UNEXPECT — Fables of the Sleepless Empire

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UNEXPECT - Fables of the Sleepless Empire cover
4.07 | 42 ratings | 8 reviews
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Album · 2011


1. Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest (6:54)
2. Words (5:57)
3. Orange Vigilantes (4:55)
4. Mechanical Phoenix (6:55)
5. The Quantum Symphony (6:04)
6. Unfed Pendulum (7:55)
7. In the Mind of the Last Whale (2:58)
8. Silence this Parasite (5:19)
9. A Fading Stance (2:06)
10. When the Joyful Dead are Dancing (4:39)
11. Until Yet a Few More Deaths do us Part (2:05)

Total Time 55:46


- Syriak / guitars and vocals
- Leilindel / vocals
- Artagoth / guitars and vocals
- Chaoth / 9 string bass
- Landryx / drums
- Borboen / violins and alto
- Exod / keyboards and sampling

About this release

Ascendance Records, May 31st, 2011

All inside graphic work and modifications have been done by Eric Charron; Photographies by Elaine Phaneuf.

Thanks to UMUR for the addition and adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
Sonic shockwaves detonated once again a long five years after their second album “In A Flesh Aquarium” when the erratic and eclectic avant-garde musical maestros UNEXPECT simultaneously took the prog and metal communities by storm. The crazed and quirky Quebecois jugglers of supersonic entropy unleashed their followup FABLES OF THE SLEEPLESS EMPIRE which continued the forceful cross-pollination of musical genres like abducted animals that are stuffed into a meat grinder and stuffed into a sausage casing. The dizzying inaccessible mess of sound was resurrected for a second haunting like a circus of doom returning to town and unleashing intoxicated circus clowns out to destroy everything they touch with the musical equivalence of classically trained jugglers passing musical genres around like flaming chainsaws. Like it’s predecessor FABLES delivers all the goods of weaving the ultimate tapestry of several metal styles, gypsy folk, electronica and even tango amongst others and impregnates them into a Western classical underpinning that allows it all to explode into one of the most satisfying examples of controlled chaos in all of contemporary extreme musical expressions.

Infused with bombastic metal riffs and black metal shrieks, ghoulish chants or histrionic outbursts of tormented recitations, the unhinged male vocal contributions of SyriaK and Artagoth are diluted in their abrasiveness by the female vocal loveliness of Leïlindel’s folklore femininity and newbie Borboen’s Paganini flair of violin playing with a style more often reminiscent of a circus gypsy having an extremely high-octane episode. In between it all lies the unique 9-stringed bass lines of ChaotH that connect the dots but only after an enterprising journey through several progressive tornado run riffs of spirited vigor. And then add on the strange lethargic intros that ratchet up the tension while languishing in tranquil torpidity before launching into tumultuous musical terror that bombards the listener with incessant excess all the while creating just enough of a melodic hook to keep your head from exploding. Ah, uneasy listening at its zenith, UNEXPECT raise the bar of musical complexity like a pole runner carrying the Olympic torch all the way up Mt Everest in under 61 minutes.

To say the least, there is nothing to compare UNEXPECT’s music to except, of course, UNEXPECT itself. While very much in vein of “In A Flesh Aquarium,” FABLES does seem to be more focused which is neither good or bad but merely different. The main difference being in the fact that on FABLES musical motifs are allowed to retain a longer shelf life as every musical idea in the universe isn’t as prevalent as on “Aquarium” where a listening experience is equivalent to riding in the eye of a tornado and watching all the notes whizz by in utterly unpredictable ways. Here at least, despite being bombarded by the myriad mega-stimuli, there is a concerted effort to let the hooks sink in a little deeper before the ultimate uprooting and casting off into turbulent atmospheric disturbances. True to their vision with a slighty more polished touch, UNEXPECT retain the crown of most chaotic crazy and creative masters of the avant-garde metal universe. While this one took me longer to gestate in my psyche before the alien forces hatched, i find FABLES OF THE SLEEPLESS EMPIRE to be equally as brilliantly inventive as “Aquarium.” Although it would take another five years and no albums later, the capricious creative ones announced that the band would continue no longer. Now THAT was truly UNEXPECT-ed!
As with their preceding album, uneXpect once again succumb to the inclination to be avant for avant's sake without showing much thought as to how to best draw out the gems and sideline the dross of their experiments. I'm not against avant material by any stretch of the imagination - I wouldn't champion Mr Bungle to the extent that I do if I were - but in the case of uneXpect I don't think the band have learned to master a skill which Mr Bungle - and Frank Zappa, and Henry Cow in their better moments, and more or less all the greats of avant-garde rock music - show a mastery of, and that's knowing when less is more.

