Although they have always had a signature sound (grounded in the heavy, manic, precise, and strange), Fantômas have been fairly adventurous from album to album. So it's a little surprising that -- after hopping from the metal-horror spastics of their debut to an album of film music covers on Director's Cut to Millennium Monsterworks (an almost traditional metal album in collaboration with the Melvins) and, finally, to last year's epic single-track Delirium Cordia -- Fantômas would arrive back at the start. Like their self-titled debut, Suspended Animation is a concept album. The debut was a 30-song soundtrack to a comic book, with each song taking a page number as its title. This disc appears to be the soundtrack to April of 2005, with each song titled after one of the month's 30 days -- which brings us to the monumental artwork that accompanies the CD: a glossy elaborate 30-day calendar illustrated by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. The intersecting innocence and mischief of Nara's punk munchkins match the tone of Fantômas, at least for this album. The heavy use of samples that has been a steady part of the Fantômas sound is here, but instead of the horror-movie shrieks that their first album leaned heavily on, it's a litany of bonks and whistles straight from classic cartoons. Mike Patton, who once again wrote all the music, is more focused than ever here. The songs (or sections, as Fantômas albums often feel like one long composition chopped into bite-size chunks) are shorter and even more frenzied; there's less brooding menace and more giddy insanity -- without ever giving way to total chaos. For all of his eclecticism, Patton has always had a clear vision and worked within a defined set of themes, from his work with Mr. Bungle to the present. Anyone who wonders what that vision and those themes add up to should look no further than Suspended Animation, which offers one of the clearest and most potent distillations yet.
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AllMusic Review by Wade Kergan