Originally written by Rae Amitay
Unexpect is a six-piece Canadian crew that plays a hybrid of pretty much every genre of metal, combined with electro, jazz, funk, ambient, noise, neo-classical, and about a dozen more forms of music. Somehow, it all comes together and sounds incredible, as long as you’re into dark, manic, and indescribably different sounds all coming together like some psychotic circus of nightmares. If that’s your bag, it’s highly likely that you’ll consider Unexpect’s latest, Fables of the Sleepless Empire a work of genius. It also begs the question;
How does one write a review about absolute chaos?
Since there’s an inexhaustible number of adjectives to describe Unexpect’s avant-garde and utterly incomprehensible style, let’s leave it at this: From the first buzzing note of the “Unsolved Ideas Of A Distorted Guest” to the last chilling strains of vocals and strings on “Until Yet A Few More Deaths Do Us Part”, Fables of the Sleepless Empire is a frenetic and insane aural assault that will simultaneously inspire, impress, and completely scramble your brain. This is not background music, ladies and gentlemen. Neither was Unexpect’s last album, the frenzied, theatrical, and completely unconventional In a Flesh Aquarium. Their latest is very much in the same vein of madness, though arguably more a more focused and emotionally evocative effort.
Fables of the Sleepless Empire draws from a variety of influences, without coming across as mimicry. Unexpect’s complex and diverse arrangements recall bands such as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Stolen Babies, and Animals As Leaders, all while maintaining a signature Unexpect sound. It’s no coincidence that none of the aforementioned bands fit into a designated style, either. To saddle Unexpect with a simple classification under the “metal” genre seems a cheap and shameful definition. Yes, there are growls, screams, double bass pedal, and distortion, but there is also a plethora of electronic passages, flowing classical interludes, and atmospheric sections. “In The Mind Of The Last Whale” is a terrifying glimpse into devastation, and it serves as a haunting three-minute departure from Unexpect’s trademark bedlam.
While In A Flesh Aquarium was indeed a great album, there were moments that dragged along and left the listener feeling a bit lost. Not so with Fables of the Sleepless Empire. The multiple sections throughout each piece seem far more coherent and intentional, without sacrificing their unique personality. “Mechanical Phoenix” is a prime example of perfectly combining avant-garde musicality with relatable quality. Throughout the album,ChaotH’s nine-string bass playing is downright virtuosic, and improvements in production give his performances a deservedly prominent role in the mix. The synth elements are also effortlessly integrated as opposed to being thickly layered atop each stratum of lunacy.
Fables of the Sleepless Empire is a gorgeously grotesque journey into total insanity. Those craving consistency and stability would be advised to steer clear, lest they be reduced to a puddle of quivering confusion. Unexpect has improved upon their technical ability, as well as their emotional hold on the listener. This latest album is a masterful and mature release, and proves that Unexpect is a constantly evolving and irrefutably exceptional group of musicians.