Of Natural History
By: Eric Greenwood
At heart, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is a metal band, but your typical mullet-headed Metallica fan would probably not agree. An easy and honestly lazy reference for the band is Mr. Bungle, whose brand of artsy, pretentious, metal-tinged prog-rock made musically adventurous yet technically superior metal a genre all its own throughout the ‘90's. This thinking man's brand of metal has spawned countless subgenres and splinterings under which Sleepytime Gorilla Museum can be found lurking. According to singer/guitarist Nils Frykdahl the band's true influences seem to lie in the avant garde, Brecht-ian prog rock of the Art Bears, the gutter sludge of the Swans, and the clanging industrial noise of Einsturzende Neubauten, not to mention countless black metal bands like Enslaved.
With its second album, Of Natural History, the band uses its technical dynamics and theatrical histrionics to parlay a sermon of doom directed at all of humankind. The album's staunch environmentalist agenda portrays man and woman as parasitic destroyers of the Earth's beauty and natural resources, but according to Frykdahl, “it is not devoid of hope.” Obvious political preferences notwithstanding, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's music can be appreciated with a grain of salt for those with a skeptical ear. The drama might seem overblown and hyperbolic to the typical indie rock hipster, but the band views the stage as “inherently theatrical”, thus, it's costumes and makeup are natural outgrowths of music designed for a stage.
And Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's musical prowess is nothing to scoff at with a pedigree that includes members of Idiot Flesh and Tin Hat Trio. Meticulously constructed of homemade instruments invented by bassist Dan Rathburn, a slew of eerie samples, foundsounds, noises, multiple vocalists, and, of course, searing, stop on a dime metal dynamics, Of Natural History is like the soundtrack to a carnival freakshow for conspiracy theorists. And the band's live show is notoriously eccentric, converting even baseball-hat-donning sports fans with its exhibition of avant-metal histrionics.