a bit too clever. Nevertheless there are some nice arrangements: the closing phase is particularly pleasing to the ear apart from the needless return the pseudo thrash.

Phthisis opens with real Soundgarden strength. Carla Kihlstedt's vocal lifts this song. She's not Chris Cornell (and yeah it's Bjork like) howver, she still lifts the song way beyond mediocrity. This is followed by one of the more likable tracks: Bring Back the Apocalypse: interesting rhythms: a wee bit of jungle, a smidgeon of Goldie?? At least for a brief interlude we are not being lectured.

FC Freedom Club. Sorry, I just find this a ridiculous inane diatribe backed by equally inane thrashy interludes which almost perfectly serve to detract from the theme. Gunday's Child suffers the same ailments. the 17-year Cicada is interesting and a welcome respite.

Just when you though you might be safe to return to the listening chair the Creature comes back to remind you that break is over and it's time to be patronized and lectured again. Having listened to this album a couple of dozen times only, maybe I will find some hidden revelation later, but at the moment it takes consderable will power to listen to this track right through.

What shall we do with out us, obviously not code ubuntu. i actually quite like babydoctor.

Cockroach like this song should be squished underfoot.

bottom line, an album that patronizes and lectures backed by cliched rock.

Report this review (#146961)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album had me entranced from the very first listen. The music is dark, frightening, foreboding, and builds itself in waves, rising and falling repeatedly throughout each song. The style changes drastically throughout the album, meant to create an unsettled, changing landscape of sound. The vocals switch from low, soothing, beautifully sung lyrics to screaming that is nearly incomprehensible (both audibly and cryptically). The guitar work varies similarly, from being slow, and in the classical style, to pulsating metal riffs that drive the rest of the song forward. At times thrash metal, at times quite Crimson-esque, and at times indescribable, this album will hold my attention for some time. Recommended for fans of the avant-garde side of modern prog, or fans of all sorts of metal, fans of anything interesting, unusual, and indescribable. This album is a trip in its own right.
Report this review (#150436)
Posted Monday, November 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A very impressive album indeed. I have listened to this many times to be sure of my opinion. This is a very difficult album to listen to. On one side it´s fairly melodic and suddenly disharmonic tones and strange time signatures kick in. Pretty confusing I must say and I must say that it destroys my listening pleasure somewhat.

It´s simply a little too avant garde for me, and I feel left out of the club sometimes. I have to praise the musicians playing here though as they are outstanding. The compositions are very clever and the melody lines are very original. The two singers both the male and the female command respect.

I would like to give this 4 stars for the outstanding musicianship showcased here, but I sometimes feel the music is weird for weirdness sake and that is a minus in my book. I´m sure if they tuned the weirdness down a bit, they could make beautiful music. If you like your music weird but at the same time pretty listenable this would qualify.

Report this review (#153370)
Posted Saturday, December 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is truely progressive in that it takes music to new levels where it has never gone before, and does it all with one of the most ridiculously talented bands i know. Their sound is more unique and immediately identifiable than any other band, with characteristic noises and instruments as well as the juxtapositioning of Nils Frydahl's growling screaming vocals and Carla Kihlstedt's soaring melodies. The big thing I like about this band that wins me over for most bands is the drama and power they inject into their songs. This gives the music a human feel, and that is what people search most for in music: songs they can connect or relate to. The concept is not entirely evident, but there has been a very thorough review done above, and I cannot see anything else of significance. On to the tunes!

A Hymn to the Morning Star: Truly a hymn of sorts, this song opens with low crooning by Nils, interrupted by bursts of choirs in the high upper registers. A beautiful opener, not an adjective usually associated with this band, but don't worry, it won't be beautiful for long. The instrumentation in the background is masterful, with muted guitar/violin plucks and some glockenspiel tones. During the high chorus, the bass guitar comes in with pounding tones, and perfectly augments it all. The scary closing notes allude to the next song...

The DHAOHOTD: Some dissonant guitar tones overlap the low pedal tones overflowing from the hymn, and soon the guitar starts sounding very evil, reminiscent of Robert Fripp. The violin mimicks it and it sounds positively demonic. The drums are pounding, skull bashing, and Nils sings with such anger that I jumped out of my seat when I heard it first. He tells of how the Adversary is watching us, and then assumes his role and preaches anger and hate to the human race. The random instrumental violin breaks keep me interested, as the super heavy metal is not really my thing. They do it well, however, and the violins build into the heavy phrase of Mankind, is a plague! Then we get an eerie, slightly less intense section, while Nils describes all the ways humanity has destroyed the earth, and how they will come back to kill us in the end. The closing line throws us out of our minds with the sudden break.

Phthisis: Starting off with a cool syncopated riff on some weird stringed instrument, and Carla comes in to soar to awesome, hair-raising heights with her majestic voice. Plenty of random percussion instruments accompany all this, along with violent bursts of yelling from Nils. The violin follows Carla's melody, and it sounds soooooooo perfect. For the last part, Nils and Carla share a new, almost chanted lead vocal part, while everything grows in intensity. A few blasting notes close the song, with a swirl of unidentified noises that die out, until the final repetition of the main riff. Right after this, a new beat is started, introducing...

