UNEXPECT — In a Flesh Aquarium

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UNEXPECT - In a Flesh Aquarium cover
3.88 | 36 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2006


1. Chromatic Chimera (5:52)
2. Feasting Fools (6:17)
3. Desert Urbania (7:30)
4. Summoning Scenes (7:46)
5. Silence 011010701 (5:14)
6. Megalomaniac Trees (5:57)
7. The Shiver: Another Dissonant Chord (3:00)
8. The Shiver: Meet Me at the Carrousel (4:08)
9. The Shiver: A Clown's Mindtrap (3:41)
10. Psychic Jugglers (11:10)

Total Time: 60:39


- Leïlindel / vocals
- SyriaK / vocals, guitar, piano on "Psychic Jugglers”
- Artagoth / vocals, guitar
- ExoD / keyboard, piano, sampling
- Le Bateleur / violin
- ChaotH / 7 and 9 string bass guitar
- Landryx / drums

Additional Musicians:

- Amélie Blanchette / clarinet on "Psychic Jugglers”
- Nathalie Duchesne / additional violin and cello on "Summoning Scenes", "The Shiver", and "Psychic Jugglers”
- Stéphanie Colerette / additional violin and cello on "Summoning Scenes", "The Shiver", and "Psychic Jugglers”
- Benjamin Proulx-Mathers / saxophone on "Megalomaniac Trees"

About this release

The End Records, August 22nd, 2006

Thanks to NecronCommander for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

This Montreal band uneXpect must rank near the top of weird albums in my collection. I stumbled across them on MMA while checking out top-ranking Canadian albums, which included mostly Rush and Devin Townsend. I had never heard of uneXpect and decided to give them a listen. Whoa-ho! I knew right away that this band was going to be a challenge to listen to. So I bought “In a Flesh Aquarium” partly because it was their highest rated album and also because it was the only album available on Amazon in Japan for a normal price. Someone is selling the “wE Invaders” EP for something like $2,500!

First, if you don’t already know, uneXpect are essentially an avant-garde metal band that combines thrash, black, progressive and symphonic metal styles with a bit of traditional metal thrown in. Add to that some excellent classical piano used frequently and some violin with strong gypsy music tendencies, and some industrial sounds sprinkled with bits of circus type music and a trio of voices that are comprised of clean female vocals and male vocals that go from growls and snarls to shouts and System of a Down-like Tasmanian Devil whatevers. And now perhaps you can begin to imagine what this band must sound like.

There is simply nothing in my collection that comes close to this although if this album were a mountain peak then partway up we might find bands like Suspyre, Disillusion, Dark Suns, or even a bit of Haken. When the mood gets mellower with piano and touches of industrial, and female vocalist Leïlindel sings slowly and clearly, I’m reminded a bit of some White Willow. I’ve read reviews elsewhere that mention bands like Arcturus, Ulver and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, so if you’re familiar with those (I’m not) you might also have a clue about uneXpect’s sound here.

It’s not easy to describe the songs or the music well. All the styles I mentioned about are mostly mixed together in nearly every song. The image that comes to my mind most often is a kind of horror puppet show where the scary puppets look like they are ready to slice your face open but are actually just having fun singing their bizarre songs. Maybe like a “Nightmare Before Christmas” deal without any suggestion of cute or adorable spooks. There’s a feeling of insanity and intensity as the songs careen from musical passage to passage, often changing in only four bars. You can have a symphonic metal segment that is threatening to veer into thrash while a tasteful piano plays along or a quick exchange of shouts and growls while a violin swings and swerves over blasting double bass drum kicks and some progressive guitar riff is flying out like bats from a cave at dusk. A song may suddenly break into a bass solo, a violin solo, a piano solo, a frantic sax solo, a circus music segment, an eastern European folk bit, or absolute chaos and cacophony. Then you might abruptly get a dose of intense metal polka swiftly followed by voices calling and chanting, or some other seemingly incongruous and totally unexpected musical motif. For about 4 to 8 bars. Then it changes again.

It might sound like complete swill and truthfully to some people it does. Ratings I encountered went anywhere from praising this album to blue heaven with upwards of 92% scoring, to middle ground ratings with comments about some excellent songs and several failed efforts, to the album being a complete heap of rubbish. Some reviewers claimed the band had tried too hard to be avant-garde and simply thrown haphazardly together a grocery list of ingredients. Others say it is all done well but doesn’t sound original. As for my opinion, I find the album an excellent listen in part because it’s so crazy but also because the actual playing is achingly top notch and it is incredible that so many different sounds can be woven together to make an insanely wild collection of music. I admit that at moments I wish the vocals wouldn’t sound so much like a death comedy musical, but on the other hand, that’s part of the charm of the album.