uneXpect delight in an overbusy style of production in which soloing is layered on top of soloing which is layered on top of vocals until you have an enormous tower of musicians all jamming away, and whilst that's technically impressive it isn't compositionally interesting because the production is so dense that it's impossible to pick out and focus on any aspect of what is happening: vocals, guitars, drums, keys, everything end up conspiring to smother each other. Too often they fail to give a particular aspect of the compositions room to breathe. It's like an oil painting which has had too many different layers of paint applied to it so that the end result is an ugly brown smudge.
"Demon of the Opera: or, Surreal Rollercoaster: or, Mercy! My head is on the edge of overheating!"

This is an intense piece of avant-garde metal. I mean INTENSE. Unexpect's third full length record is an unrelenting beast, spawned by Ascendance Records. On its musical way it has devoured such genres as klezmer music, symphonic black metal, opera, electronic, jazz, classical chamber music and some other tasty styles that stood on its way. Oh my... It seems it's about to devour... YOU!

Such a dense and complicated record requires a crystal clean production. So, if you're looking for a fuzzy sounding and discordant avant-garde, you won't find it here. FotSE is a perfectly produced album with an impeccable sound. Every instrument (vocals, violin, guitars, 9-string bass... wait, what?!) has its space in the mix and thereby is easily distinguishable in the wave of sounds this crazy bunch bombards us with.

A book could be written about the music played by Unexpect. I must admit that on the first listen I was completely overwhelmed by its diversity and intensity. While the album may seem a bit inconsistent at first, its strange coherence becomes apparent with time. Unexpect are unbelievably talented songwriters and skilled musicians. Their mix of dark cabaret ambiance, modern electronic spices, chamber orchestrations, extreme metal impetuosity and progressive virtuosity, seems to be performed without effort. While sometimes I get an impression of thematic overload, the fact that it's a well-flowing album is undeniable. Most of all though, I think there's something that makes this intricate music surprisingly accessible. It's either beautiful vocal lines by the frontwoman Leilindel or Unexpect's great talent for thrilling passages. Well, both of them I guess.

Extraordinary. Intense, intriguing, technical and... brilliant. List of adjectives goes on and on. With this fascinating creation, Unexpect has proven that virtuosity doesn't have to deprive the music of soul. That should be an important lesson for some leading prog metal bands. I can't help but admire these people, admire them for creating this exacting, surreal and emotion-provoking journey. I'm happy I've set out on it.

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 10/10[masterpiece!!!]: Words; Mechanical Phoenix; In the Mind of the Last Whale || 9/10[fantastic!]: Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest; Orange Vigilantes; The Quantum Symphony; When the Joyful Dead are Dancing; Unfed Pendulum; Until Yet a Few More Deaths do us Part || 8/10[great]: Silence this Parasite; A Fading Stance ||
Phonebook Eater

"Fables Of The Sleepless Empire" is the ultimate Avant-Garde Metal album of the last few years.

Unexpect is one of those bands that become popular because of their controversy, which in the progressive rock and metal world means something that is really, really odd sounding even for an average music lover. This Canadian outfit had received huge acclaim in the prog metal scene back in 2006 with their sophomore album "In The Flesh Aquarium", cited as one of the most avant-garde albums ever. So it was pretty hard for the band to maintain those same levels with the third album released five years later, "Fables Of The Sleepless Empire". Turns out that in quite a few ways it tops everything the band has done so far.

