Delirium Cordia and the Compulsion to Keep Listening
Christopher Sebela
3/23/2004 10:44:00 PM

In the heyday of the guillotine, a noted Dr. Beaurieux set out to record just what happens after the spinal cord is severed at the neck. Recounting the experiment, the doctor shouts out the executed manís name twice, and each time the head opens its eyes and looks right at the doctor. Thirty seconds of consciousness, lighter than youíve ever been, the blood rushing out of your head and everything getting dim. Thatís got to be a fucked-up thirty seconds. If, like "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" suggested, time can stretch forever on the brink of death, then thirty seconds must feel like years.

74 minutes can simultaneously feel like nothing at all when they belong to Fantomas. If there were a soundtrack to dangling from a horror movie villainís meat hook, if that odd sprint from healthy to brink of death were scored, if disquieting were a musical genre, Delirium Cordia [Ipecac] would capture the hat trick. Whereas their first album seemed destined to confuse and The Directorís Cut aimed to compel, the third effort from Mike Patton, Buzzo, Dave Lombardo and Trevor Roy Dunn just wants to make you feel bad inside. Traipsing from choral voicings to the rattle of surgical instruments ó everything backed up by the snap and hiss of an old 78 ó itís ambient snuff for bipolars.

From the bandís rumored first mentions, mouths across all fronts watered at the prospect of a mutant supergroup drawing together fanbases of calliope porn music, speed metal, sludge drone melodies and top 40 pop sensibilities. It was as if some Justice League were being assembled; members hand-picked from bands that somehow slipped well past their leash length and stumbled into major label deals and the fame that comes from being in one of those bands that everyoneís heard of but never seems to really follow. While Mike Patton has been the focal point of the group, both in coverage and in his overwhelming presence scoring and howling through every song, Delirium Cordia shifts Fantomas from Patton side project to mutual psychosis.

The staples are still there: Pattonís languageless vocals, Lombardoís meth drum rolls, Buzzoís mood swings between subaudible thrashing and Ronnie Montrose virtuosity, Dunnís eager bass. But theyíre spaced out like rest stops, and the spaces in between are where Delirium Cordia comes to life. Typewriter keys, random conversations, metal scraping at teeth, far-off hints of pipe organs and Lucio Fulci wet dreams fill the gaps, and in those gaps Fantomasí potential grows exponentially. While itís easy to push the irony of a heavy metal version of the Godfather theme or sandwich the 40 second frenzy of Page 14 onto a mix tape, Delirium Cordia asks for a bit more attention and even a bit of respect.

The problem is the album doesnít exist to be defined, and while I could cook up some cute phraseology to further the point of just how skeevy and disquieting Delirium Cordia vibes, it would all fall short. As Fantomas seemingly exists to establish a direction, prop it up and then smash it to bits with their next release, their follow-up to a hit (relatively speaking) is what anyone else would obviously perceive as suicide. Even as the music cuts out to the skip of a record, that goes on and on for minutes and minutes, the world growing dim like a bled out pulse, you can read the dread in the quiet, where the absence of anything at all is just as unsettling.

Delirium Cordia is by no means a perfect album. Itís not even a perfect Fantomas album. Ideas scream into action and crawl away just as suddenly, while others wear out their welcome. But thereís ultimately a compulsion to keep listening, like your ear to the chest of a dead body, waiting and waiting for the heart to start thudding away again.


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