Complete madness. I have had the chance of listening to some CDs during my whole life, but few times I remember listening the beginning of an album as wild as Fig Leafs "Paddling" (4:42). The aggressive intro that opens the way to the track already makes a warning of what comes later.
The first song is "Paddling" (4:42) and it is an explosive mixture of "Thrak" with elements from Led Zeppelin, truly noticeable, indeed. "This song" has a tremendous intro a la Frank Zappa, but messier, and it reflects some 70´s influences (spacy rhythms, long guitar riffs, etc.). A colourful saxophone opens the way to "Cycle of events" (4:25), another piece that will certainly please those who like the heaviest Crimson. Surprisingly, the track starts changing and we can find some very diverse elements (jazz-fusion, Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, etc...). Our surprise capacity seems to stop while listening to "Dinner at uncle uncool´s", which is divided in two parts; the first one, "music" (2:49), is instrumental and has a long, beautiful and melodic guitar riff decorated with sharp flangers and Hammonds; the second part, "recipe" (5:12), has a very American psych style and the lyrics are simply... a cooking recipe!. Spectacular. The following track, "King and court jesters" (6:03) is full of a medieval spirit in which Gentle Giant and Zappa shake hands and recreate together a unique atmosphere with hard rock, medieval music and the madness of the 70´s. The last track on the album (your attention, please, I have skipped the remarks on the suite that I will comment on the following paragraph) is "Santa Cruz" (5:20), an acoustic composition that seems to be really simple. It has an effect of adding voices gradually in order to finish in a similar way to The Beatles's "Hey Jude".
Lets comment now the suite "Fearless", which is even longer than half an hour. It is divided in 8 parts that you will be able to choose on your CD players, given that they are separated. The suite begins with some minimalistic keyboard sounds that are developed until the rhythm base and the guitar become part of it. The vocal melody begins with sounds of birds as a background and, starting there, some moments of great progressive-symphonic quality start appearing, moments that go from a style closer to The Moody Blues or to Pink Floyd, to some other moments of more sonic potential by the Hammonds (Atomic Rooster), and there are even some moments that slightly remind of The Police. To conclude the first part there is an instrumental sax part whose background is a guitar arpeggio that is simply gorgeous. The second part is a guitar driven section with brutal keyboards and a very Indie voice. Then, another rhythm change and we are now completely in American lands: a fusion of Pearl Jam with the Flying Burrito Bros and Pink Floyd's epic moments and the result would be something similar to this. If you thought that the third part was completely bizarre, you should listen to the fourth and fifth ones, given that the cocktail of influences of this band is increased by moments of pure heavy metal (Metallica), Krautrock, space-music (Hawkwind), west coast psychedelic rock (Grateful Dead), saxophone solos, slide guitars, etc. The sixth part has a touch of VdGG mixed with the style of Crimsons "Thrak". The seventh part goes a bit down since it is a kind of a strange reggae with funk elements on bass guitar. To conclude, the eighth part is in the style of Hammill and includes some interesting experimentation's with recordings and percussion.
To sum up, I believe that we are in front of one of the biggest promises for the following years in progressive rock, with nerve and personality. Fluent and kind music, keyboard layers and Tolkien topics are the things you won't find in "Fearless". But if your progressive appetites are satisfied by good music made with great talent, imagination and sincerity, in "Fearless" you have a true value on which you can bet. One of the best recordings in 1999.