Bring Back the Apocalypse: A mainly instrumental song with some intense singing near the end, this song is testament to the uniqueness of SGM. As the unusual percussion intensifies, so does the weird chanting. This all dies down to introduce the new riff, a complex one, I cannot quite identify the time signature. Nils jumps in with someone else, chanting Bring back, bring it back, sounding quite out of breath. A xylophone joins the fray, and the singing cuts out to reveal odd noises. This reminds me of Frances the Mute, from the Mars Volta. The fly-buzzing sound floats over into...

Freedom Club: A theme using only bass guitar and xylophone is played, and sounds awesome. An eerie vocal part comes in, telling us to turn away from everything that the human race embodies. Soon a pounding bass riff introduces us to the next part, with Let us dream now the impossible dream of a math professor. This gets heavier, with hypnotic violins churning in the background, while Nils tells about the future of the earth, filled with death, hate, destruction. In the role of the Unabomber he seems most comfortable, even if he is destroying his voice to do so. The drums are spectacular as always. Now the next narrated interlude: Let us not forget that the human race with technology is like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine. Nils is frantically angry now, roaring like a lion, and the guitars and drums intensify to suit the mood. Some random glockenspiel again, and the violin is on a constant 16th note solo up and down and everywhere, and all the while, Nils calms down a tiny bit, only to let the next narrated interlude leads us into the heaviest part again. The anger here is undeniable, and that is the overall mood of SGM towards most everything. Now it calms down again, and returns to the beginning them, xylophones and falsettos. It ends with a xylophone trill, and the spoken, Because we can.

Gunday's Child: this is one of my favorite songs ever, being an anti-war song, and the melody/riff are just unbelievable. The lullaby in the middle sung by Nils and co. is great, telling how animals work together to fight back against humans, and Carla's lead vocal again is just hair-raising. Some cool guitar arpeggios start it off, and the lullaby melody on synth. Some awesomely placed clicking noises and funky bass notes only add to the perfection of this song. Carla sounds stoned at first, softly crooning to the world. The bass plugs away under this with some super heavy notes, and is speeds up to bring in the main riff on guitar and violin, which just blows me away. Carla goes much higher now, pouring emotion into her voice. The demonic coda by Nils and Carla is powerful, leading us into the falsetto lullaby bridge section. Some low cello notes fade in in the background, and the incessant clicking continues, never out of place. The song starts to build, again in the slower crooning mode, but soon it launches into outer space again. The riff starts going faster and faster, and strumming faster, until the HUGE climax. indescribable. I love it. Carla ends it with here eerie whispered screech of rotted away. Some harsh guitar swirls come in, making me think of Billy Corgan and his pumpkins.

The 17-year Cicada: Another show off track for SGM's unique instrumentality, with tons of weird noises to accompany what appears to be a rhythm created entirely from guitar harmonics. Some shrieking flute notes come in, played by Nils, and all the time a steady bumping keeps the beat, along with what sounds like trashcan lid drums. All this slowly fades and goes right into...

The Creature: A mainly spoken word track, this song is amazing anyways. The the opening is so complex and weird i cannot describe it. The main beat is kept by breathing noises and drumsticks clicking. Random glockenspiel and guitar notes come in when necessary. The Creature described is technology, humanity's new god who requires more sacrifices than the previous two gods. Some scary dripping noises augment this already strange song, while an incessant drone is always playing in the background. Soon the vocals are screamed and spoken at the same time by two different people. A different enemy is introduced to distract humanity from the true enemy, the Creature itself. The chaotic noises continue to add, until there is a solo on some strange instrument, and the solo is on the pentatonic scale. WHAT? SGM? Using REAL MUSIC TECHNIQUE? It seems to work. The ending of the song is the same ridiculous intro, and the final note leads into an old man talking about random things.

What Shall We Do Without Us?: A violin chorus with clicking underneath brings us into this song, with more spooky vocals from Carla. It soon gets very intense with the riffing and distorted vocals, but then shuts off into violin mode again. Crickets chirping provide the fade into another Old Man Talking, which leads us into ...

Babydoctor: A simple guitar theme starts us off at a relatively slow pace, but don't be fooled. This song is the most intense on the album, and it takes the longest to build to that point, too. After the intro, we get introduced to a middle-eastern tinged melody, with repeated Thank yous. The bass jumps in to jump the octave, and the drums provide a very simple beat. With some weird lyrics involving counting, Nils only adds to the mystery and emotion of this song. Its hard to follow, and the violin starts to have some action as the drama unfolds more and more. The drums pick up in volume, and the violin starts to sound like som unearthly creature in its death throes. Nils, predictably, begins to scream, growl, roar, shriek, and spit his way through the heavy section. The drums have many awesome fills and the guitar and violin serve to unharmonize with one another. when the vocals cut out the instruments get more and more intense. Nils begins to sound unhuman, his most horrible, yet so perfectly in tune with the music. I love it! I have always hated extreme death metal, and upon hearing this I'm not gonna go listen to slipknot, but they do it very well. This all cuts out to a wavering glockenspiel note, and the original Thank you theme returns in the far distance, complete with violin. However, it stays in the distance and fades out, while more Old men converse about random, nonsensical things. A member of the band appears to be in the conversation.

