unexpecT - Fables of the Sleepless Empire
Ascendance Records
Progressive Metal
11 songs (55:47)
Release year: 2011
unexpecT, Ascendance Records
Reviewed by Crash
Album of the month

I think that Unexpect is a great band. I originally had a great dislike for their label debut In a Flesh Aquarium and its seemingly forced circus camp tone. “Oh, another band that is trying to be weird.” I said. It took seeing them live to gett what they were all about. They weren’t trying to be weird, they were trying to write great music using deliberately unconventional means. That meant using a frantic structure and sound, songs that seem to go nowhere and everywhere at the same time, and enough band members that when I asked bassist ChaotH (lol) for the precise number he replied, “Too many.”

If you didn’t like that album, I suggest that you listen again. If you still don’t like it, their long awaited new album Fables of the Sleepless Empire will do little to change your mind. The weirdness is still here. The songs are still complicated and chaotic, but at the same time more even and spread out. This is the sound of a band maturing. Like Dream Theater’s Awake, the worst thing working against the band is having the pressure of a masterpiece behind them.

It’s hard not to miss the chaos of In a Flesh Aquarium. That album sounded like throwing your entire music collection down the stairs. But that is not to say that the band has dumbed down their sound. It is made evident right away with the first two songs, Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest and Words. Like most Unexpect songs, they are both chock filled with good ideas.

Utilizing every member equally (including violin, piano, 9 string bass, and 3 singers), this is one of those rare times when more is indeed better. Never once does the band sound out of sync with each other and there are no obvious grasps for the spotlight. It is a very odd tightness, like an ugly chick. But that only makes the sound more grandiose and dare I say… epic at times? These two songs showcase the direction that this album is headed in their own unique ways. Words in particular caught me by surprise mainly because of its patience. Rather than sprawling into a nonstop fucktuckery of notes and screams, the tune comes off as thoughtful and humble in melody and structure. It was one of the last songs to catch my attention despite it being right at the front. I believe that is the appeal of the record in full. Flesh Aquarium is eager to please, juggling musical chainsaws naked on a unicycle and grasping for your attention. This time I had to put in a little bit more effort and patience.

Mechanical Phoenix is a gorgeous song, encompassing all of Unexpect’s best qualities. Beautiful melodies between guitar, bass, and violin bring out my little prog boner. Not a moment is spared before The Quantum Symphony kicks in. This will be seen to many people as the highlight of the album and it should be. The track is a mini prog metal masterpiece, with a very singable chorus and some fantastic harmonies. This is metal of a sophisticated with some cheese and wine variety. People who routinely yell out SLAAYYEERR!!!! at strangers might not find what they are looking for here. (Not to say that people shouldn’t have Slayer screamed at them regularly) Maybe if you scream ZAAAPPPAAAAA out at people this will be more of your cup of absinthe.


Leïlindel is probably my favorite female vocalist in metal and her singing is nothing but a great flourish to every track. Her place in the band should be taken note of. While both other vocalists handle screams and guitar duties, she is not made the focal point of the band. There isn’t one. There is balance. We live in a generation of music where females in metal are treated like cute little rebels (That’s right, I’m a guurl gamer!). There is none of that here, only good music. There is a mutual understanding of time and place. While the guitars are not in the front, they are always doing something cool. And I’m sure that a couple people read “9 string bass” and rolled their eyes. I normally would too. But the blend of production and in the compositions themselves are never clouded in claustrophobia.

The album takes a break two thirds through with the interlude In the Mind of the Last Whale, which like the interlude on Flesh serves mostly as a breather. I normally don’t dig these little interludes as it seems every band has to have one, but it feels like another natural part of the record.

The last stretch is indeed not quite as strong as the first. That is little fault of the band and more a praise for the excellence of the first half. In no way does this mean that the songs are any worse, the bag of tricks simply starts wearing thin. At fifty five minutes in length, it is hard to blame any listener for getting ancy around the forty minute mark. This is where I would suggest coming back and listening to this section separately. When the Joyful Dead are Dancing is probably the most musically chaotic track on Fables, bringing fond memories of the past while still keeping with the bands new take on their sound. The guitars are really allowed to shine and riff it up, making for one of the heaviest tunes here along with some other great tunes.

All ends with the dramatic outro Until a Few More Death’s Do Us Part. A final cry that marks the end of a fantastically odd and whimsical album. Good show gents and lady.

Very rarely do I feel as longwinded while writing a review, but this one boggled my mind for weeks. Simply put, I could not place my opinion. Surely the album is great, but how much so? Is Fables of the Sleepless Empire a lesser one than In a Flesh Aquarium (Or Utopia if you are one of the five people who listen to it.) or should the two not be compared? I bring back the reference to Awake. There is no sense demeaning a great album because it is not as great as another. That would be nonsense because now I have two albums that are worlds apart but bring me to the same great place.

And here I thought that Deconstruction was the only insane album I’d love this year. Oh silly me…

Killing Songs :
Words, Mechanical Phoenix, The Quantum Symphony, When the Joyful Dead are Dancing
Crash quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by unexpecT that we have reviewed:
unexpecT - In A Flesh Aquarium reviewed by Dylan and quoted 92 / 100
unexpecT - _We, Invaders reviewed by Jason and quoted no quote
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