Unexpect, for those who aren't familiar with this band and their sound,is one of the most eclectic bands out there: they mix jazz, classical, cabaret, fusion, funk,electronic, circus music, with incredibly varied Death Metal and Avant-Garde. The result is the essence of what Avant-garde metal is today: a huge melting pot of sounds and styles, with Metal as the distinctive feature. But while in "in A Flesh Aquarium" it seemed more like they were tossing tons and tons of ideas and mixing them all together just to make some nonsense, in "Fables Of The Sleepless Empire" the music gets to a much more mature level, abandoning the few defects that the previous album had. There are definitely less ideas put together, meaning that the wild eclecticism is less highlighted, but these ideas are played so well that it becomes a good thing, if it wasn't so in the first place. Thus the music is more focused on constant time changes, so that a song is more like a continuous, mood alternated shape drifter. But overall the band hasn't changed much, they simply have a considerably more mature sound.

Some people have a problem with this band, and perhaps with the newest wave of Avant-Garde Metal, because of the apparent nonsense. I noticed that most people enjoy their Avant-Garde Metal nice and melodic, with Maudlin Of the Well or even Arcturus. As a matter of fact, this album does require a few listens to click ( personally however, I fell in love with it at my second listen), but when it does, the apparently chaotic and free associated structure of the tracks become a lot more logical, in a way. Also, these few listens will unfold the album's true beauty and fragility, just like if it were an authentic huge diamond.

These 55 minutes are greatly structured, in a way that the chaotic moments won't overwhelm the listener too much and get eventually bored. Amazing songs can be found in this masterpiece, starting from the opening track "Unsolved Ideas Of A Distorted Guest", which, together with the following track "Words" and "Mechanical Phoenix", is one of the hardest songs to follow, but it turns out to be the best of the album. The following track does follow the same structure as the first song, but it uses much more violin, making full of softer moods. But they are easier songs to follow, like "Orange Vigilantes" and "Unfed Pendulum", both of them I consider one of the best Avant-Garde Metal songs out there, together with the first track. Like in "In The Flesh Aquarium" they are shorter songs(fillers?), but all of them are concentrated in the second part of the album, and are alternated with slightly longer tracks such as "Silence This Parasite", the most dense song off the LP. Even these interludes are beautifully executed, and I enjoy listening to them just as much as the other songs.

"Fables Of The Sleepless Empire" is probably going to be my pick for number one prog/metal album of the year. This LP is the ultimate Avant-Garde Metal album of the last few years, changing the definition itself of the genre.
With the legendary In a Flesh Aquarium from 2006, Unexpect proved that they were one of the most unique bands on the extreme metal scene. Finding even one other band that creates a concoction of a death metal, progressive rock, avant-garde, classical, jazz, and theatrical antics with as much finesse as this Canadian outfit is a near-impossible task, and with Fables of the Sleepless Empire the band once again shows their relevance as a force to be reckoned with in the avant-garde metal universe. Fables of the Sleepless Empire is one hell of a weird album, and the extremely difficult compositions can take even the most dedicated listeners quite a few spins to completely grasp. The genre-defying stylistic traits of the album are strange enough, but the seemingly unorganized and frantic compositions can take a long time to unveil themselves. It's all worth it in the end though, and Fables of the Sleepless Empire eventually will come across as one of 2011's shining achievements. If not one of the best albums you'll hear this year, this is surely among one of the most unique.

After the briefly hypnotic intro of "Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest", Unexpect dives head-first into wacky avant-metal craziness, complete with funky basslines, eclectic vocal styles, and frantic arrangements. Fables of the Sleepless Empire continues in a similar fashion throughout its entire 56 minute duration - lots of fast-paced genre hopping, yet it always comes across as coherent and well-done. This may seem like a sporadic and random punch in the face during your first one or two listens, but Fables of the Sleepless Empire slowly unravels its subtle beauty over time, until every song comes across as a well-composed work of art. I'd actually consider that to be Fables of the Sleepless Empire's greatest achievement. Its ability to be frantic, chaotic, and brutal in nature, yet still coherent and beautiful is simply unmatched by anyone else in modern avant-garde metal. The strangely beautiful connotations of a song like "The Quantum Symphony" is exactly what makes Fables of the Sleepless Empire such an indispensably amazing album. Factor in the top-notch musicianship and crystal-clear production, and you have a winner on all fronts.