Cockroach: All I can say is, BEST CLOSING SONG EVER! Huge drama and emotion in Nil's voice, but it is ironic because he is singing to a cockroach who is living is his trash. The style is awesome, and i dont know what it is, but its soooooo good. The untitled track is not really a song, more of a coda to the awesomeness that is Of Natural History.

Overall, amazing music, listen to it. Please.

Report this review (#161656)
Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History

This is one is light-years above the predecessor. Of Natural History is actually near perfect, in terms of what this band can pull off. It is only hindered by the few throwaway tracks contained within it. If you know nothing of this band, here's a short refresher course: they are a very unique avant-garde band that draws comparisons only with label-mates Unexpect or pseudo-former band Idiot Flesh. Their music is spastic, yet gradual, and usually rather quirky (as is the nature of much avant-garde music). Their first album, Grand Opening and Closing, was unbalanced and did little to achieve its full potential, and this is their second, and best album thus far.

Now, the music:

The opening track Hymn to the Morning Star is a slow moving one--immediately hard to get into, mostly thanks to the vocals--which take some getting used to. The avant influence is much more immediately present on this album than on their first. The song climbs, with choirs, odd and bass-heavy middle sections, and melodramatic vocals, and ends with what is essentially the intro to track two.

The Donkey Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Book is one hell of a track. It moves psychedelically, winding in and out of it's heavy and Celtic-like moments--full of odd, speculative timing--and then into a neat little plucked-string/vocal call-response section. It is, without a doubt, the first of many highlights on this album. This one's a thriller--the proper "opening" to the album, and gives a good taste of what this band can pull off.

Phthisis features the wonderful vocals of Carla--a nice change and a great track, built off an interesting sort of vocal-to-instrument call and response session.

Bring Back the Apocalypse is a bit underwhelming to me...sounding rather forced during most of it, at least lyrically. The music is fine, but is nothing truly spectacular. This track is heavily percussion/background-noise built, and the intention muddling gives it a unique, tense feel, which--incidentally--is great, considering the next track, which it leads into.

FC: The Freedom Club is a long, glorious, mysterious ride through this band's talent, including dual male/female vocals, mysterious chord structures, nice escalations and wind-downs, and nifty instrumentation all the while...It is heavy-laden with an almost drone-inducing atmosphere, and is one of the few pieces I've heard that really sounds "brought to life". For me, this is quite possibly the standout track on the album.

Gunday's Child is a nice track that begins with a gentle guitar riff and soft effects with odd melodies behind it. The whole song builds off of this gentle nature--and ends up sounding a bit like Satan's Toy Factory might sound...in a very amusing, fun, and interesting--quirky--way. This one stands out, once again, because of the interesting choice for Carla on lead vocals, which is always a pleasure.

The 17 Year Cicada is an odd filler, instrumental track with percussive, tribal rhythms and many odd effects closing it out. By far the weakest track on the album, barring the final, "hidden" track. The Creature is a another fun, standout, haunting track. I like this one a lot. It is extremely effective, once again, in the atmosphere department, and features the vocals of Dan Rathbun (who will be known for his producing this band, building their many "original" instruments, as well as for playing bass). Gentle, disturbing, and brilliantly played, this one stands out.

What Shall He Do Without Us is a wonderful little intermediary track that is short, but brilliantly written, and again features the voice of Carla--something that's more a motif on this album than the first. The track has a neat little climax with fast riffs and demonic fun spread all around, then lets off with some silly speech near the end. Babydoctor is a long one, yet a great one--as can be told from the start. This one--much like "FC: The Freedom Club" seems to breathe itself to life, like an uncanny machine stuttering on fuel that suddenly becomes fully invigorated. It is a suite of tension, atmosphere, and haunting mobility, and serves as a very interesting choice for the climax-track of the album.

The Cockroach is a nice, ironic closer to the album, with ironic lyrics and melodramatic vocals attached. Very nicely done, and what I consider to be the proper "ending" of the album. Hidden Track, which, incidentally, is not so hidden, is nothing but ambiance and conversation, and neither adds nor detracts from the album as a whole. Still, it will seem extremely useless unless you're listening through headphones and following the concept--which I won't spoil here.

Overall, this is a superb effort from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and, while not without a few weaker moments, it is effectively delivered and works very well as a consistent whole. While not perfect, I'd easily rate it something near 8.8/10 or so, which doesn't quite scratch 5 stars on this scale, so I'll settle for 4 stars instead.

Report this review (#170911)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
SaltyJon
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I absolutely love this album by SGM. Based on other reviews on the Archives, I picked it up as my first introduction into their odd world, and I'm very glad I decided to check this band out. Their unique instrumentation and odd vocals form such a unique whole, they're the type of band I wish was more prominent in today's music scene.

