Department of Apocalyptic Affairs

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With this album, Fleurety unofficially recast themselves as the Steely Dan of the Norwegian post-black metal scene, calling on a huge cast of guest musicians to flesh out their songs. But, instead of a bunch of slick studio session cats, the list of contributors here is a bit more motley, including Hellhammer and Maniac of Mayhem, Carl-Michael Elde of Ved Buens Ende, Carl August Tidemann, Einar Sjurso of Beyond Dawn, Knut Magne Valle and Sverd of Arcturus, and Tore Ylvisaker and G. Playa (aka Garm) of Ulver -- plus three separate female vocalists, a saxophonist, and more. With that out of the way, it's important to note that this isn't some all-star black metal get-together. This is very much Fleurety's (aka Alexander Nordgaren and Svein Egil Hatlevik) show -- there are some similarities to late-'90s works by Ulver and Arcturus in terms of how they mix trip-hop and other electronic elements with metal guitars and so forth, but Fleurety manages to out-weird even those groups. What's unusual here is not just the broad range of sounds and styles at work -- which also include jazz vocals and saxophones, death metal growls, circus horns, some industrial textures, and a few nods to Frank Zappa and other art rockers -- but also how these elements are put together. Some of the transitions are downright jarring, such as the part during "Facets 2.0" where the song abruptly switches from an industrial metal-type section to a disjointed circus waltz. The vocal melodies also take some unsettling turns (see the end of "Shotgun Blast"); presumably this is a result of some type of contemporary classical influence, although it's hard to pin down. Then there are the lyrics: "I had a rusty nail hammered through my temple/And I'm not sure if what I felt was pain" (from "Last Minute Lies") is a good example of what to expect in this category. Tie it all together with a pervasive espionage/intelligence mission vibe (reinforced by the dossier-like packaging) and an oddly dry-sounding production job, and you have an album that sounds like no other. Whether it works is not always easy to reduce to a "yes" or "no," but listeners who have been fed a steady diet of the likes of Mr. Bungle, Portishead, Ulver, and Arcturus will have some fun trying to figure it all out.

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