633 - Deadly Scenes 01Avant-garde metal as a subgenre nowadays is really devoid of meaning. Nothing more than an umbrella term to include all those bands that don’t fit neatly onto well-established shelves of “traditional” metal styles. In other words, it has become shorthand for “this is weird.” Rarely will you find a truly exciting and innovative metal band worthy of the “avant-garde” status. Frenchmen 6:33 (now at their third LP), sadly, are not the saviors of avant-metal that we need (and deserve).

In fact, there’s nothing avant-garde nor experimental about their music even though they do sound weird. My first reaction while listening to their new album, “Deadly Scenes,” was to go check the lineup and make sure that this was not a new project by Mike Patton. It’s appalling how close 6:33 come to sounding like a tribute band. On each song there are elements that are eerily reminiscent of Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, or Tomahawk. Just check out the intro to “The Walking Fed” and compare it to Tomahawk’s “Anonymous.” The vocals (above all, the vocals!), the riffs, the breaks, the stop-start rhythmic stunts, the forced tempo and mood changes… you’ve heard it all before. The band is either blissfully oblivious to these similarities or quite aware of them and standing firm about it on purpose. Truth be told, I have no clue which is the case. Take the opening “Hellalujah,” for example, an otherwise solid song that absolutely screams its inspirations in your face. It’s not subtle, no sir. And in those moments when it’s not Patton they are channeling? Well, then they start emulating Diablo Swing Orchestra (“Ego Fandango”), Sigh (“Black Widow”), or uneXpect (“Lazy Boy”). Everything is just so familiar and, eh, rehashed.

The familiarity of their approach doesn’t stop with the music. The lyrics and general theme that revolve around a bizarre take on the trope of the seven sins also seem unnaturally quirky and forced. Frank Zappa did it ages ago and Mr. Bungle did it with more style. For any new(ish) band, comparisons with noteworthy and great predecessors should be seen as a compliment, but this does not hold true when you’re dabbling with music that is supposed to be original, inventive, and challenging. All in all, these tunes makes me temporarily bipolar. On one hand, the way that these evidently extremely talented guys waste their potential on something that reads like a mere citation infuriates me; on the other, it’s a stupidly fun record for anyone willing to look beyond the fact that this is obviously just recreation, not innovation. It helps that 6:33 appear to have a knack of piling all sorts of genres and influences together, from jazz to pop, and making it sound relatively coherent. Still, their approach can get a bit overwhelming at times.

633 - Deadly Scenes 03

This is further exacerbated by the production which is, if we disregard the pretty bad dynamic compression, quite busy and excessively aggressive (again, think of uneXpect). Like I said before, the musicians are wildly skilful and there are some really impressive moments on these nine songs which will at least awe listeners that seek technical proficiency in music. For everyone else, tracks like “I’m a Nerd,” the heaviest track here, or “Last Bullet for a Gold Rattle” will surely provide moments of giddiness and joy. In some strange way, all of these missteps amount to some pretty amusing stuff, so, it’s not all doom & gloom.

I generally don’t like reviews that rely heavily on name-dropping and yet I seem to have just written one. In my defence, this release feels too much like a mashup or homage, thus making it nigh impossible to write about it in any other way. Putting that aside, I actually kind of dig this album. It’s too long, a bit bland in its songwriting, but wacky fun. Oh, and by the way, a banjo makes a short appearance! If that doesn’t sell you on this record, I don’t know what will.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 224 kbps mp3
Label: Kaotoxin Records
Websites: 6:33Official | Facebook.com/6:33
Release Dates: EU: 2015.01.12 | NA: 01.13.2015

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    This record is trying exceptionally hard. I won’t say what specifically it is trying hard to do because that list could go on for quite some time. Your review, as much as I too hate the name-game, is quite incredibly spot-on, AMG. But a fun listen when not pushing and shoving against every other band it tries to imitate.

    • Roquentin

      Yeah, that’s the correct phrase, “trying too hard”. Too bad, there’s potential. We’ll see what they do next.

  • Jeff Kent

    Well until Mr. Bungle decides to come back…we’ll have to accept this. Then again there’s bands like Secret Chiefs 3 and Alamaailman Vasarat…Jeraey Band and Troker. I’m not nor was I ever a grim Kvlt all black wearing long haired ‘metal’ guy. I miss the fun element that existed in some of the 80s Metal I grew up with.

    • Roquentin

      SC3 and AV are awesome bands. The likes of Estradasphere and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum as well. When more recent releases are concerned, Kemialliset Ystävät’s “Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa” (electronic, not metal) and Dog Fashion Disco’s “Sweet Nothings” come to mind. Check them out.

      For what it’s worth, 6:33’s album with Arno Strobl from Carnival in Coal (“The Stench from the Swelling (a true story)”) is pretty good too.

    • Our Fortress Is Burning

      Have you tried Orbweaver, The Conjuration, or Terra Tenebrosa? They’re not exactly “fun” per se, but are more experimental / avant-garde in their approaches to Metal.

  • Bungle meets Queen meets early Foxy Shazam. Not quite as good as any of them. Great review!

    • Roquentin

      And you’re right, there’s Queen in there too.

  • One of the reasons I like DSO is that they seem to have very good musical knowledge and they actually can work every genre they mix because they have very intimate expertise with each, be it Argentinian Tango or Movie scores, they know what makes every style tick and what people likes to hear from each.

    These guys seem to have the basic idea behind the sound from each “Avant-garde-ist” band they they get their influence. But as for knowing the musical background each band has, besides being a gargantuan amount of musical influences if we combine all the bands they seem to reference, its really hard for them to work it into a personality of their own.

    But it’s still interesting and perhaps they can work out those kinks for next productions.

  • Alexandre Barata

    From the song above I can’t say it is horrible :(
    It’s actually pretty funny, from a plataform/adventure game’s OST kind of way. While I wouldn’t willingly listen to this, as a background song it’s actually good

  • Doomdeathrosh

    ummm the album cover should say it all….deadly scenes with a pram and some deadly mementos on hang!

  • Robert

    I think this album is very good, I get the similarities to other bands, but come on the sound on this album is pretty good!