Album Review: Fantomas The Director’s Cut

Fantômas is the name of a famous anti-hero created in 1911. Appearing in the French fiction series of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, Fantômas became an influential character in not only literary culture but also film, art, pop culture and of course music.

Named after the super villain, Fantômas was formed in 1998 by Patton when he sent the demos of his avant-garde, metal experimentations to guitarist Buzz Osborne (The Melvins), bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr Bungle) and drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer). Together they have released 4 studio albums (Fantômas 1999, The Director’s Cut 2001, Delerium Còrdia 2004 and Suspended Animation 2005).

It is their 2001 album The Director’s Cut that I want to review here because with the exception of Track 3 Experiment in Terror, this is essentially an instrumental album. I don’t consider the vocals to be lyrical or conventional rather I think they come across as instrumental. Patton relies more on the sound of the words than the meaning, he warps them beyond understanding and his voice becomes another instrument . I guess this one’s a bit of a line-stepper in the context of this blog. It is a fine example of how vocals can exist in the instrumental genre and no one does it better or quite like Patton.

Patton’s vocal contributions to this record are just part of the many instruments used to great effect. It’s not really singing (Experiments in Terror aside), it’s more like vocalising. Anyone familiar with Patton’s vocal stylings knows that he is all about the potential of the voice outside of the lyrical aspect. He experiments with sounds and texture and range preferring to use his voice as a wordless instrument.

‘I think that too many people think too much about my lyrics. I am more a person who works more with the sound of a word than with its meaning. Often I just choose the words because of the rhythm not because of the meaning’. (Patton, FNM Frequently Asked Questions)

The Director’s Cut is an album of covers. But not the usual covers, rather they’re covers of horror, thriller and cult movie themes. In true Patton style the renditions are frenetic and yet poetic, brutal and yet still melodic, abstract but with just enough to hold on to to keep you interested. This album listens like a strange, metal version of a David Lynch movie. It is dark and murky and tainted with just the right amount of saccharine terror that you would find in a Badalamenti soundtrack.

Covering the greats including Nino Rota, Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone and incidentally Angelo Badalamenti, The Director’s Cut takes a stab at reinterpreting the themes from some of the greatest films and indeed film scores like The Godfather, Cape Fear and Rosemary’s Baby. The heavy metal providence of the band turns these iconic and eerie orchestrations into theatrical productions of a different kind and yet they retain the key elements of the original in a strange and wonderful way.

‘The underlying concept, coupled with the consistently sinister tone it brings to the album, gives a weird sort of logic to Patton’s stylistic leaps that he’s never quite captured before.’ (Reid, Pitchfork)

I like this album and I like it very much in the body of Patton’s work. It suits him well. In an interview from the Angel Dust era, Patton’s predilections are already apparent. When asked what he likes to listen to he answers, ‘I go into the record stores and look for like two hours. And I usually end up going to the soundtrack section.’

The Director’s Cut is a great for anyone who loves movies, thrills, terror and pop culture. It’s a great album for fans of Patton’s music as it contains elements so unique to his style and familiar techniques we love from his work with Mr Bungle and Tomahawk. It won’t let you get carried away for too long in any one moment and yet as a whole, it has flow and an almost narrative progression. Put this one on for the pure joy of listening. It simply won’t allow you to do anything else.

You can buy The Director’s Cut directly from Ipecac’s online store.

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