Fables of the Sleepless Empire
It's been a long wait since In a Flesh Aquarium (2006), but I wasn't all that fussed. As "mad genius" as the Unexpect collective are, they're an avant-garde carnival that have come across better through multiple senses ― basically, in live performance. But in the years that these Montrealers have been touring across continents or tucked away in their musical lab, more pieces have clicked into place. Fables of the Sleepless Empire isn't any less strange, as genre experimentation still runs amok ― various shades of prog, technical and extreme metal provide harsh, rigid structures, fleshed out with warmer sounds from Latin, classical and other more melodic and artsy idioms. Every instrument and voice has a key role, from the singing strings, resonant keys and celestial female vocals to the angular, distorted, frenetic contributions of drums, bass, guitars and growls. Somehow the resulting complexity is slightly less self-conscious, an emergent organic machine that isn't weird for the sake of eccentricity but challenges the imagination as much as the ears.
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