Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Sleepytime Gorilla Museum of Natural History

[Web of Mimicry; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: darkwave, experimental rock, operatic metal
Others: Nick Cave, The Swans, The World Inferno Friendship Society

Like Mr. Bungle? Well here's something as frenetic, disjointed, and at times heavy as that band. The first glaring difference might be that this band is considerably less ADD afflicted. There are moments of great focus and thematic sweep. The theme speaks to a sort of new bible apocalypse, where the pages write themselves and anarchy achieves an accidental grace period. That's my read on it anyway. They're the kind of high concept heavy metal group, with a depth of orchestration usually reserved for opera. This is prog rock for the Marilyn Manson set (what's left of it). A more modern comparison would be System of a Down (bells and whistles threaten to overtake the nu-metal onslaught), but Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is infinitely more complicated. Some of the same barky, Korn type of vocals are used, but they do not always crescendo in the expected ways.

There's a moment at the end of "A Hymn to the Morning Star" that would smack of mimicry if the influence weren't so esoteric. Nonetheless, when the bass voiced singer intones "I Am the Adversary, and must remain the Adversary." I am transported immediately to The Crime & City Solution's "The Adversary" from the Until The End of the World soundtrack. It's one of those things where the similarities are so uncanny that you think that there has to be some direct correlation. But, according to the internet, the two groups are completely unrelated. Except that both the bands can be linked to The Birthday Party. While Crime & The City Solution actually had Birthday Party members in its ranks, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum are part of the trend begun by Birthday Party: that of eloquently grim theatricality applied to the raw majesty of loud, heavy rock. And, without fail, this album provides all this and much more. "Babydoctor" approaches a Birthday Party kind of bedlam, but only after eight minutes of the SGM at their most elegant and subdued.

Each of these eleven tracks take enough twists and turns as to make you forget any moments that make you narrow your eyes. The field recordings on display are some of the most curious examples of this practice since Lift yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. The discernible lyrics are incredibly silly at times ("Let us dream now, the impossible dream of a math professor"), but I suppose Metal music can get away with all kinds of hokeyness, since its twenty-some-year history is filled with "Stonehenge"-type pretentiousness. I'm sure there is some coherence to the lyrics running steadily through this release, but it plays second fiddle to the dizzyingly busy orchestral feats taking place. Sound effects and segues are implemented in a highly intuitive way, much like on a Trail of Dead album. So, perhaps the immediacy of this LP can become tempered over time with a curiosity of what Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is rambling on about.

1. A Hymn to the Morning Star
2. The Donkey-Headed Adversary of Humanity Opens the Discussion
3. Phtisis
4. Bring Back the Apocalypse
5. FC: The Freedom Club
6. Gunday's Child
7. The 17-Year Cicada
8. The Creature
9. What Shall We Do Without Us?
10. Babydoctor
11. Cockroach