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(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/)
Whenever the term avant-garde metal gets brought up, it usually sounds like some already known genre, usually progressive metal but with a few changes like different instruments being played or several songs that are all different styles. Enter Toby Driver, one of the most prominent musicians in the genre. He gets some guys (and at least one girl) together and starts Maudlin of the Well, a band that has generated quite a lot of buzz despite having all their albums out of print for a while now. Let's have a crack at My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible (which must have been a name picked while Toby was playing Scrabble drunk) and see what Toby's interpretation of avant-garde music sounds like.
What we have here is a whole lot of progressive post rock with some breaths of sludge metal. At times, it seems like the band attempts to play death metal as well, most notably on "A Conception Pathetic", but it's a rather third rate version of death metal that isn't going to trump any big names in that genre. So, I guess the metal populace has agreed to put all that under the umbrella term "avant-garde metal". In fact, I'd put this album on the same boat as the works of Isis or Cult of Luna.
And sludge metal is how this album first introduces itself in "Ferocious Weights" with some Souls at Zero era Neurosis flavored playing mixed with trumpet. There's some female vocals here as well brought about by Maria-Stella Fountoulakis eventually joined by a male vocalist. At about the halfway point, they break into death metal mode playing faster with some furious soloing going on. Following that, the post rock shows itself with clam sounding guitar, keys, and Maria's voice.
"A Conception Pathetic" is one of the weaker pieces on here, sticking a lot to the aforementioned third rate death metal flavor. It does have the post rock vibe to it still, but it just isn't very interesting. I really don't care for the ragtime piano piece that finishes up the song. After that song though, the album's best songs come forth. "Undine and Underwater Flowers" keeps itself more exclusive to the post rock side of things and actually is quite nice to have after "A Conception Pathetic". "The Ocean, the Kingdom, and the Temptation" is probably my favorite of the bunch here. It has the best combination of the post rock and sludge metal flavors on this album. Then comes "Pondering a Wall" a weaker song with more of that mediocre death metal flavor hanging in there. "Catharsis of Sea-Sleep and Dreaming Shrines" is a better one that follows "The Ocean..."'s lead with the post rock and sludge metal combination. The last song, "Blight of River Systems" is definitely the worst song here with its giddy sing-along style vocal delivery which is really annoying and weaker iteration of the post rock style.
It seems that fans of Maudlin of the Well and Toby Driver's other big project Kayo Dot have a problem with people calling Toby's work unfocused, but that's what My Fruit Psychobells... is. It doesn't stick to one main style. It flip flops first in sludge metal in one song, then introduces death metal in the next, then a mostly post rock piece, etc. After listening to "Catharsis...", I went back to "Ferocious Weights" and thought, "Huh, the album actually sounded like this at one point?" Lack of focus isn't that big of a beef though as there are some good tracks here, but there are bad ones as well.
So, is My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustable enjoyable? Yeah, it is, but I wouldn't make it the first thing I'd listen to if I ever allowed onto my iPod. What Maudlin of the Well needs is more songs like "Ferocious Weights", "The Ocean, the Kingdom, and the Temptation", and "Catharsis of Sea-Sleep and Dreaming Shrines" with less pieces like "A Conception Pathetic", "Pondering a Wall", and "Blight of River Systems". But Toby went ahead and found other ways to make an album weaker than it could have been in Bath, but that's a review for a different day.