Originally written by Jeremy Garner
It finally happened. With as much experience as I’ve had with extreme metal, with as many bands as I’ve heard and as many albums I own, I’ve finally found a release that puts my ability to relate the listening experience in extreme doubt.
I’ve heard plenty of avantgarde bands, but much of the music stagnates into the same basic formula which is of course completely counterintuitive to the whole movement, yet with The End Records’ debut album from Montreal’s Unexpect, In a Flesh Aquarium is poised not only to completely redefine the boundaries of what is considering permissible as extreme, but that of avantgarde itself. However regrettable it may be, I have to admit that this is such a seriously challenging listen that it will undoubtedly be lost to a large majority of people. If you like your extreme metal cut and dry with little derivations from the norm there is absolutely no way this will appeal to you more than appreciating the level of sheer audacity this release reaches.
The maniacal blend of technical death metal, disturbed symphonic black metal, and the definitive pomp and circumstance of avantgarde takes Unexpect into areas both familiar but simultaneously alien with the calamitous juxtaposition and unbelievably layered polyphony of reaching levels of sheer insanity. Controlled chaos doesn’t explain the half of the sheer genius displayed by this seven-piece outfit.
At its very heart, Unexpect utilizes a carnival-esque calamity not too dissimilar from the cabaret of Arcturus resulting in a peculiarly twisted sound of metalheads gone Cirque D’Soleil and then expanded upon the foundation with the same sporadic madness of a band like Fantomas. Boiling under the surface is carefully operatic flourishes extremely reminiscent of Peccatum before exploding in a rage of proficient black metal garnished in the wake of post-Anthems Emperor. Believe it or not they’re not done yet. The final crucial interplay of hinges upon Unexpect’s ability to meaningfully incorporate and capture the churning dissonance of a band like Gorguts or perhaps even Cryptopsy and blend it together with the technical escapades of a band like Into the Moat or The Dillinger Escape Plan, but somehow amidst all the cacophony with what should sound like atonal noise undergoes a carefull metamorphasis into an amazingly imposing and intensely beautiful schizophrenic album.
Almost every track is a distinguished mindfuck unto itself be it from the phenomenal unbridled calamity of the piano driven “Chromatic Chimera”, the jarring twists and turns of “Summoning Senses”, or the melodramatic violins of “Megalomaniac Trees”. Be it the intensity of “Feasting Fools” or the absurdist extravagance of “Desert Urbania” or the grandiose finale, “Psychic Juggler” capping off the album in a flurry of absolutely off the wall extravagance perfectly capturing the absurdity of Pink Floyds’ “The Trial”
The only weak moment of the album is the largely industrialized ambiance of
“Silence_011010701” which results in a rather standoffish track, quite separate from the preceeding material. Though it doesn’t detract from the listening experience, the songs sounds like filler really never adding much to the album as a whole. The only other break from order, the slow, brooding “The Shiver: A Clown’s Mindtrap’” offers a dark, well needed respite of keyboard laden beauty and euphonious female vocals tredding more along the territory of Antimatter or The Gathering, but the whole affair reminds me of a surprising derivation towards Star of Ash. Regardless, the dull moments are nonexistent and sub par sections are so few as to be unnoticeable.
Rarely do I get this excited, but this is easily the most compelling and capricious album of the year; In a Flesh Aquarium is a testament to true brilliance. I was floored the first time I heard this album, incapable of much more than slack-jawed awe and amazement, In a Flesh Aquarium takes repeated, detailed listens to fully comprehend. Canada has done it again.