Personal favorite tracks include The Donkey-Headed Adversary and Gunday's Child. Donkey-Headed caters to the side of me which enjoys heavier music, and the instrumentation on Gunday's Child really reminds me of a mixture of early and late King Crimson styles. Plus, the singers/vocalists are both (all?) interesting. All in all, I'd say that this is a band I'm definitely going to be paying more attention to, and I hope to see more output from them in the future. I'm tempted to say it's a masterpiece, because in my opinion there's barely a weak moment on the album; plus the band is, as I said earlier, mostly unique...I can't manage to give them anything less than a 5-star rating. If bands like this are part of what I should come to expect for the new face of prog, I'm excited.

Edit: Upon further listens, while the album is good, I can't justify keeping it at masterpiece status. Down to 4 stars, as it's still an incredible album, but I don't believe it to be among the very best anymore. (5/5/09)

Report this review (#188029)
Posted Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh deary me! How delightfully disturbing and twisted!

Oh RIO, how many people this subgenre has touched over the years. This is one of the categories that is at the same time both criminally underrated and overrated, as it has many critics and many fanboys who would gladly take a bullet for it. The genre is usually ripe with dissonance and experimentation which leads the more melodic listeners to run and take shelter while the people who enjoy it will step out into the acid rain and say it tastes like rainbows. But if there's one thing everyone can agree on it's that this kind of music is normally very strange (which, contrary to popular belief does NOT automatically make it ''innovative'') and very much an acquired taste. With Of Natural History, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum [SGM] have created a wonderful opus that will both make the RIO connoisseurs jump for joy and give the more hesitant listeners a place to start with the genre.

One of the best things about this band is there very unique approach to the music that they play. Rock In Opposition (RIO), as stated before, is usually very lacking in melody and derives its audience from wild experimentation. SGM is often called MIO (Metal In Opposition) by a lot of people who have the chance to hear them, but even that may be an inaccurate statement while actually listening closely to the music. SGM have managed to blend RIO with a good amount of symphonic and very melodic tenancies with the chugging power of industrial music to make for a headbanging album which is still experimental and highly impressive. Instrumental sections to the album will not only flow but bash their way through the song in a way that grabs you and takes you along for the ride. The prime example of this is the excellent Bring Back The Apocalypse, driven by a good amount of fast chimes and drums until we get to a very beatarific ending in which the ''bring it, bring it back'' chanting begins and all hope is lost for those who don't know what to expect from the band.

The vocals are surprisingly a draw point to the album. Although gruff, the vocals add a surprising amount, especially with the two singer combo. The switch between the male and female leads make for an eclectic mix which is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. After the bludgeoning raw power of The Donkey-Headed Adversary Of Humanity Opens The Discussion it's nice to go into the slow, but no less unsettling Phthisis which is voiced by Carla Kihlstedt (who sounds a lot like a twisted Bjork who has been locked in an insane-asylum for too long). The percussion is the other part of the band which really keeps things moving, especially in songs like Phthisis where it is damn near the only thing which keeps things together (and I mean that in a good way).

Other standouts on the album are plentiful. Most of the songs do tend to run together since the album is a concept album (which other reviews have gone into in cryptic detail, so I won't), but there's still a number of songs that work very well on their own. The who epics on the album which reach over 10-minutes are each very impressive. FC: The Freedom Club is a song that starts out slow and melodic but turns into one of the most dissonant songs on the album with the drums still managing to hold everything together - like a tornado which rips across the countryside, its debris does a lot of damage, but there's still one main force. Babydoctor is a much different beast, this one is a considerably slower to get going, but when it does it finally explodes with the force of a bomb. If you're not expecting it, well... prepare to be wiped out. The Creature works in tandem with it's intro instrumental, the incredibly creepy The 17-Year Cicada to go through a mostly spoken-word like story which is obviously a metaphor for something (and the political views shine through yet again). Gunday's Child is another Carla Kihlstedt voiced track which is a lot more frantic and desperate than the last song she voiced, but still it sounds like you're standing in the mansion from The Shining looking down the hallway to two girls who can only say to you, ''hello Danny...'' (or whatever your name is).

For people who like things heavy and experimental will be over the moon with this album, and people who don't fancy themselves masters of RIO will still be able to get into the album thanks to the way it's been done. A fair warning though, don't expect anything going into this album, because you're not going to get it. Expect the unexpected I suppose would be the cliche line to add in here. 4 cockroaches out of 5 for a wild ride which everyone should take at some point or another.

Report this review (#189806)
Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars SGM is a provoking band, stirring up emotions and ideas that for some is too much. It's very pretentious music, from a group of people I am not sure I would enjoy the company of(if any of the views they present on their albums are truly theirs). However, SGM is also one of the greatest bands to have graced this world.

Of Natural History is in my book the most challenging and impressive record I have ever heard. The production is so perfect that you hardly think of it as a record when listening to it, it's all so seamlessly mixed together that your focus never strays from the music and lyrics. To think that people can come together and create something this complex, intelligent(yes, I maintain that this is in fact a "smart" record) and beautiful, makes me wonder what music the future will bring.

