Monday, December 31, 2007

The Fantomas -- Director's Cut

These renditions of famous cult film themes belong in a dimension all their own.
In many ways, "The Director's Cut" is the most accessible Fantomas album-- certainly it has more coherent song structures and actual lyric singing as opposed to soley vocalizations (although there's a healthy dose of that too). It’s also in many ways the best of the rather intriguing Fantomas catalog. Brainchild of vocalist Mike Patton, Fantomas is a band in the style of John Zorn's Naked City (in the archives) -- effortlessly moving between genres and sounds with a hardcore metal feel to hold things together, but unlike Naked City's "Radio" style of dial turning short bursts and the long songs, this has more of a coherent feel per track basis. This allows a listener unfamiliar with this sort of style the chance to find something to latch onto-- one of the things that can make Fantomas' work difficult is that the style shifts when you're getting the hang of it, this one is a bit more coherent, style shifts have more palpable melodies to work with-- from the opening notes of 'The Godfather,' (quiet Italian melodies that quickly burn away into a precision battery of Death Metal prowess...) to the earthy and turntable-fied take on Lynch's 'Twin Peaks: Fire walk With Me,' you get all pistons firing and all facets shining of Fantomas's demented and hair-raising theatrics.

The meat of this is Lombardo's drumming and Patton's voice. As always, the man is unbelievably protean- few lyrics on this, but his vocal dynamics swing (effortlessly) from blood-curdling (The Golem) scream to ominously childlike- little-girl childlike at that- sing-song(Rosemary's Baby). In 'Cape Fear' he uses his shrieks as the string section of that film's classic theme- it works PERFECTLY! At times Patton works lines from the film into the music to add to the all-out creepy aesthetic, like where he chants "IT's EITHER YOUR OR THEM... you or them..." On the atmospheric rendering of 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,' and the obvious terror of, "What have they done to it's eyes!?!" from Rosemary's Baby. There are a few tracks that fall short, where the theatrics come off as corny rather than threatening. 'Vendetta' sounds more like a Scooby Doo chase sequence. And 'Spider Baby' brings Rob Zombie to mind... ugh... Their take on the Ave Satani in 'The Omen,' is blistering speed metal. Der Golem is slower sluggish metal crawl- which works considering the subject matter. 'Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion,' really grows on you, with it's circular progression and cries of "BLAGH!" it reminds me of Disco Volante. 'Charade,' is an excellent closer that veers from eloquent singing to jittery medicine-man gibberish and madness.

One other thing about Fantomas that bears mention-- they're traditionally an over-the-top band, with theaterical elements in the music heavily emphasized, this album is no exception, take the middle of the album, with the totally over-the-top "Cape Fear", "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Devil Rides Out" covers. And Patton skips track 13, just in case sonic theatrics was not enough. Although nothing will probably compare to the intonation Patton pulls out for "The Omen (Ave Satani)"-- so theatrical as to border on goofy, but somehow it manages to work. Overall, this is a superb (if a bit short) album, definitely worth checking out for the sheer yell of it.

1. The Godfather 2. Der Golem 3. Experiment In Terror 4. One Step Beyond
5. Night Of The Hunter (Remix) 6. Cape Fear 7. Rosemary's Baby
8. The Devil Rides Out (Remix) 9. Spider Baby 10. The Omen (Ave Satani)
11. Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer 12. Vendetta 13. Untitled
14. Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion 15. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
16. Charade


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