DB HOF NO. 111
The making of Failure’s “Fantastic Planet”
released: August 13, 1996
label: Slash/Warner Bros.
Next to Queensrÿche and Bad Religion… ah fuck, who are we kidding? This is by far the least extremely extreme inductee in the Decibel Hall of Fame, and probably will be until we honor Jesu’s Kittens Upon Pillows of Limitless Down Luxuriating in Sunbeam EP in 2024. L.A. space-rockers Failure hit their hard ‘n’ heavy apex on 1994’s sophomore full-length Magnified—you could at least say that propulsive stompers like “Moth,” “Frogs” and “Magnified” (the latter memorably covered by Cave In on their transitional Creative Eclipses EP) almost qualify as “alt-metal.” Fantastic Planet, on the other hand, certainly has moments of fury, anguish and intoxicating distortion—just in a kind of, well, utterly gorgeous way. Here’s the thing, though: You don’t have to get your skull-rape card revoked for being entranced with its flawlessly sequenced, jaw-droppingly dynamic 17 songs over nearly 68 minutes—take a glance at the lineup of very credible heavy hitters on page 60 who pig-grunt its praises. (Okay, okay, Larry from Pelican isn’t pig-grunting anything, but you get my drift.)
Seriously, this is one of those albums that’s so perfect, the band almost had to implode after its release. From the explosion of acidic stardust that yanks “Sergeant Politeness” into the first of three exhilarating “Segue” interludes to the disquieting euphoria of heroin anthem “Dirty Blue Balloons” and the elephantine bass stomp of “Heliotropic,” Fantastic Planet exports enough mind-altering substance to stymie an armada of Traags (yes, you should see the movie of the same name). Founding members Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards split bass and guitar, as well as compositional, lyrical and production duties, finally checking skins off their overachiever to-do list when Magnified touring drummer Kellii Scott permanently joined the fold. A galaxy’s worth of issues—including original label Slash collapsing into a black hole, creative conflict, fan indifference and drug use—couldn’t suppress this cult classic’s big bang. Nor could all that crap suppress its creators from burying the hatchet and returning in 2014 with not just an old-bastard legacy tour like so many cash-grabbing scumbags before them, but a long-awaited follow-up. Here’s what got all us stargazers and gravediggers so excited in the first place.
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