I'll be completely honest when I say that it's rare to come across an album this weird, technical, and chaotic that actually works. Unexpect's tremendous talent as songwriters makes Fables of the Sleepless Empire work not only as a vehicle for their odd arrangements, but it also lets the album come across as a modern musical masterpiece. Fans of wacky avant-metal should hear this one as soon as possible, and I'd easily consider this one of 2011's standout releases. 4.5 stars are warranted for such a tremendous achievement. This isn't for everybody, to be sure, but those who crave something extremely far-distanced from your average prog metal release should label this as an essential acquisition.
It's kinda sad that by this album's rating, this review is taking down its average score. Don't get me wrong, this is one of my favorite albums of 2011, I just think it has a flaw (if you want to call it that) that's a bit too large to over-look and rate it any higher.

The flaw I've been talking about was basically just half of the album. I feel like the first (let's just use "In The Mind Of The Last Whale" as a divider) half of the album is much better than the second. My favorite songs being "Words," "Orange Vigilantes," and "Mechanical Phoenix," it's kind of hard to call the two halves equal. Don't get me wrong, the second half is not bad by any stretch, I just think the first half is so well-done it's sad to see the second half fall in comparison. I'd probably give part 1 a 4.5, but part 2 (keep in mind there are no parts to this album, just making this up) a 3.5, hence the 4/5 rating.

To just talk about the music for a moment, if you don't like avant-garde, I would avoid this one. As sad as it seems, I have seen people call this album "clown trash trying to be technical" and whatnot. It's just not up everyone's alley, I suppose. I will not deny that it's a weird one, indeed, but it's not a factor that turns me off to music. If anything, I absolutely love the innovation. Stuff like violins in metal, when used correctly, can be so beautiful, but still had to the whole metal feel. This band knows what they're doing, I know for a fact. Truly great musicians making original music.

If you're not scared of blackened death thrash progressive melodic heavy classical dark operatic medieval jazz funk electro ambient noise gypsy circus metal, I would definitely pick this one up. If you have no idea if this genre is for you, then I'd definitely say give it a shot! Just brace yourself for the odd ride to come.
Conor Fynes
'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire' - UneXpect (10/10)

In 2006, a band from Quebec quietly released an album that has since become the standard for avant-garde extreme metal. The band was UneXpect, and the album was 'In A Flesh Aquarium', a chaotic masterpiece which shocked many a listener for its uncompromisingly original take on metal, and complexity that bordered on insanity. Putting this band on the map with that album, it was natural for expectations (and tension) to be set very high for the release of the follow-up. The first months of 2011 were filled with apprehension for UneXpect's third record, given the aptly surreal title 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire'. Although many bands tend to cave under the pressure of releasing an album that tops their magnum opus, UneXpect proves here that not only are they able to hold their fire, but are only getting more fierce. Although I had no problem calling 'In A Flesh Aquarium' a masterpiece even after many listens, it takes an album like 'Fables' to show me how flawed the band's second work really was. Maturing and consolidating their incredibly unique sound, UneXpect has once again raised the bar, and simply stated; created one of the most mind-boggling metal albums to have been released in quite a few years.

It's not that UneXpect have changed up their sound all too much from 'In A Flesh Aquarium'; their style is still technical, fiendishly complex, convoluted, and quirky as all hell. What does take 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire' up to the next step in the band's evolution however is the fact that they have noticeably matured their sound from the sophomore. For all of its brilliance, 'In A Flesh Aquarium' was still quite a silly album that often sounded like it was trying to be 'avant' for the sake alone of being avant-garde and weird. Here, UneXpect sounds like they are trying to put together more cohesive compositions, with clearer melodies and greater dynamic between the chaotic tech sections and 'beautiful' passages. Remarkably, UneXpect has done this at no loss of weirdness or depth; 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire' remains an incredibly challenging listen, especially to a listener who does not have the precedent of 'In A Flesh Aquarium' to fall back on.

