Fantomas - Fantomas ©1999 Ipecac Recordings
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How about that. An all-star band that hardly has any similarity whatsoever to any of the bands its members come from. Fantômas is the brain-child of Mike Patton, most known for his years with Faith No More and Mr Bungle. With him he has fellow Mr. Bungleroo Trevor Dunn to handle bass duties, Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins for the six-stringed thingy, and Dave "That guy from Slayer" Lombardo to fill up the drumseat.

So what are we presented with here then? Thrash-metal played in slow-assed Melvins style? Nope. Crooning ala Faith No More's cover of "Easy"? Hell no! If I were to compare these guys to anyone, it'd be Melt-Banana, though these guys hop around a lot more. And, of course, Mike Patton doesn't sound like a squeaky duck. Not constantly anyways. He does, however, shy away from the clean singing which most people might want from him. There's hardly any words at all on this album, instead he goes for the sound-making that took place on much of Mr Bungle's Disco Volante. It's pretty damn amazing how many different sounds the guy is able to get out of his throat. Shrieks and beeps and croaks and tick-tocks. Naturally it makes the music very sound and rhythm based, since there is very little melody to be found.

The music on here is, to put it gently, somewhat unorthodox. There's no standard songwriting here in the traditional sense. Sure, there's melodies now and then, there's riffs, and sometimes they'll be completely wacky and even repeat a part. The album seems to be created as a musical equivalent of a comic book, which actually makes a lot of sense. Segments of the music fit to the panels of a comicstrip, and jump around somewhat haphazardly, much like a comicstrip often does. In one moment you'll hear tick tocks of a clock, in the next you've got insane grindcore-ish riffing, followed by pretty vocal "howling". If you've ever paid attention to the soundtracks of old cartoons like Tom and Jerry you might've noticed how the music hops around like mad to fit the action. This has much the same approach, except ten times more extreme, and without the images to go along to make sense out of it.

As you might guess, this makes the album somewhat confusing and is probably not for everyone. If you want something to lightly snap your fingers along to and maybe hum a bit on at the office, you're going to be disappointed. If you want some off-the-wall music that flys all over the place, never giving you the slightest hint of where it'll hit in the next second, you should love this. The diversity on display here is quite impressive, and the band is unbelievably tight. After a few listens you'll find yourself anticipating the next moves of the music and Before you know it you'll walk down the street yelling "tchi-kå-tchikatchoochaa! A-hooka-tchikkaboo!" at random passer-bys. Essential for fans of Naked City, Mr Bungle, Boredoms and other bands that enjoy destroying any preconceptions one might have of what music should be.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 03/2001

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