Three great musicians of the extreme/experimental metal scene meet up to as Brain Tentacles. Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, Dave Witte of Discordance Axis and Aaron Dallison of Keelhaul, do not need much of an introduction, but their new project certainly does. The band's debut album, coming out through Relapse, shows an unconventional take on extreme metal, replacing electric guitars with horns and crafting complex song structures. In big part Brain Tentacles rely on their dense and hostile tone, arising from the complexity of their tracks, as the record is racing down a maze-like path, swiftly and abruptly twisting and turning, making this one fucking entertaining ride.
Even though the scope appears to be experimental and the band's technical prowess is stellar, do not expect a full-blown technical jazz influenced grindcore band, or renditions of Atheist's jazz-induced death metal. The bulk of this album moves masterfully through extreme metal territories, with heavier riffs (coming from the bass or horns) stepping in the spotlight. “Cosmic Warriors Girth Curse” for the most part is an example of this mentality, unfolding through sludge-oid qualities and reaching an experimental take on Acid Bath's dirty doom/sludge, while death/grind seems to always be just a step away as “The Spoiler” and “The Sadist” suggest.
Sure there is a lot of further experimentation than just using an unconventional instrumentation and the highly skilled musicianship that has gone into this work. The more abstract jazz domain is visited systematically, offering more soothing moments and expanding the scope, in parts of “Cosmic Warriors” and even more impressively in the jazz plunge of “Sleestack Lightning” and the moody setting of “Fata Morgana,” with the band offering a touch of psychedelia to go along with the scenery.
What ties these diverse elements is the tongue in cheek attitude that the trio seems to take throughout this endeavor. For starters they are rehashing some quite iconic tracks, as Sepultura's “Refuse/Resist” in “Fruitcake,” causing havoc before they switch to paso doble and then drive it home with some jazzy changes. It is instances like that the allure towards John Zorn's experimental adventures, especially early on with Naked City, and Mike Patton's erratic era with Mr. Bungle and the more cinematic quality of Fantomas come to mind, however it does not feel like Brain Tentacles completely embrace these.
What is prevailing is the amount of gimmick elements that the band likes to throw to the listener's, especially in terms of the samples that are mixed with the tracks (the final one especially is hilarious.) That does not mean that there was not some serious work that has gone into crafting the album together. But, the attempt of merging together the divergent aspects of all these influences is not entirely complete, and most time it sounds like an extreme metal record with switches in instrumentations and moments of jazz exploration. It is a good introduction, and certainly sticks out, but I will be waiting for the next one, since I feel that this trio is able to cover a lot more ground.
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