The music of SGM is impossible to describe, and should be experienced, not told about. Their style always leave me with a sense of completeness, that the music couldn't possibly be in any other form.

There isn't much to add to the landslide of praise this album has received here, but mark my words: If you like this album, you will love it like no other.

A modern masterpiece in all senses.

5/5

Report this review (#190268)
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Dim
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Wow, probably one of the biggest disappointments of my musical life. In my genuine opinion, this is embarrassing music for me to listen to, I'm not joking! If I were going to give this album to a friend who were not prepared for what they were about to hear, I could see them saying "Wow, is this children story music"? Just horrible.

I'll start with the lyrics. "Let us dream the impossible dream, of a math professor", awesome quote, how completely childish of this group! I was once told by a member on the forum here that this group was intellectual and challenging. If by that quote, and "The future sticks out it's tongue", and "we trained it to eat it's own feces" is intellectual, then I am truly at a loss as to what the meaning of the word is. The most God awful lyricism, to an otherwise good concept, it's tear jerkingly sad.

The music. Theater prog. Junior high drama class prog. When I first heard the Donkey headed adversary, I honestly was impressed, definitely not a bad song, but besides those redeeming three first minutes, the whole album tanks. With the opening song the first image that pops into my head is a clown, singing in this big goofy voice "open your heart" to a bunch of children with big smiles on their faces. I don't know about you, but that's not the image I should be seeing when I listen to "dark", "disturbing", Avant Garde music, and it's pitiful that that's what I think of. Definitely one of the parts that makes me cringe the most is on the cockroach song when the lead singer just belts out "COCKROACH" like some disney character in the next dreamworks movie. The musicality doesnt even redeem itself, with all the goofy noises, and weird instruments, I'd rather call it Mariachi than avant garde.

Garbage, a black stain on my musical listening record. Bring on the "living on a prayer", cause that (to me) sounds much better than any of the songs I had the displeasure of hearing on this album. Congratulations Sleepytime Gorilla Museum in the making of "of natural history", for it receives my first one star review!

Report this review (#217916)
Posted Saturday, May 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After purchasing the debut album there was no way to avoid purchasing the follow-up release as well and, in retrospect, it was well worth it!

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum basically improved their music formula by pushing things a notch or maybe even two. All the elements have come together nicely and the result is quite staggering indeed! I feel that the sample track The Donkey-Headed Adversary Of Humanity Opens The Discussion, available on this site, might give the wrong impression of this record because most of the other tracks here are mellow in comparison to it. But that doesn't mean that it's the only highlight that Of Natural History has to offer!

The 11 minute The Freedom Club is my personal favorite composition while Cockroach takes a form of an ode to the pesky insect. Still, don't expect anything else than pure Avant-garde rock ā la Sleepytime Gorilla Museum from this album since this is exactly what you're going to get from this performance.

...Of Natural History is an excellent follow-up to the ground work that was set by Grand Opening And Closing and it feels like this band can almost do no wrong no matter the direction they decide to pursue with their future releases. Blunt and simply, an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection with a sign of the things to come!

***** star songs: The Donkey-Headed Adversary Of Humanity Opens The Discussion (6:01) FC: The Freedom Club (10:48) The Creature (6:00) Gunday's Child (6:56) Cockroach (2:12)

*** star songs: A Hymn To The Morning Star (5:40) Phthisis (3:44) Bring Back The Apocalypse (4:10) The 17-Year Cicada (3:41) What Shall We Do Without Us? (2:38) Babydoctor (13:59)

*** star songs: Hiddentrack (5:56)

Total Rating: 4,36

Report this review (#256169)
Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 7/10

"Of Natural History" sounds like it was written by monsters.

Wow, what an album. It is classified as Avant Prog only because it's "Weird", but really it's unclassifiable. It is so diverse from all the rest of today's music that it really makes you believe that this band is formed by aliens. I picked up this album, together with "In Glorious Times", because I thought I needed to learn something more about RIO. Indeed, "Of Natural History" has taught me quite a lot.

The style is very unique, like I said: avant garde united with metal ,even some growls( they're quite frequent in the album) so it's probably not a really accessible album. We also find some jazz, classical, and a genre that really isn't definable. We also find some sounds and noises, that gives more impact to the album.

Some songs are good, some great, some weirder, some less. The first part of the album is very original, but more melodic and less creepy than the second part. In fact, in this part there is even more experimentation, and the songs are all much more bizarre and puzzling. Especially "BabyDoctor", fourteen minutes of some of the finest avant garde around today. Let's not forget, in the first part, "Phthisis", a very interesting song, so full of emotion that it blows my mind. "FC" is another avant garde masterpiece, full of excellent and unforgettable moments.

I mut say I initially didn't like this album, because I considered it a little too absurd and out of control; plus, I hated the growl parts (I usually like black or death metal), and my favorite moments were a few.

This album, after a while, grew up on me. If you're a RIO or an Avant-Garde Metal fan, consumer, you will for sure appreciate this piece of music.

