The Sense Apparatus
posted on 2/2005 By:
Man, talk about a band shooting themselves in the foot. Trying to convince a metal fan that he should buy the debut album from a band called Frantic Bleep is likely to evoke a reaction similar to the one you’d get if you tried to sell him a sprout and cucumber sandwich served in a Tampax wrapper. Neither sounds very cool or appetizing. However, despite the unfortunate name, it is only a matter of time until these young Norwegians grab the attention and adoration of more than their fair share of metal fans. They’re just too fucking good to ignore. Formed in Kongsvinger in 2001, Frantic Bleep claims that they set out to create a sound that included a variety of influences in a way that was unique and distinctive. They recorded the Fluctadmission demo in 2002, using ex-Madder Mortem bassist Paul Mozart Bjørke on bass and vocals as a session musician. He performs on The Sense Apparatus as well, and it is unclear whether he is a permanent member of the band, although it would appear that he is. The demo quickly earned them a deal with The End, which seems to be a good home for this band that are as unique as they are talented.
Trying to pigeonhole these guys into a genre is futile, but their sound is most firmly rooted in dark progressive and avant-garde stylings. The band also incorporates their forward thinking on a variety of other styles, most notably, black metal. Their sound is so varied that it has garnered a head spinning litany of comparisons to bands, including Arcturus, Madder Mortem, Opeth, Voivod, Borknagar, Peccatum, and half a dozen others. Some of these comparisons are more apparent than others, but what is truly impressive is that Frantic Bleep can so effectively combine influences and genres and forge their own identity. At this point, some readers may be doubtful that a band can cover such vast ground without sounding like a chaotic and disjointed mess. No need for concern, the band succeeds by merging styles, rather than stringing them together. The result is dynamic and grandiose. Frantic Bleep sidestep normal pitfalls with youthful exuberance and confidence—they’re technical but not flashy, unique but not bizarre, arty but entirely listenable.
The album opens with the brief “A Survey”, which like the subsequent songs is full of gorgeous layers of vocal melody and atmosphere draped across an underlying heaviness. The song builds into a crescendo that is reached at the transition of the next song, “The Expulsion”, which explodes with a heavy, sweeping riff backed by an Opeth-ian mix of chunky rhythm and dissonant notes. Most of the vocals on the album are sung, and quite competently. It is a comparison I’m hesitant to make, but there are occasional vocal phrases that are reminiscent of Mike Patton during late era Faith No More. Not his psychotic vocal freak outs of course, but the full voiced singing. It’s a likeness that will be lost on all except those with a strong familiarity with FNM. Part of the likeness comes from Bjørk’s tone, but much of it is related to the layering and phrasing. However, his melancholy smoothness is occasionally abandoned in favor of more extreme styles, like the passages of “Curtainraiser” and the heavily laced black metal rasp of “Mandaughter.” “Mausolos” has a swaying atmospheric ambience with whispered vocals during the verse, before making way for multilayered brighter melody during the chorus. The band continues to keep things interesting by weaving dynamic shifts into the compositions, which differ but are wholly cohesive as a group. The music is darkly majestic and satisfactorily heavy, although during the less heavy moments the tone is still somewhat ominous. It’s an intoxicating mix of heaviness, melody and unconventionality.
Rarely will you find a debut album that is better conceived and articulated. It will be interesting to see how Frantic Bleep follow this gorgeous album. On their website they state “we are still developing the sound that is Frantic Bleep. Influences will come and go and this is just the beginning of the ride.” Buckle up, this will be good.
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