Regarding the individual songs, I’ve read people praising “Chromatic chimera”, “Desert Urbania” and “Psychic Jugglers” but being less kind to other tracks. I actually found things to like in every track, including the sometimes maligned “Feasting Fools” and overlooked “Summoning Scenes”. Special mention should also go to “Silence 011010701” for its industrial sound and powerful symphonic conclusion.

This is not an album for everybody. There are no “Living After Midnight” sing-a-longs on here. It’s intense, ultra-busy, and possibly even exhausting. It might take to you ten listens to enjoy or only one. Or you might hate it. I’m rather impressed with it and can enjoy playing the album from front to back or pulling selected tracks off for daily mixed playlists. If possible, I’d like to get one of their two other albums. Hail to the mad marionette musical masters of Montreal!
siLLy puPPy
Like a musical Frankenstein where vast amounts of musical ideas are sown together ever so carefully with the greatest of diligence until one day they emerge from the lab as a completely different organism all together. This album intrigued me from the getgo and after several good years of listening to this I have to conclude that this is one of the most unique and demanding avant-prog extreme metal releases that I have ever had the pleasure of focusing my attention on. Far from the chaos that many write this off as after an initial listen, this music is indeed a complex and structured musical edifice.

IN A FLESH AQUARIUM has the density of a black hole while providing layers of accessibility all strung together and then like a wormhole taking you to completely different galaxies at the speed of light with occasional oxygen breaks for sanity's sake. This album demands constant attention in order to follow the succession of a plethora of sounds and ideas that come and go like a school of fleeing fish chased by a band of hungry barracudas. One listen or even twenty will hardly suffice to grasp this demanding project that is perhaps one of the most complex pieces in all of rock history being more akin to ambitious symphonies by classical legends like Prokofiev or Rachmaninoff in terms of complexity than anything in rock, metal or most of the other genres they use to weave this sonic masterpiece.

UNEXPECT is a breath of fresh air in a musical world that tends to favor complacency over completely unfettered artistic expression and evolution. They expand their sonic tentacles into so many musical genres and reel them in until they become so intertwined in their configuration that just like physical chemistry they have fused enough different particles together so successfully that it could now be considered a new element on the musical equivalent of the periodic table. What do we call this strange musical beast in which lies the sum of various parts including progressive, technical death, black and melodic metal as well as classical, dark cabaret, opera, jazz, funk, electro, ambient, noise, circus and gypsy music? Just like a newly synthesized element that tends to go under a generic name, we have no vocabulary and simply call it avant-garde metal although experimental eclectic metal might be slightly closer to describing this sonic stew.

This is quite the treasure trove for the musical ambitious (and lovers of 9-stringed basses) and guaranteed to intrigue and bewilder. To surprise and perplex. It has the brutal aggressiveness of death metal while it also has the sweet sensual vocals of Leilindel and melodic violins. It is contrast. It is a musical federation. It is utter madness that is domesticated but not tamed. Fiercely independent and proud, UNEXPECT went where no other band was looking. Although other bands have tried to incorporate so many genres, few have succeeded. Mr. Bungle certainly achieved that lofty feat but precious few other bands have managed the successful amalgamation that constitutes a separate species. UNEXPECT have emerged as a band with an ambition that actually surpasses that of Bungle and pulls it off for those patient enough to explore the intricacies of this demanding and seemingly inaccessible fusionfest. Highly recommended for those who love a musical 3-ring circus of the 21st century which continues to reward the listener in as many different ways as the sounds incorporated in its mix.
uneXpect's In a Flesh Aquarium is even harder to review than the most avant-garde works of Mr Bungle and Frank Zappa (the two primary influences on their music that I can detect). As with Henry Cow's In Praise of Learning, the band's dedication to experimentalism above all other considerations has resulted in an album which is highly inaccessible - and whilst some listeners may find the effort to penetrates its mysteries to be a rewarding one, others may feel that it's too much effort for too little benefit. In short, this is one of those albums where you really shouldn't pay attention to any reviews: track down some samples and listen to them, you'll know if you want to explore further.
Conor Fynes
'In A Flesh Aquarium' - uneXpect (9/10)

Among all of my musical travels, I have not quite come across either a band quite like uneXpect (sic) or an album quite like their sophomore 'In A Flesh Aquarium'. They have a weird, nightmarish sound that has since become my quickest association whenever I hear the term 'avant-garde metal' being passed about. One part technical, one part dramatic, and ten to twenty parts weird, uneXpect creates a record with 'In A Flesh Aquarium' that is incredibly fun, yet also one of the most challenging records I have ever heard. A lasting contradiction in virtually every way, the fact alone that uneXpect leaves this reviewer at a loss for words should be testament enough to its quality. A sheer masterpiece in originality and exploration of chaos, 'In A Flesh Aquarium' is an unforgettable experience, for better or worse.