Report this review (#284099)
Posted Sunday, May 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
frippism
COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is one of the most refreshing bands from the 21st century. Their music is something very hard to explain. But being a fairly new RIO nut, this is probably a more accessible entrance into RIO. Some people will call this Metal In Opposition, which I can agree with. Being a non-metalhead though definitely didn't my enjoyment of this album. Heck, if it's creative I like it, and this is exploding with creativity. The band plays a weird mix of metal with certain neo-classical influences and Industrial influences (They even build their own instruments which they have some pretty cool improvs with during shows).

From the beginning of "Hymn To A Morning Star", you know you're onto something very different. Speaking of the devil the "Hymn" is hilariously beautiful. The song opens with intimidating solos and leads to Nils Frykdahl's singing. And my god is it impressive. In the whole album Nils succeed in showing a very wide variety of vocal talents. From almost growling, to chanting, to screaming, he's got it all. The best songs are probably "Donkey- Headed Adversary" and "Babydoctor". "Donkey-Headed" shows SGM at their most technical, while "Babydoctor" is 14 minutes of pure insanity. Other highlights include "Brink Back The Apocalypse". The weirdest and down-right creepiest part of the album it "The Creature", which talks about a creature needs to feed, and so the people around him have to save food and learn to dine on fecal matter, while there are sounds of lips smacking in the background. Pretty gross.

The musicianship is also top notch. Carla's vocals (not THAT Bjork sounding!) are a very nice touch. Her violin is also incredible. Nils Frykdahl's guitar work is also excellent. The best musician is probably drummer Matthias Bossi, who while provides a strong backbone, has some of the better drumming I heard in a while.

The lyrics are a love/hate scenario. For the most part I love the lyrics. They're humorous, though definitely intelligent, many times providing a social and political criticism. Though I must say that the lyrics on "FC the Freedom Club" are not amazing and a bit straightforward, but not bad at any rate.

This album is a definite must for all RIO and metal fans. It was so great hearing this music and knowing that it's fairly new. SGM is one of those bands that remind you that originality is still very much alive and that there's definitely hope left (I think)!

Bassist Overview: Dan Rathbun's bass is usually pretty solid. He provides a pretty strong backbone to the music, though definitely manages to get some nice lines going for him. Overall, bass fits the music nicely, though could've been more in your face.

Report this review (#315565)
Posted Friday, November 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Sleepy-time Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History (2004)

I usually don't listen to modern prog, but there are exceptions. Take for instance this very inventive and original album of SGM. Rightfully listed as avant-garde, this is one of most bizarre albums I listen to.

SGM mixes strange sounding metal with sounds of nature, math-metal, silly & political conceptual song-writing, tribal sounds and some other things I probably forget to mention. The use of thrash metal instrumentation combined with the avant-garde like songwriting works very well, mainly because of the amazing low vocals. The female vocals on some tracks (Gunday's Child for intance) are also very intense. The bizarre harmonics and rhythmical patterns are played on self-build instruments and all have a unique sound. The wide range of percussions give this album a soul. All instrumental parts are unique, which is perhaps the main attraction of this album.

The lyrical themes of the band are strong. I really love the lyrics of FC the Freedom Club, The Creature and Cockroach (your problems aren't mine!). Most of the lyrics are about society or bizarre made-up events. Other favorites are the heavy The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion and the almost Christmas-like opener A Hymn to the Morning Star.

Conclusion. The sound of the band is often very provocative, many listeners of the 'normal' sympho-prog will find nothing of value here. In stead, this album is for those who embrace the progressive spirit and who prefer innovation above all. This album has an amazing list of totally new songs, with 'Baby Doctor' being the only weak moment. Making such an unique album must be rewarded with a big four star rating. Essential modern prog for those who dare.

Report this review (#398104)
Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This album, at the time iof this writing, is my only foray into the music of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I doubt it will be my last.

The first thing I need to say is that this is not an album to just put on at any time of the day. I tried listening to it the first thing in the morning, on the way to work, and it is so jarring and aggressive that it just annoyed me. On the other hand, as an attitude adjustment album for the ride home, it works perfectly. The band's heaviness and complexity, mostly with time signatures, is just right after a day of stress at work.

My only complaints about the album are the vocals and the lyrics. The vocals alternate between overly theatric singing, almost operatic, and screams and growls. While this may plase some listeners, neither style appeals to me. And the lyrics at times can be facepalm inducing.

But the vocals are not enough to bring this album down from four stars. The music is just that good.

Report this review (#435043)
Posted Sunday, April 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The thrill of listening to this music goes beyond a primal rush of adrenaline or even a chilling sense of uneasiness. The emotion is a more complex one that rarely sees the light of day. It is an understanding, a twisted beauty that dares the listener to defy his cultural conditioning and escape for a moment from the accepted standards of society. It's so thrilling because it temporarily breaks the illusion of order and uses the guise of insanity to see society in a truer light. Many people are unable or unwilling to restore sight to themselves, but SGM's music offers the willing a powerful tool to do so.

