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Fantomas – Delirium Cordia

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Fantomas – Delirium Cordia: it’s dark, scary, beautiful, and intriguing. Comprised of one long song (74 minutes and no track breaks!,) Delirium Cordia really requires the listener to take it all in at once. Like the difference between seeing a film in a theater and on TV, the effect just isn’t quite the same if you break it up. I know – reading that it’s one long track for well over an hour doesn’t seem appealing, and before I listened to it I even considered burning a copy with track breaks just so I could jump around, but once you give it a spin you’ll understand.

The film analogy above is fitting – the only comparison that makes sense with regard to Delirium Cordia is a film. And really, it’s more fitting that it’s compared to the score of a film. Delirium Cordia isn’t so much “music” as it is a collection of sounds – you won’t find any significantly hummable tunes anywhere within that 74 minute time span. What you will find is a harrowing journey representative of . . . something having to do with surgery. Or maybe death. Or maybe life after death. I’m not sure – and Fantomas gives you very few clues to go on. What you will experience are Fantomas staples – speed riffing; ominous plodding basslines; Mike Patton’s trademark vocal pyrotechnics – and a host of disturbing sounds inspired by (and possibly sourced from) the operating room environment.

Keep that word “disturbing” in mind – because that’s exactly what this album is. This is seriously creepy stuff – between blasts of frantic Fantomas energy, you’ll hear doctors discussing procedures, medical equipment, and other unidentifiable noises, and periodically the band will break in with a shocking amount of noise. Other times, Fantomas explores the ambience, allowing the listener to settle in – but knowing Fantomas, you won’t trust them because you know that peak of energy is coming. And it does – over and over, and you never expect it, no matter how prepared you try to make yourself.

To top it all off, the album comes packaged in a glossy black slipcase. Slide that off and you’ll see the front of the liner notes bearing the slightly bloodied hands of a surgeon crossed over his chest. Inside of a classy, unusual dark-tinted jewelcase is a gorgeously printed booklet . . . but inside lies imagery you will be recalling as you listen to the album. A face is distorted and warped by a series of clamps pulling back the lips of a patient – why, we don’t know; a stream of bloody water flows from an enormous wound; a patient’s chest is cracked open to reveal a massive tumor; and best of all is an eye being lifted out of the eye socket of an organ donor. These are all real photos, the work of Max Aguilera as published in his book, The Sacred Heart. Disturbing and disgusting as they are, they add a dimension to the music that makes the proceedings that much more real and important. This isn’t just a gross-out session by the band – what their point is isn’t entirely clear, but it’s not a joke. Maybe they’re just saying, “Hey, take care of yourself – this is what happens when you die.”

The most I can make is that what we hear is supposed to be the last hour of someone’s life. That’s all the meaning I can take from this. Like the best films and the best books, it doesn’t tell you everything. In fact, it hardly tells anything at all – the mystery is bigger than the music itself. But that keeps me coming back – over the past few days since I first listened to it, it has rarely been long out of my head. I can say, however, that when you make it through those 74 minutes, the end is absolutely not what you might expect. I won’t spoil it for you – you need to experience it for yourself. I won’t even tell you my reaction, because I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I will say this – there’s nearly 15 minutes of what sounds like a breathing pump and possibly the sound of blood flowing through veins. And then . . . you figure it out. I can guarantee you it’s not what you’re thinking it is.

(Unproductivity – it’s not what you think it is either. Or maybe it is.)

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About Tom Johnson

  • Mark

    Brilliant. It’s good to see Mike back after the awesome Tomahawk record.

  • dougie

    duh – it’s not blood pumping, it’s vinyl crackle and the needle of a phonograph