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Fantomas - Suspended Animation

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Artist: Fantomas

Album: Suspended Animation

Label: Ipecac

Review date: Apr. 27, 2005

If you aren’t already a Fantomas fan, chances are you never will be. Bandleader Mike Patton is one of the most polarizing figures in music today; any one of his projects is likely to be met with equal parts fawning and derision. His considerable vocal prowess often annoys as much as it impresses, and his label is a clearinghouse of goof-metal n’er-do-wells. So is Patton a charlatan or a genius? While Suspended Animation doesn’t exactly settle the question, it’s shitloads of fun trying to find out.

An about face from the spookshow ambience of their last offering Delerium Cordia, the new disc finds the band getting back to their slice ’n dice roots. The more visceral approach is refreshing, but Fantomas haven’t exactly re-invented their wheel. As one might expect, speed, brutality and Morricone-esque flourishes form the album’s basic building blocks. Guttural guitars and titanic drums claw, tear and pummel, while Patton’s rhythmic growls and eerie melodies provide texture and occasional direction. It's pretty much business as usual, but there does seem to be greater attention paid to detail this time around.

It shouldn’t come as too much as a surprise that Suspended Animation is inspired by cartoon music, particularly the work of Warner Brothers court composer Carl Stalling. Patton has been beating this horse since the early days of Bungle, perhaps at the behest of his overlord John Zorn. Nevertheless, the concept still works, mostly because guitarist Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins tears into the material like a psychotic 2-year-old on a meth binge. Slayer’s Dave Lombardo furiously bashes away at his kit, showing surprising nuance when the situation demands it. Jazz mutant Trevor Dunn fills out whatever spaces are left with mostly subsonic bass splats. Grotesque noir passages and curdled screams tie the room together, while goofy samples from antiquated animated features pop up intermittently.

It’s pointless to mention any of the 30 tracks specifically, as the record comprises the days of the weeks in the month of April. It’s better just to strap in and stare at the wall. Grown-ups – i.e., those who have long grown tired of Mike Patton’s trickster routine – will probably roll their eyes. That’s a shame, because Suspended Animation is as exhilarating as any other spazz-core CD currently on the shelves.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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