Is it prog? Is it metal? Is it avant-garde? No, it’s Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Honestly, this groundbreaking album is so diverse and unclassifiable that it really fits into none of these categories, yet is made up of elements that make each genre so intriguing. It’s been a while since I have heard a recording so savage and heavy one-minute, yet intricate and gentle the next, but this CD does, and quite well for that matter.
The vocal styles of guitarist Nils Frykdahl and violin/keyboard player Carla Kihlstedt are so completely different that the contrasts are almost shocking. “Sleep is Wrong” contains some heavy and complex guitar riffing, as well as a gruff lead vocal from Nils that would make some of the young singers from nu-metal bands like Disturbed or Static-X proud. The band opts for a similar aggressive approach on “Ambugaton”, yet foregoes lyrics for a complex instrumental workout not unlike the current King Crimson recordings. A great example of the jarring contrast is “Ablutions”, a bizarre piece featuring the lead vocals of Carla plus all sorts of percussion and odd instruments. At once I am reminded of Thinking Plague, Henry Cow, or even Frank Zappa, in that the band combines general weirdness with superior musical prowess. The band resorts to a full-on metal assault for the driving “1997” featuring the muscular guitar licks and “go for the jugular” vocals of Nils Frykdahl. To say that this style has mainstream potential for the band is a severe understatement. Take “Powerless” for example. Starting off rather meekly featuring a myriad of instruments and a pounding bass line, the tune then breaks into a furiously heavy number featuring both Nils and Carla on vocals. Over the songs nine-minutes, it shifts from nimble instrumentation to all out hard rock assault, and carries an important lyrical message that we just might be powerless to change our fate. The same formula can also be heard on “The Stain” and “Sleepytime”, where the thinking mans metal of System of a Down or Faith No More meets the ethnic counterpoint madness of modern day King Crimson. The CD ends with almost eight minutes of exotic Autoharp and chimes on “Sunflower”, in complete contrast to the violent outburst that led things off.
Besides the fact that this is one serious collection of unique music, the CD packaging is quite a fascinating read on the museum that the band name was taken from. It all makes for an enjoyable experience, and one that has potential to appeal to a wide audience.