FANTÔMAS — Fantômas (review)

FANTÔMAS — Fantômas album cover Album · 1999 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
aglasshouse
If you're at all familiar with famed avant-garde metal act Mr. Bungle or it's mastermind Mike Patton, then you shouldn't be at all unaware as to the contents of Fantomas. Or maybe you should. Who knows at this point.

Fantomas originates from the titular character in a 1964 French film (or the 1913 thing, whatever you please), which was directed by the late Andre Hunebelle who just so happened to be a master glass-maker. Who would have guessed? Anywho, after the group Mr. Bungle sort-of kind-of broke up in 1999 (even though, not really- 2004 about) and avant-garde fetishist Mike Patton wanted another way to oust his urges since Faith No More wasn't really cutting it. Thus, Fantomas was born from a horrifying musical Caesarean section unto the world. Seeing as the last album of Mr. Bungle (which came in the same year, 1999) had combinations of doo-wop and thrash metal, it's safe to say that whatever this 'Fantomas' thing can't exactly be called 'normal'.

A first question I asked upon first inspection of this self-titled record was, "how the hell do I listen to it?" At first glance the first connection you might draw towards is grindcore, a similar genre with very short track times as well. Don't. It's not that.

Allow me to take a moment of clarity for a second. Like any avant-garde album, criticism is hard to levy towards it. I mean, something so erratic can't be easily pinned down. Lyrical quality is of course non-existent, although I do commend Mike Patton for his impeccable variation between "KI-KI-KI-KI-KI-KI-KI" and "hyena screeching after being impaled with four spears" impression, both of which are like audio serenades. It is definitely metal, for sure. Dave Lombardo, drummer of Slayer, is of course delivers a very powerful performance (at least when he's actually on the mic), especially when the music goes full monty on the metal aspect. Other than that differentiation of bass and guitar by Trevor Dunn and Buzz Osborne is practically impossible amidst all the noise. They are rather nice when they get a minute's time to shred and hit a crazy solo.

But the aforementioned noise is the centerpiece of this. For what it is, which is practically nothing, it's well-produced. Mike Patton is a man who is very fond of nothing, such as that one time when he recorded himself for 43 minutes clapping and screaming in a hotel room in '96*. When he gets a chance to do some neat stuff, he does it rather well. Every time the album goes silent the silence feels heavy, which is a very dismal yet cathartic experience you won't find in really any other genre. The ambiance of the piece yields interesting material as well, like film audio-samples (presumably from Fantomas or films of its caliber) and other industrial noises, all which create an example of metal degradation, something I'm sure Mr. Patton was going for. Although there are many motifs in Fantomas, such as a certain falsetto that Patton does occasionally and extremely high pitched screaming, which do tend to lose their effect after a few listens.

Although I can't really pin down specific tracks that I feel most in-tune with, I won't list any others than 'Page 26', which is so eerily...evil in it's intensity. Rarely have I found any other musical pieces that have instilled genuine discomfort in me more than this particular piece. Very interesting.

All in all I apologize for the disjointedness of some of my thoughts. I am someone who likes to write reviews of music while listening to the music itself. In doing so I sometimes channel the musical nature of it into the reviews themselves. What you just read is the product of a Fantomas-laden mind, and I'm sorry. As for the album itself, I suppose it hit its mark as a discomforting or overly-pretentious production, but it doesn't really break through any boundaries past that. Is it even worth proof reading this?

*THIS IS ACTUALLY TRUE
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
This is one that took a really long time to grow on me. For me it was a 3 star album for years but then something happened. Don't listen to it much but when i do i love it :)

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