When I think of what some of my favorite indie music is right now, Mal Fantome is certainly a go-to. Their music hits you in the feels, it’s just funky enough to be danceable, and is layered with guitar-oriented rock riffs and leads. It is so modern sounding but yet somehow still an incredible blend of both 80s and 90s music influence. From a dark wave / new wave vibe to a gritty, sonic, grunge / alternative rock style of approach. And I’m all about it.
I’m already getting ahead of myself. Mal Fantome is a band from Quebec City, Canada. The origin of what was to eventually become Mal Fantome was founded by members Jack de Varennes (bass) and “Chuck” Boivin (vox, guitars, keys) in 2008. That’s where the history starts, and that is the core of the project, initially releasing an EP under the name “21 Grams” (referring to the experiment by Dr. Duncan MacDougall who was studying the weight of the soul) somewhere around the same time. Mal Fantome became “official” with the release of their first album “Half Empty / Half Full” in 2018 and the band has hit the ground running since then, release new singles and videos in almost every month of 2019, adding drummer Ike Barsalou to the lineup, and racking up streams of 750k on Spotify along the way. Their second studio album, “Volcano” was released last January in 2021.
My initial first impressions, if I were to try and categorize Mal Fantome by what I hear by influence, or at least what I can best compare it to when I think of what it reminds me of, is Blue October, but with more dimensions. It’s like if Bowie fronted the band Live or a late 90s era R.E.M. And just when I think I would commit to that as a description, I listen to it, and then hear reminiscence of The Cure.
Enough about what I think inspires the sound, what does the band say? They cite some of the same things I do: Bowie and The Cure, but elaborate further with the likes of Joy Division, Spoon, STP, and the Afghan Whigs to name a few. I would confidently say that if your musical pallet picks up on any of those artists mentioned, you are sure to enjoy Mal Fantome.
The first time I heard Mal Fantome was sometime in late 2019 with the single “On Fire” and that song really struck a chord with me. It was one of those moments where the song you connect with becomes embedded in your memory with a particular feeling or time and place. When I think of that song specifically, it takes me back to the onset of what was a pivotal point in time for me, early 2020. The state I live in, was one of the original “hot spot” areas for this new thing that was happening called COVID (pretty sure we’ve all heard of that by now, yeah?). It wasn’t shortly thereafter the availability of toilet paper, water, and other essentials all but disappeared from the grocery stores, that my family dog died in my daughter’s room as we all went into quarantine. Even though this was a dark time to think about, I do recollect “On Fire” being something I would listen to repeatedly during this time period and it helped me through it. The lyrics, “I’m buzzing all the time, and I can’t take my eyes off this screen, I feel so disconnected, disconnected… disconnected,” still makes the hair stand up on my neck when I hear it. This song was re-released as track number 2 on “Volcano.”
You’ll find that every song on “Volcano” is a quality piece of work that could easily stand alone as a single. So much so, that Mal Fantome has produced a video for every song on it, with only 2 videos left unreleased. And I’m super stoked to report that with this review, we’ll be able to share those two videos with you here in this review before their official public availability.
I’d like to also specifically call out the latest video that was released from “Volcano” called “Fact Yourself,” because after deep diving into the album for the review, I can tell you that it has grown to be my favorite Mal Fantome song out right now. Between the great guitar grooving bridge, the bass that slaps you right in the face, and the melodic hook that goes so well harmonically with the guitar arrangements, this song will get stuck in your head for days.
As I write this review, I can’t help but feel like it’s an injustice to not embed every video for every song on the album since they have one, but then I’d just be belaboring you with embed after embed instead of writing about it. Conversely, I highly recommend, in fact I insist, that you go right to the source and support this artist because it is well deserved. There’s a lot of content to deep dive into. As for what’s in store for us from Mal Fantome in 2022? Aside from officially releasing these two videos we’re about to preview to wrap up “Volcano,” the band is in the studio finishing up the third studio album (no title yet). The first single from that release is slated for June, so keep an eye out for more great stuff from this band. I certainly will be.
Find Mal Fantome here:
I also realize the meat and potatoes of this review is to get to the debut of the unreleased stuff! So without further ado, check out “Bleeding Out” and “Black Dog”
Not only are we spinning Mal Fantome on AMS Radio, but they are also a regular featured artist on our Indie Anarchy Spotify playlist, check them out as well as other great indie artists here: