Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History
Definitely one of the better avant-garde albums I have heard. The amount of tension this band creates with instrumentation is pretty unreal; it helps settle a truly dark mood. And as some people think the lyrics sound forced, I actually enjoy them quite a lot.
The lyrics tend to have a deeper meaning to them. Take for example "The Creature." This song has a blatantly obvious reference to politics, I think. But even if it is obvious, it does not take away anything from the song. I usually do like when symbolism is not up for interpretation for I see, and I quote the great Devin Townsend, "People going up their own ass." Besides the political themes that travel through the album, the lyrics also help create that atmosphere I like so much. Not only the lyrics, but just the vocals themselves, too. "A Hymn To The Morning Star" shows the range they have and it just makes the album feel that much more unique. "Phthisis" also shows off the talents of Carla as her voice definitely fits the album perfectly. There is definitely a group of talented singers doing the vocals for this album as they know what they're doing.
The band uses their fair share of wacky time signatures, but the way they use them has been so different than what I've heard before...in a good way! Usually when I hear an odd time signature it's just to add some complexity in the music. Sure, I guess you could say that they're doing this too, but what I love about the way they use the time signatures is the tension it builds. Like in "Phthisis," when they skip a beat, for some reason these small details make the album that much more solid for me. It helps create the atmosphere they were looking for, no doubt. Also another thing to take note on is that they don't sound forced. I see bands adding time signatures just for the sake of being complicated and those are usually the type of bands I try to avoid. It just doesn't sound good when you try and make some wacky polyrhythm, it just should come naturally in the unfolding of the music.
I am also quite a big fan of the instrumentation of the album. The use of instruments like the glockenspiel and the xylophone help to that tense atmosphere I keep going back to as it gives a sense of atmosphere. The array of percussion instruments is also a nice touch and is certainly welcomed in the album. As, of course, there are guitars, bass, and drums, they don't take as big of a role as other metal bands. As of course these instruments are used often, they just feel like they compliment the rest of the band, not so much that they ARE the band (as most metal is).
Overall, I really have nothing bad to say about the album; I love everything about it. I have heard complaints that there is too much filler and ambience, but for me that helps the tone further. Plus, the album is fairly lengthy, I think they have some leg-room to just create some haunting aura. If it was a Cynic album, then maybe I would be a bit more concerned they were filling the album with pure ambience. My personal favorites are "The Creature" and "The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion," even though I don't think there is one song that I would consider to be a disappointment. All of them are good in their own unique way and help catapult this album to a 4 star rating from me.