Also, much of the tongue-in-cheek circus music which defined the second album for some is gone here, in the favour of more serious fusion sounds. Most notably among the non- metal sounds on 'Fables' is the often classically-nuanced violin work of Borboen, who gives the string section a strong foothold on the sound. Often when the guitars and mind-blowing bass work are blistering riff after riff of avant-garde madness, the violin grounds the band with a sense of near-gothic class. Musically, each member is at the top of their game, and after many listens to 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire', it is difficult not to see these musicians as some of the best to have ever come out of the metal scene. Of special note is the bass work of Chaoth, whose fury with the 9 string bass is nearly unparalleled. Although the bass guitar is often lost in the mix of much rock music, the bass makes itself very prominent, especially in the most technical of 'Fables's instrumentations.

Vocally, the vocals may be the least remarkable aspect of what UneXpect has to offer, but also the greatest point of derision among prospective listeners. Featuring a variety of different growls, rasps, guttural vocals and even harmonies between these, the vocals are as over the place as the instruments, which can certainly be an acquired taste for some. However, these are placed in tandem with some clean vocals, occasionally falling to some low clean male vocals, but most often being placed on the unique alto voice of Leilindel. Due to the highly erratic chaos of the instruments and growls, she is left to defend most the melodic aspect from being overrun by the chaos, and for the most part, she holds her own, her jazz-affected vocal work swinging around the towers of guitars, bass, electronic samples and classical violin.

The songwriting here can be said to rest at the level of genius, even if it were only for the sheer amount of ideas and complexity that Syriak and company are able to push into each song. However, 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire' reaches its level of near-perfection by the fact that each idea flows incredibly well into the next; each song is a condensed fury of ideas that each come at the listener with remarkable energy and context. Even with 'Unsolved Ideas Of A Distorted Guest' featuring ideas as disparate as a Celtic-tinged bass and violin intro to an electronic dance break, it all works perfectly, tied together by the melodic vocal work and dynamic ebb and flow that runs throughout the album. The last three tracks may have made more sense to have been combined into one track (as they make a running suite of music), but overall, 'Fables' runs and flows quite smoothly.

Regardless, 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire' is an album that I would have new things to say about each time I listen to it; it's rare to hear such a wealth of ideas piled into fifty minutes, let alone to have things sound so well-arranged and cohesive. Although it may not have the shock value of such a groundbreaking album as 'In A Flesh Aquarium', it is certainly a fair step above its predecessor, taking the existing style of UneXpect, trimming the fat, and fashioning an experience that is detailed enough to present a constantly developing experience to the dedicated listener. Although I never tend to say this for new albums, it took me quite a few embroiled listens to realize that 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire' is right up there with the other landmarks of progressive metal.

Members reviews

Here is another big adventure in the world of Unexpect, where you can expect the unexpect... Every twist in theirs songs is like a big surprise, metal meet jazz, circus music, classical in a atmosphere impossible to describe. The sounds are jumping right off the instruments, like a joyful dance. The music is going in many directions, but the melody is there, in a way that no one band can do. This band is a heavier version of Diablo Swing Orchestra and Estradasphere with the proportion of a big metal opera. Their music is at times joyful and light, violent and dark in the same song. The use of death vocals are done in a way that it goes perfectly with the music without ruining the melody. The vocals are like another intrument that give new dimension to the songs. The use of violin is interesting here, but not as much as the bass, guitar and drum playing who he's incredible. To appreciate this music, you have to pay attention to details, and not doing something else while you put this cd on. if you are looking for someting different, with a lot of insanity and imagination, you will love this band. After listening to this cd many times, i don't know if i will be able to appreciate Dream Theater again...

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