Unexpect – “Fables of the Sleepless Empire” (2011)


Independent Release

Review by Si Smith

“Fables of the Sleepless Empire” is the latest release from Canada’s Unexpect since 2006’s “In a Flesh Aquarium”, and this release is a bit more tuneful than the last offering, if not being just as confusing to the casual listener. Unexpect always live up to their name, as the music takes unexpected turns at unexpected intervals and they manage to combine almost every genre imaginable into a magical mixture of music and voice. To the uninitiated it can appear confusion; to the fan it is genius. First track “Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest” begins with tales of hopping bunnies and calls to mind Alice in her twisted Wonderland, such are the warped yet delicate twistings of the band’s lyrics. We are to be taken on a journey through bizarre soundscapes and wordscapes, sometimes frightening but always exciting. Above it all Leïlindel‘s vocals soar and are echoed by complimentary growls which usher in this unique experience. Intricate violins mix with keyboard parts in the centre of the song to lead into more growls from Syriak and Artagoth, and eventually all comes together for a unified ending. “Words” starts with some haunting violin lines over a wandering bass, then the vocals come in with a slightly more traditional sound. However being Unexpect the “traditional” quickly turns into black metal riffery and some space age wierdness – yes, this is another typical Unexpect song. “Orange Vigilantes” continues with dissonant chord-bursts and frantic piano melodies. Despite the chaos somehow there is still a sense of order and melody. “Mechanical Phoenix” slows things down briefly before returning to the riffage; there is enough black metal growling here to satisfy the black metal fan, before Leïlindel takes her turn with some jazzy vocal gymnastics that are at once sexy yet surreal. The second half of the CD continues much in the same vein as the first. “Unfed Pendulum” introduces some more sound effects and electronic musings, and seems to tell the tale of a strange machine gone haywire; but as always the lyrics are poetic and ponderous, never quite saying in clear plain English what is going on, but leaving the listener to make up their own mind (although we are given hints on the lyrics sheet). After a brief interlude about whales, “Silence This Parasite” concerns “the reign of an Anomaly that should not be” and is one of the more dramatic orchestral tracks on the CD, with less of the unexpected and slightly more of the straightforward. The final three tracks make up a “Wedding Trilogy for the Faints of Heart” concerning tales of Oz, magic carpets and zombie lovers – so if you like your music and your lyrics fantastical there is no better place to look than here! In all, this is an almost exhausting album to listen to as it takes you to so many different places along the journey. Yet for the more travelled musically it will be a masterpiece beyond compare. Unexpect have definitely produced a far more rounded and involved piece than the last album. A CD that will merit many returns to replay through the drama, noticing an elusive gasp here, a hidden orchestral blast there, a subtle nuance that maybe was not glanced on the last walkthrough. A remarkable achievement!!

Rating – 85/100



  1. Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest
  2. Words
  3. Orange Vigilantes
  4. Mechanical Phoenix
  5. The Quantum Symphony
  6. Unfed Pendulum
  7. In the Mind of the Last Whale
  8. Silence This Parasite
  9. A Fading Stance
  10. When the Joyful Dead Are Dancing
  11. Until Yet a Few More Deaths Do Us Part 


Line Up

  • Leïlindel –  Female Vocals 
  • Syriak – Guitars & Vocals
  • Artagoth – Guitar & Vocals
  • Blaise Borboen-Leonard – Violin
  • ChaotH – Bass
  • Landryx – Drums



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