unexpecT - In A Flesh Aquarium
The End Records
Avante-garde Metal
10 songs (60:36)
Release year: 2006
unexpecT, The End Records
Reviewed by Dylan
Album of the month
As metalheads, I am sure we have all heard it at some point in our lives. “Eh… that sounds OK, but it’s nothing I haven’t heard before.” As much as any one of us loves our precious metal, after a certain level of exposure has been reached, the feeling of monotony begins to set in. Oh, but what wonders lie in store for those who are willing to look for something truly original, truly strange and truly amazing! Something like Canada’s (why do they get so many good bands?!) Unexpect. As pompous as it may sound, I absolutely guarantee that you have never heard anything like this before. Period. With their foundation rooted quite firmly in extreme metal, the band adorns it with jazz, funk, circus, classical, electronic, and many other styles of music, all coming together to form a masterpiece of aural insanity.

Each musician in this band deserves their own paragraph, and even though that is relatively impossible to accurately write about, there are a few elements that have to be mentioned. The three musicians who wouldn’t normally fit in a metal context (the female singer, violinist, and pianist) are not used as novelties to “spice things up”, but as essential and frequently used components of the ever evolving songs. When there is a heavy death metal part, the piano keeps rolling along, the violin keeps shrieking, and Leïlindel’s haunting voice adds an ethereal layer on top of the meaty growling underneath, creating a complicated palette of sound. Out of this rich texture of sounds, one instrument just keeps taking the lead and standing out the most, and if you don’t read past the end of this sentence, you will not be able to guess which one...go ahead…guess. That’s right, the nine (9!!!) string bassist Chaoth just always seems to be stealing the show, whether with his two-handed tapping, swept arpeggios, chording, slaps and pops, and just straight up killer grooves. Check out the opening of Another Dissonant Chord, that’s him! Never have I heard a bassist get so much limelight in a metal band before, nor have it work so well. Other bands should take note! The guitars, strangely enough, seem to take a backseat to the rest of the instruments, serving as exclamation points for the heavy parts. Don’t take that the wrong way though, for there are many, many exclamatory moments packed throughout.

As for the songs... you will obviously need quite a few listens to take these in as a whole. There are so many influences, so many nuances buried within it will seem like too much to take in at once, and it really is at first. But once it all starts to come together, look out. The overall atmosphere of the album is something very, very cool. The beauty, heaviness, dissonance, uniformity all play off of each other and make the listener feel as if they are lost in some giant mansion on a stormy night, never knowing what will jump out of the next room. Album opener Chromatic Chimera is the perfect choice to start things out. Shifting from a melancholic theme played by the violin and piano, the tempo and volume gradually increase as the other instruments join the fray. Soon, screams, speedy guitar riffs, little jazzy interludes, haunting vocal melodies all mesh together into one monster of a song. And then, an unbelievably heavy groove emerges at 3:42, obliterating everything in its path. Similarly crushing grooves can also be found in Desert Urbania, Feasting Fools, and Megalomaniac Trees. Splendidly calm moments, such as the one found in Summoning Scenes are also more than worth checking out. Hell…I could go on and on, but almost every song has something for everyone, except hip-hop fans (the one musical genre they didn’t seem to bring in to the formula, ha!).

The one complaint I have with this album is the song Silence 011010701, which is more or less an ambient filler track. It gets sort of interesting towards the end, but could have definitely been cut from the album without hurting the overall package.

In A Flesh Aquarium has been on the receiving end of one of the most suitable production jobs I have ever heard. When you have a violinist, a female vocalist, and a piano player getting the same amount of attention as the traditional instruments of metal, getting a sound where all instruments have equal breathing room is a rather formidable task. It is obvious that the musicianship and song-structure at this level of intricacy would fall flat on its face if the production of the album were not of the utmost clarity and quality. Luckily, superb sound quality is exactly what Unexpect got.

Now for the most important part, is this worth checking out? Is this just a bunch of noise thrown together with no substance to keep you coming back for more? “Hell yes” to the first question, “Hell no” to the second. The only thing that wowed me more than the virtuosic musicianship after my 10th listen or so, was that these intricate songs were actually sticking in my head! Amazing considering that there have been other bands that have tried to throw every musical genre on the same metallic canvas, only to come up with nothing more than a mess. Unexpect…ha, they are different. They seem to have a sense of humor about what they are doing, knowing that you don’t know where the hell they will take you next. All you can do is hold on, and laugh with them, knowing that wherever they turn next, you will want to come back.

Note: Below is the video for "Desert Urbania". In time the video may become outdated and fail to play.

Killing Songs :
All, except for Silence 011010701
Dylan quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by unexpecT that we have reviewed:
unexpecT - Fables of the Sleepless Empire reviewed by Crash and quoted 92 / 100
unexpecT - _We, Invaders reviewed by Jason and quoted no quote
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