"Morning will come for you at last No matter how far into night you have strayed"

Dismantling the unspoken requirements for "normal" interaction often requires violent measures. Though the rage may be painful at the time, it can achieve a measure of clarity. It isn't selfish or irrational anger, but calculated retaliation against society's constrictions. It certainly is possible to reject societal standards without the anger, but sometimes anger is necessary.

Through the apparent chaos of this music lies a contentedness that is only visible through unobscured vision.

Holy sh*t, this album....

Rating:10/10

Report this review (#444635)
Posted Sunday, May 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars How do you capitalise on a unique, eclectic approach to music? Sleepytime Gorilla Museum attempt (and confirm) their proud opening statement of GOaC here on OF NATURAL HISTORY where they keep most of the eccentricities, controversies and loudnesses in tact whilst branching their sound out a bit. The end result is an album that, compared to the SGM debut, has a greater sense of exploration and musicality, but drops in quality.

I'll admit being too drunk off the debut, particularly since it was the first SGM album I had heard, and it blew me away with its strangeness yet cohesion. So, knowing what to expect ruins the fun of checking out ONH for the first time, considering that the loud, metal-esque bouts, unusual vocal approaches, and eclecticness are still here. Sometimes, I feel like making comparisons to the debut album; here, ''Babydoctor'' is the big epic of the piece, and I feel that the piece was created to be OHN's ''Sleepytime''. ''Sleepytime'' is one of the best climbing, suspenseful pieces ever crafted; ''Babydoctor'' has some building to it, but it mostly floats on a couple of ideas, and runs a bit too long to outdo its predecessor.

Vocally, the band is strange, but Nils's vocal moments have their charms. Most of his performances are pretty good, but on the opening statement and the closing ''Cockroach'', he overdoes the emotion to the point where you think it's a joke (reminds me of Adam West in the 1960's Batman series; his acting is so overly-serious that it makes for accidental comedy). There are other vocal moments that are downright questionable from the geeky tone during ''The Creature'' to Carla's squirm-setting performance on ''Bring Back the Apocalypse''.

Musically, the quality of the album can get inconsistent; overdone on some parts of the album, quite nice on others. ''The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity'' (kind of goth/death/theatre metal) and ''The Freedom Club'' (a great example of the band being both chaotic and sombre in one song and transitioning effectively between them) are the best songs going for OHN that I haven't mentioned yet. Some transitory pieces like ''The 17-Year Cicada'' and ''What Shall We Do Without Us?'' serve great purposes, and for some time, ''Bring Back the Apocalypse'' is a cool instrumental piece (doesn't quite match ''Ambugaton'' from the debut). Like the vocal performances, the opening and closing pieces (that ''Hidden Track'' doesn't count) are overdone, ''The Creature'' fails to do anything meaningful, and I have trouble remembering others like ''Gunday's Child''.

It's weird, it's creepy, it's bombastic, it's...it's...Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. One of the most ''out-there'' albums out there, those with an open mind for music and some taste for heavy or death metal are encouraged to check this out. I feel that SGM established their sound on GOaC, and OHN is somewhat of a perpetuation of that album. It'll make your head spin no matter your opinion of the album.

Report this review (#456728)
Posted Friday, June 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Greetings ladies and gents! Step right up to the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum! Looking for lush, gorgeous melodies? Looking for blissful, peaceful, melodic music? Looking for a nice, easy to like sort of prog? Well we're going to have to advise you to visit a different museum!

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum isn't about melodies. They're very much about using noise and dynamics to their advantage. Now this may seem like a horrible thing to some, but you really have to listen to the band to understand where they go with their music. First of all, many of their instruments they invented themselves. These aren't beautiful melodic instruments. Most of these instruments are specifically designed to make noise, and lots of it. Now enough about the band themselves, let's get to the album.

The album overall, while being a very acquired taste, is a satisfying and very interesting listen. The quiet parts are by no means beautiful (except in perhaps the opener), but they contribute to setting us up for the noise to come. It might seem like a repetitive strategy, but it pays off. The album also flows effectively, and has a sort of primitive feel to it often, which works with the bands style greatly.

There are some weaker songs, however. The opener, while pretty, is kind of cheesy. The Creature features disgusting but effective lyrics, but overall isn't that great. Babydoctor has some really great moments, but as a whole drags on.

Aside from the weaker tracks, this album is great. Most definitely not for everyone, but if you are really open to crazy avant-garde metal, this album should be satisfying. 4 stars.