When attempting to describe the music here, labels truly elude. Is it thrash metal? Death metal, symphonic metal, even industrial metal in parts? Even the somewhat pedestrian term 'clown metal' seeks to explain the strange, yet utterly distinctive style that uneXpect plays, but I think the best way to discuss the music of this enigmatic ensemble would be to simply call their music 'avant-garde metal', in every sense of the word. There is not a track or minute that goes by that won't raise the eyebrow of even an adventurous listener on his first time through. Jazzy, pummeling bass licks and gypsy-tinged violins make up the highlight of this band's sound, but for the most part, the music is driven by an eclectic range of metal guitar styles, going from the rapid pacing of thrash chugging, to atonal jazz leads to higher register riffs and even some black metal sounds. The vocals are even more diverse, with both male and female clean singing through and harmonizing, and a host of different 'unclean' growlers rasping their way through some incredibly surreal and nonsensical lyrics.

The tone of the album is very dark throughout, but it is done in a playful way. In this sense, 'In A Flesh Aquarium' is much like a cult classic comedy; suited only for very specific tastes, but the tastes it does adhere to will be certain to blow some minds. Each track here maintains the same playfully malefic vibe to it, but different things are employed in each. 'Feasting Fools' is a highly thrash oriented tune, whereas the most memorable and unsettling piece 'Desert Urbania' is a piece of dark metal with roots placed in dramatic theater and gypsy music. Lastly, the epic 'Psychic Jugglers' could easily be seen as an orchestral piiece set to some twisted theatrical work for stage, making little narrative sense through the poetic yet somewhat overindulgent lyrics, but piecing dramatic effect together through the musical intensity. One issue that robs 'In A Flesh Aquarium' of its seeming inhuman perfection though is the general lack of inconsistency throughout some of the tracks here. Especially during the three part suite 'The Shiver', the music feels as if it loses some of the same majesty it first had with the first three pieces that opened up this album. Despite not being entirely mind blowing and brilliant throughout though, the sheer brilliance and unbelievable quality of the album's majority make it an undeniable masterpiece in my eye.

Make no mistake; 'In A Flesh Aquarium' is not an album for everyone, and many will find themselves turned off by the wickedly bombastic and strange direction of this crazy band. Dare to explore somewhat far into this mad realm however, and one might find some beautiful insanity waiting for them.
Avant-Metal Madness.and Brilliance for the 21st century Unexpect's _In a Flesh Aquarium_ is the album I reach for when I'm showing off the most (insert either challenging or f'd-up here) music in my collection. Because I think that despite the incredible insanity of their sound, this is indeed music, not random chaos. There are many extreme and avant bands that descend into noise, including my boyhood favorite Mr. Bungle. While Unexpect is probably more intense, more virtuosic (excepting the vocals, Patton is king of avant vox), heavier, and simply throws more into the boiling pot than Bungle, their music actually seems more composed. Envision Magma, Bungle, and Death rolled into one.

This band consists of 7 regular members and 4 guest musicians on this album. Three members contribute vocals, most prominently a female voice and a male growl voice, but there are also multiple short choral bursts in the gothic / Carmina Burana style found on Magma records. There is a permanent violinist, with 2 of the guests playing additional strings. While there are plenty of metal- flavored passages, there are also circus-swing bits, ambient sections, and even some electronica. Many of the lyrics are indecipherable but those with clarity are often graphic.

Anyone who has worked in very fast or very intense music knows that it is easy for the music to sound very much the same after a while if you're not careful. Once you've combined everything at once, what's left to bring up the intensity? Again, Unexpect navigates this well. They manage to impart each song with its own identity, and offer frequent, though brief, periods for the listener to come up for air. In fact, the album opens fairly linearly (for this band) and doesn't truly descend into the pummeling layers of over-stimulated intensity until 0:54. And as it turns out, the last 3 songs on the record are the most accessible. Smart planning.

Each of the musicians have chops to spare, and I suspect at most are formally trained in modern musical forms. This is just not music that could be pulled off by self-taught players. The interplay between the instruments is dissonant, angular, and the sounds are all over each other, but it's all very calculated and intentional. In that way, this is perhaps the proggiest of all extreme metal works. Similarly, this is music that demands your full attention, and still leaves you exhausted. You have to be in the right mood to grab this album, but nothing is going to scratch that itch like this.

Like many albums on this site, this is not for everyone. But if you have a taste for avant and metal, this may be the apex. Of all the spawn that went wriggling into the night after the roar of Mr. Bungle's appearance, Unexpect grew into the biggest monster.

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