After the release of FANTÔMAS last full-length offering “Delìrivm Cordìa,” many fans complained that there simply was not enough going on. It was too ambient, minimalist, quiet and passive. Although I’m going to go ahead and whole-heartedly disagree with those people, their criticism is not unfounded. With “Delìrivm Cordìa,” it looked like FANTÔMAS was heading in a more minimalist direction, perhaps en route to becoming another one of those new-fangled sound-collage acts. Well, with the release of “Suspended Animation,” FANTÔMAS smash that notion to bits with a twenty pound sledgehammer and then proceed to jam the jagged remains into your eyes as punishment for even thinking such a thing.
Now, this is the part of the review where it would be customary to talk about the super group nature of the band and sing the praises of every member involved. I’m not going to do that, though, since I really feel that with this release FANTÔMAS has even further solidified their nature as a band rather than just another of Mike Patton’s many projects. With five releases under their collective belt, it’s time that the band gets out of the perpetual side project shadow and fans can read a review without having to sit through another comparison to THE MELVINS or SLAYER. Anyway, with that said, on to the album…
“Suspended Animation” is inspired by cartoon music, chocked full of samples that anyone who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons will recognize. You’ve got bits of the Looney Tunes theme here and there, the sounds of Wiley E. Coyote slamming into the bottom of a cliff over there and even a Bugs Bunny quote. The samples mix seamlessly with FANTÔMAS’ patented brand of Avantgarde Metal, meshing bits of rhythmic noise, Thrash, Grind and whatever else the band feels like playing…even lounge! In addition to Buzz’s guitar, Trevor’s bass, Dave’s percussion and Patton’s arsenal of sounds and samples, the band also utilizes children’s instruments such as a toy piano and a Speak-N-Spell, making for quite disturbing results. The juxtaposition of childlike innocence with violent Metal gives “Suspended Animation” a really creepy vibe, kind of like that little cartoon girl with the huge smile and the equally huge butcher knife hidden behind her back.
You’ve probably noticed that the tracklist on this record is a little strange. Just like the first FANTÔMAS record, “Suspended Animation” has thirty tracks all organized around a specific theme, with the theme this time around being the month of April. Each day gets its own song and the album comes packaged in a cool little day calendar with art done by Japanese pop artist Yoshitomo Nara. On each page of the calendar, each day gets an illustration as well as a list of the little-known holidays that fall on that day. Did you know that April 6th is Plan Your Epitaph Day? Or that April 13th is Blame Somebody Else Day? How about April 27th, National Scoop the Poop Day? Major kudos go to Yoshitomo Nara and FANTÔMAS for putting together this packaging, as it completely complements both the sound and contents of the album.
So, let’s review. “Suspended Animation,” a concept album about the month of April, finds FANTÔMAS playing cartoon-influenced Metal using traditional instruments as well as children’s toys. Right there is enough to make the album awesome, but FANTÔMAS goes one step further – they make the music incredibly awesome. Really, this has to be heard to be fully understood, as no review can adequately capture the intrinsic awesomeness of, well, “didderlerdidderlerdidderler.” Anyone who likes the band would do good to pick this up, as would anyone who wants to push their boundaries a bit. Scratch that – a lot. For me, it’s early, but this might just be album of the year. (Online June 14, 2005)