Report this review (#543493)
Posted Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's twisted brand of avant-garde metaphysical vaudeville metal is intriguingly presented on Of Natural History, which the band have described as a concept album about a debate between the philosophy of the Futurist and the ideas of the Unabomber. How the repeated chant of "Babydoctooooooooor" or the high church celebration of Satan in A Hymn to the Morning Star fits into all that, I have no idea, but either way the band create a compelling musical territory which maintains an adept balance between keeping things experimental and ensuring the music is still satisfying to listen to, even if it does drag a little towards the end.
Report this review (#675364)
Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's "Of Natural History" is a genuine oddity of avant garde prog with a blend of lunatic melodies mixed with metal distortion and some downright bizarre singing. The music is quite difficult to describe and exists in a league of its own. The band is made up of Nils Frykdahl on guitars, flute, Matthias Bossi on drums, glockenspiel, xylophone, Dan Rathbun on bass, log, roach, trombone, lute, Moe! Staiano on metal, wood, bowed spatula, glockenspiel, spring, paper, Carla Kihlstedt on violins, percussion guitar, autoharp, organ, and Frank Grau on drums, and melodica. It is certainly compelling music, bleak and eerie at times but never dull. The music interchanges so suddenly and aggressively forceful that it is rather unsettling, but it is an amazing achievement in sonic violence. The moments of beauty always have a beastly sound lurking around the door, and one never knows what to expect. The twisting musical shapes are jarring and at times amusing, in their ceaseless time signature changes. The concept of the album involves being dissatisfied with technology and attempts to escape modernity to embrace the old days of horse and cart. Technology is viewed as a monster, controlled by an adversary that must be defeated. The environmental message of returning to nature is veiled behind very obscure twisted lyrics, but it exists as a framework for the high strangeness. The breaking down of musical barriers is part of the exploration of breaking from societal control.

It begins with a snoring dog, and then some deep bass tone singing 'A Hymn to the Morning Star' that is bleak and very original in style. But there are no other songs on the album like this. The sound and style changes completely from song to song. 'The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion' is basically yelled phrases and very distorted guitars that get louder and louder. 'Pthisis' has a striking vocal of Carla that is very much in the style of Bjork, and some weird music appropriately serves as a landscape.

'FC The Freedom Club' is a raucous mini epic with a lot of power and aggressiveness. The music is frenetic, riffing Meshuggah guitars and a nasty syrupy blend of violent violins and dramatic drum blastbeats. The music is very intense and it builds into a fast tempo and some odd musical arrangements. This is what avant metal is all about. It even features some high register vocals that are kind of pretty on a background of glockenspiel and ethereal music. It ends with insect sounds in an imaginary forest creating a rather eerie atmosphere.

This blends nicely into 'Gunday's Child' with an acoustic intro and some strange melodies. It feels like a tuneful Residents song, even when the vocals come in, loudly mixed to the front end and whispered seductively. It builds into a manic bass heavy tempo with avant string sounds and some passionate singing. This song has some weird time sigs and is perhaps darker in style than previous tracks.

More cicada effects are heard for the appropriately titled 'The 17 Year Cicada', which is really a musical piece of Oriental percussion and some booming bass drums. The cicadas are intensely scattered along with high pitch pipes and frenetic flute playing. The roaches sound like they are being squished and strangles leading to the odd meter of 'The Creature'. This track is very dark with some heart pounding lyrics spoken out in a deep bass voice. It is a musical poetry about a perpetually hungry creature. The squishy sounds and bizarre music is very much like The Residents' style. This is perhaps the weirdest track on the album, with disturbing lyrics and breathing, insect noises, as well as dramatic creepy clangs and bangs. The bass is kind of like Primus, all over the place and out of sync with the weird guitar melodies.

The strong Southern American accent of spoken dialogue next reminds me of Godspeed You! Black Emperor on 'What Shall We Do Without Us'. It has a hillbilly violin sound, like Comus, a female vocal at times and then builds to loud crashing bass and guitar before returning to the violin hoedown sound and female vocals. This is as weird as they get, and ends with more crickets chirping. It all feels as though we are outside a shed listening in on a bunch of hillbilly lunatics.

The spoken dialogue returns to usher in the lengthy 'Babydoctor'. At 14 minutes this is the longest song and it begins slowly with strumming guitar and a creepy atmospheric drone. A heartbeat bass comes in with rhythmic tones, building in volume. It eventually gets extreme with growling vocals and a blend of fast percussion, guitars, strings and a plethora of heavy banging on homemade tools. The percussion is terrific, off kilter and jazzy. After an aggressive freakout, it drops into a slow tempo and some whispered voices. A tolling bell rings out and some eerie violins, creating an ominous atmosphere. Dialogue returns that makes little sense but adds to the uneasy feeling that something sinister is going to happen.

'Cockroach' follows with deeper vocals and some unusual effects, including squeaks, ethereal female vocal intonations and xylophones. 'The Hidden Track' follows that is not even hidden, which is part of the irony, and there are more cicada insect noises that build and those odd dialoguing men return. I like the bullfrog noises here and the overall night insect sounds. I wish I knew what the men are on about but it sounds deceptively like frivolous chatter. The insects continue for a while and then the snoring dog returns heard at the beginning of the album. It goes silent until bird whistles chime in, as if we have survived the night and are now in the dawn of day. The weird male voices sound as if they are mimicking nature's sounds.

I can only conclude that this is an album of an incredible original sound, disharmonious and experimental unlike any music I have heard. It deserves its reputation as a triumph of avant garde prog, as it is constantly striving to break down the barriers of music. It is brutally unsettling, but nevertheless a very compelling experience.

Report this review (#800137)
Posted Saturday, August 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
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!
Report this review (#1015817)
Posted Saturday, August 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#2246335)
Posted Monday, August 26, 2019 | Review Permalink

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