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The French duo of singer Arno Strobl (aka Alan Thursday Morning) and multi-instrumentalist Axel Wursthorn (aka Karl Zengerls) play an unlikely combination of extreme metal and disco/dance pop. Pushing the boundaries of conventional good taste, both musically and lyrically, they also display a twisted, partially submerged sense of humor reminiscent of Faith No More/Mr. Bungle/Fantomas vocalist Mike Patton. In fact, the duo cites Patton/Mr. Bungle as an influence, along with fellow classification-skirting experimentalists Frank Zappa and John Zorn's Naked City, soul/pop stars Rick James, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Michael Jackson, and metal bands including Carcass, Morbid Angel, and Cradle of Filth. But while there is certainly a degree of humor in their music, the duo stresses that they sincerely enjoy (and are not out to mock) the various musicians and styles they reference, something borne out by the immaculate care and detail that goes into their studio-intensive productions; in other words, they are not just some comedy act.
Carnival in Coal initially formed in 1995, though their first full-length album, Vivalavida (or "Long Live Life"), did not surface until 1999. The first release on the small French label War on Majors, it consisted solely of originals and was performed almost entirely by Strobl and Wursthorn, with the aid of a drum machine and a few guest musicians. French Cancan followed later the same year, this time on the Kodiak label (distributed worldwide by Season of Mist), and included two more originals, along with bizarre covers of Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Morbid Angel, Genesis, adult contemporary singer Gerry Rafferty, and a song from the popular Flashdance soundtrack from the early '80s. French Cancan helped to somewhat raise the duo's profile in the U.S. and met with acclaim (or at least intense reactions) from those who heard it, but it was still much more widely heard in Europe — namely France, Germany, and Austria. Still strictly a studio project as of 2001, Carnival in Coal released their third album, Fear Not Carnival in Coal, in April of that year.