I have to admit that it took me a couple of listens before really bonding with this album. It is disturbing, discomforting, and takes you someplace where your darkest, most maddening nightmares originate, but allthewhile is a brilliant musical composition that takes music to the very brink of sanity and coherence, teeters as if to jump, then recoils back into (relative) lucidity. It is a piece that can best be described as the musical equivalent to being trapped in a morgue at night and keeping yourself entertained until morning dissecting the corpses, who then awaken and attack you with your own scalpel. Because this composition has been subject to so much criticism, I make the analogy that Mike Patton is the Arnold Schönberg of our time. Schönberg, whose compositions many of his early critics rejected, also pushed the musical boundaries with pieces that conformed to neither key nor time. He is an indisputable genius, and anyone that agrees with this statement is probably as fascinated by Mike Patton as I am, and would undoubtedly enjoy the journey into the musical hellscape that is Delirium Cordia.
Kittie’s 2001 album on Artemis Records was produced by GGGarth (R.A.T.M, Red Hot Chili Peppers & Testament).On Spit, Kittie’s 1999 debut, the just-out-of-high-school all-female quartet were an anomaly, giving the male-dominated metal scene a run for its money thanks to the Canadian lineup’s near death-metal heaviness. On sophomore outing Oracle, minus original guitarist Fallon Bowman, Kittie rock harder than ever, yet lack the memorable songs required from a band of any gender or genre. In songs like ”Mouthful of Poison,” Morgan Lander’s often ethereal, decidedly feminine vocals contrast with bassist Talena Atfield’s death-metal growls. That, along with ferocious double-bass drums and extreme aggression, are the band’s hallmarks, broken up by a Kittie-ized cover of Pink Floyd’s ”Run Like Hell” and ”Safe,” a spare, spooky and excellent departure in a sea of heavy sameness. Ultimately, Oracle’s most redeeming quality is that of a role model for frustrated teenage girls, proving that, indeed, women are allowed to vent their rage and compete with men on the same playing field. –Katherine Turman
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Fantomas’ Delirium Cordia: it’s dark, scary, beautiful, and intriguing. Comprised of one long song (74 minutes and no track breaks!,) Delirium Cordia really requires the listener to take it all in at once. Like the difference between seeing a film in a theater and on TV, the effect just isn’t quite the same if you break it up. I know – reading that it’s one long track for well over an hour doesn’t seem appealing, and before I listened to it I even considered burning a copy with track breaks just so I could jump around, but once you give it a spin you’ll understand. The film analogy above is fitting – the only comparison that makes sense with regard to Delirium Cordia is a film. And really, it’s more fitting that it’s compared to the score of a film. Delirium Cordia isn’t so much “music” as it is a collection of sounds – you won’t find any significantly hummable tunes anywhere within that 74 minute time span. What you will find is a harrowing journey representative of . . . something having to do with surgery. Or maybe death. Or maybe life after death. I’m not sure – and Fantomas gives you very few clues to go on. What you will experience are Fantomas staples – speed riffing; ominous plodding basslines; Mike Patton’s trademark vocal pyrotechnics – and a host of disturbing sounds inspired by (and possibly sourced from) the operating room environment. Keep that word “disturbing” in mind – because that’s exactly what this album is. This is seriously creepy stuff – between blasts of frantic Fantomas energy, you’ll hear doctors discussing procedures, medical equipment, and other unidentifiable noises, and periodically the band will break in with a shocking amount of noise. Other times, Fantomas explores the ambience, allowing the listener to settle in – but knowing Fantomas, you won’t trust them because you know that peak of energy is coming. And it does – over and over, and you never expect it, no matter how prepared you try to make yourself.To top it all off, the album comes packaged in a glossy black slipcase. Slide that off and you’ll see the front of the liner notes bearing the slightly bloodied hands of a surgeon crossed over his chest. Inside of a classy, unusual dark-tinted jewelcase is a gorgeously printed booklet . . . but inside lies imagery you will be recalling as you listen to the album. A face is distorted and warped by a series of clamps pulling back the lips of a patient – why, we don’t know; a stream of bloody water flows from an enormous wound; a patient’s chest is cracked open to reveal a massive tumor; and best of all is an eye being lifted out of the eye socket of an organ donor. These are all real photos, the work of Max Aguilera as published in his book, The Sacred Heart. Disturbing and disgusting as they are, they add a dimension to the music that makes the proceedings that much more real and important. This isn’t just a gross-out session by the band – what their point is isn’t entirely clear, but it’s not a joke. Maybe they’re just saying, “Hey, take care of yourself – this is what happens when you die.”The most I can make is that what we hear is supposed to be the last hour of someone’s life. That’s all the meaning I can take from this. Like the best films and the best books, it doesn’t tell you everything. In fact, it hardly tells anything at all – the mystery is bigger than the music itself. But that keeps me coming back – over the past few days since I first listened to it, it has rarely been long out of my head. I can say, however, that when you make it through those 74 minutes, the end is absolutely not what you might expect. I won’t spoil it for you – you need to experience it for yourself. I won’t even tell you my reaction, because I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I will say this – there’s nearly 15 minutes of what sounds like a breathing pump and possibly the sound of blood flowing through veins. And then . . . you figure it out. I can guarantee you it’s not what you’re thinking it is.
