As a youth, my Saturday mornings were characterized by two things: tuning in to watch the newest episode of my favorite cartoons and eating as many bowls of sugar-infused cereals like Boo Berry and Lucky Charms. More often than not, I found myself finishing my third bowl before the first hour of shows was finished; needless to say this resulted in an extreme sugar high which left me with an acute case of hyper-activity. If during my state of ecstasy I had picked up a guitar, started recycling Slayer riffs and used one of those toy microphone do-dads to record inane yelps and growls, I might have ended up with material comparable to Suspended Animation.
The fourth installment from avant-garde metal masters Fantômas, Suspended Animation is a voyage into the world of cartoon-metal, likely one of the first to tackle this merging of dissimilar entities. For the uninformed needing an introduction to the sound of Fantômas, try to imagine music that can only be described as schizophrenic - made up of equal parts metal, jazz, electronica, and ambience. The only addition to the traditional recipe being the introduction of carnivalesque sounds created by children's toys as well as actual cartoon samples.
'04/01/05' begins with a sample to 'fasten our seatbelts' as a building introduction of sludgy guitar chords rises in the background. Quickly we jump into the next track and are thrust back into what I would consider a mixing of the first new FantÃ³mas releases. The speeding guitars of Buzz Osbourne and zany drumming of Dave Lombardo are present, as well as a mix of vocalist Mike Patton's sweet melodies and vocal alterations. But smack dab in the middle is a movie-score inspired interlude not unlike those found on The Director's Cut.
The album continues on in typical fashion for Fantômas, with song lengths remaining close to one minute, many of them even shorter. While many will pigeonhole Fantômas to playing chaotic and disturbed metal, the band reaches beyond this stereotype in so many different ways. '04/05/05' is an ambient interlude characterized by little more than the sound of an individual breathing and carefully placed guitar tweakings. '04/22/05' is an eerie arrangement that could have backed a movie scene in which characters are slowly creeping towards unknown danger.
This isn't to say that Fantômas have diverged from what they do best - creating unique musical arrangements that are comprised of on-and-off guitars, both simplistic and jack-hammer drumming, a variety of off-beat samples and electronic effects, and of course Patton's unique vocal delivery. The sound that is Suspended Animation is best characterized by '04/10/05' and '04/28/05.' These songs include all the previous elements as well as carefully placed sounds from children's toys like noise makers and samples lifted from historically popular cartoons.
For the most part it is rather difficult to separate Trevor Dunn's bass playing from the rest of what is going happening here. That isn't a shot; there really is a lot of layering in each track making it difficult to distinguish. But if you are looking for a display of his talents, look at '04/06/05' and '04/13/05.' Both of which demonstrate his knowledge of his tool is exceptional and are on par with the style of his solo endeavors.
The packaging design is one of the most extravagant that I have seen for an album. Rather than a jewel case, Suspended Animation is set-up like a desktop calendar, complete with the spiral notebook binding. Inside each page is dedicate to a day in April (song on the album), and is accompanied by artwork by notable Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. Some may complain about the excessive packaging running up the cost to purchase the album; obviously those people don't appreciate art. But for those looking for the traditional CD packaging, you'll be happy to hear that one is available.
Suspended Animation may not be as artistically adventurous as the debut or Delirium Cordia, but this definitely falls closer in line with the accessibility found on The Director's Cut. Listening to this release has led me to question how someone unfamiliar with music as unconventional as Fantômas, by mainstream music standards, would react to hearing an album like this. But there is no time to conduct an experiment, so I'll just have to add that to my list of things to do. In the meantime I'll just say that if you have an open mind and willing to explore new music, this would be as good a place as ever to begin.
9.5 / 10
Posted July 26, 2011, 11:37 a.m.
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