Fantømex - Terraformed (EP Review)

Elon Musk wants to terraform Mars. He says this is to ensure the future survival of humanity but is there a better example of a 'God complex'? Being responsible for creating literal worlds and the artificial manipulation of planets is a fascinating concept, but it exposes the darker ambitions of humanity, that of having complete control over our environment, as opposed to adapting to it. It's a twisted idea and one that has inspired a lot of political and artistic conversation.  

There's a warped brilliance to "Terraformed", the new EP from hard-rocking melodic metal band Fantømex from North Carolina. The group effortlessly switch between musical styles, imbuing their visceral songs with chugging riffs that get the body moving while painting dark portraits of mental breakdowns and toxic relationships. 

The opening track "Fatmoncatz" hits directly between the eyes with its lethal drumming and serpentine guitar that seems to break open in torturous feedback squeals while lead singer Abigail Taylor delights with cryptic vocals; "burning bridges is too easy, but my pocket squares are fun." It's a perfect opener and introduces Fantømex, not only as a band who can play to a professional standard but who can inject their songs with an idiosyncratic personality.

"White Hole", a highlight on this 4-track EP, unleashes frantic rhythms and some excellent call and response vocals to create a track of sprawling scope. The lyrics could be interpreted as a statement of being confused that somebody can love us for being the bag of bones that we are; "So you still want me? Despite all my needs and crippling humanity?" It addresses not only the pains of being mortal but the insecurities that come with partaking in the social dance of relationships ("I've never had a lover be so true. Thought I'd chewed and spit a thousand just like you, but I'll do all the things you want me to, 'cause you're not like the other mortal fools.")

"Gaslight" uses some exciting production tricks to capture the ear while lead singer Abigail Taylor wails about the repercussions of dealing with the fragile male ego ("it really seems like you can't let it go; like every time a female says "no" an angel loses its wings"). Taylor, an excellent frontperson, has all the spunk of Karen O in her deliberate vocals that stretch from melancholic beauty to anxious aggressiveness. Here, she does an excellent job of portraying the frustration of being gaslit, the feeling of losing control echoed in her unbridled yelps. Even if the music here isn't as acidic as other tracks, it stands on its own. 

The closing track, "Machine", opens with a sadistic bass line before breaking into an all-out fury of melodic metal. Here, Taylor expresses the pains of fitting in with society and accepting our own self-image within that society; ("Fooled myself once again, with a fallacy of who I could be: A rosy-cheeked parody, a manic pixie dream"). Not abandoning a sense of tune and melody, this track unfolds over four minutes and forty-four seconds and reaches an emotional crescendo before fading out with guitar feedback. 

This is unhinged rock music and, for 2022, surprisingly unique. The playing is tight and impressive, and the songs have an emotional depth that makes them more than just tunes for headbanging. And while Fantømex hasn't exactly reinvented the wheel with their melodic metal, they have managed to find a sound all their own. So whether or not our future depends on terraforming planets, let Fantømex terraform your sonic sensibilities with this superb and raucous extended play.