This is one of the best albums to come out in a long time. I will not bother comparing it to any other album, because it stands alone as a testament to what a truly great album can be. When I popped this one into the cd player in my car as I drove home from the record store, my mind was immediately flooded with images of old hospitals, grimy sugical instruments and a spiritual unease. I was hooked, and I intend that pun. On the back of the cd case, there is a quote: “Like the surgeon, the composer slashes open the body of his fellow man, removes his eyes, empties his abdomen of organs, hangs him up on a hook, holding up to the light all of the body’s palpitating treasures, sending a burst of light into its’ innermost depths. – Richard Selzer, MD.” This quote sums up the album completely, as there is an overwhelming dark theme composed of vocalizations, sound effects, and instrumentation interspersed with glorious choral vignettes, suggesting that the pain and suffering of the patient is temporarily alleviated by medicine, unconciousness, or a spiritual intervention. There is an almost constant feeling of impending doom, and then sometimes, the doom reveals itself with a cacophonic dirge, as though the gates of Hell had just opened and a legion of infernal creatures were coming just to torment one person lying under sedation on an operating table. Who knows what horrors lurk in the depths of an anaethestic-induced nightmare? I think Mike Patton has opened an operating room door and the sign reads “Delirium Cordia”.
What I want to know is who listens to this kind of music, and when? Delirium Cordia definitively isn’t an album you put on for a party, or to rock out to in your car like Mike Patton’s other band Tomahawk. Really, it isn’t something to play at all in the presence of others, no matter how impolite the company.This album, just 1 track, 74 minutes long, is isolated, deranged, and an absolute masterpiece of complex sound and mood. Fantomas’ last album, The Director’s Cut, took the band into film score by doing short covers of famous pieces like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The God Father,” but this one delves fully into an original full length composition that really might best be suitable for something directed by Cronenberg or Aronovsky. And that’s the best way to listen to it, eyes closed, alone, imagining your own movie to accompany this piece of music-and the acid-blasted landscapes of auditory imagery aroused belong in a genre busting horror film; or perhaps this is just the music that the pathologist hums in his head while performing an autopsy.Delirium Cordia reminds me of the paintings of Henry Darger, with its haunting, disturbed beauty, moments of innocence subverted, and violent storms constantly threatening to erupt. And they do erupt, but not with the level of nearly un-listenable cacophony found in other works by Mike Patton, such as Adult Themes for Voice. Delirium Cordia is the perfect mood-setter to listen to while writing fiction and poetry (if what you write leans towards the misanthropic, the violent, the introspective.) And it leaves me more convinced than ever that Mike Patton at some point will be approached by an intelligent director to score a daring and unconventional film (or videogame.) Finally, the art. Nothing else by Fantomas (or any other Patton project since the first Mr. Bungle album) has had such lush production values in the cover art. This is the best way to stop music piracy–by making the complete work a coherent piece of art, as these richly produced color photos and quotations mesh perfectly with the music. To have only the music hidden away on your hard drive would be to diminish the overall experience of enjoying Delirium Cordia. The prickle of gooseflesh I felt slipping off the black protective cardboard sleeve for the first time and seeing the chilling image on the cover (let it be a secret) greatly heightened my apprehension about what I was going to hear as I put the disk into the player. A sterile download bar is no replacement. This disk is the best thing to show up in my mailbox in months.If you’ve liked the Melvins, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, or if you know none of those bands but like dark film scores and experimental music, stop reading and BUY THIS ALBUM NOW.
It’s impossible for me to listen to this music without simply shaking my head in utter amazement.To even be able to imagine, let alone effectively conjure, such a dementedly beautiful soundscape is beyond comprehension.Obviously, it builds on past forays into–what? I don’t know, not being entirely familiar with the previous efforts of this remarkable construct emanating from the mind of Mike Patton. But there are snippets of metal, jazz, electronica, horror movie soundtrack–all welded together in a unique sonic signature: Dark, noxious, strangely beautiful, mesmeric, and ghostly.I think I catch the vibe of surgery as somehow alchemic, violative, invasive, yet essentially humane.As is this music.Dangerous, vital, indespensible, oddly compelling.