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Brain Tentacles is an avant-garde metal / noise rock / jazz band from Chicago in Illinois.

Comprised of Bruce Lamont (Bloodiest), Dave Witte (Publicist UK, Circle of Animals) and Aaron Dallison (Keelhaul), Brain Tentacles create a twisted sound like no other. Equal parts jazz, metal and noise, the band's improvisational & structured pieces surprise as much because of their catchiness as their aural insanity. Open your mind and let Brain Tentacles work their otherworldly magic.

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BRAIN TENTACLES Brain Tentacles album cover 3.33 | 2 ratings
Brain Tentacles
Avant-garde Metal 2016



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Album · 2016 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
BRAIN TENTACLES is a newer breed of hardcore bands that strives to create the ultimate fusion effect by tackling the disparate styles of metal and jazz and making them swirl around and dance together like a ballerina in a Russian palace. This Chicago based trio is comprised of three music veterans with Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Blloodlest, etc) contributing horns, vocals and keys, Dave Witte (Discordance Axis, Municipal Waste, etc) on drums and Aaron Dallson (Keelhaul) on bass, vocals and synth. It’s been over 25 years since John Zorn and his project Painkiller first unleashed the creative possibilities of mixing avant-garde jazz with metal elements and although a few bands like Mr Bungle, Zu and Diablo Swing Orchestra tackled the jazz meets metal thing in their own unique ways, it has not exactly been a highly tackled type of fushion and even rarer that BRAIN TENTACLES reverts back to the original Zorn formula by leaving out any trace of metal guitar whatsoever.

Despite the bass being the only stringed instrument on board here, it somewhat adequately covers the metal stomping grounds as it pummels along with the intense percussive workouts and creates a relentless rhythmic drive while Lamont channels his inner Zorn to deliver the sax lines that provide the melodic structure of the compositions. He’s also quite the accomplished soloist however he doesn’t delve into the freakazoid zone like Zorn tends to with pig squeals and unearthly torturous timbres. The music on this one tends to stay within the accessibility zone with mostly short and to-the-point tracks but delivers a few progressive treats such as the lengthy “Cosmic Warriors Girth Curse” which sounds like the disparate sounds of doom metal meeting surf rock (think Dick Dale & His Del-Tones in the horn department) and one of the few tracks to contain vocals which happen to sounds frantic enough to come from the extreme metal underground world of grind or metalcore. It’s actually one of the best tracks as it even ventures into psychedelic Krautrock meanderings while the drums churn along in their own world.

Tracks like “Hand Of God” start out sounding like a high school marching band really wanting to be a doom metal band instead and since the album was produced by Sanford Parker of Minsk and Yob fame, it’s no wonder that some doom metal aspects made it into the mix. “The Spoiler” is probably the most intense and closest to metal with screaming vocals, crushing bass and drums except for a sax instead of a guitar! The grooves are fast and frenetic. “The Sadist” is another metal monster with black metal raspy vocals and the usual bass and sax shtick however the drums are on fire on this one and perhaps the best percussion on the entire album. “Fata Morgana” takes on a post-metal type of flavor with sultry speakeasy sax ostinato that takes on a Swans type of vocal style. “Palantine” is the longest track clocking in at over 12 and 1/2 minutes and begins as a monotonous jazzy groove that extends to over 4 minutes and then turns into a lame telephone conversation that goes nowhere and seems like it will never end. I absolutely HATE these types of things tacked on to the end of the album. It’s another attempt to add some humor but fails to do so and seriously cheapens the serious effect of the rest of the album. This whole track should have been chucked. A total waste of time.

While i wouldn’t call the sound of BRAIN TENTACLES revolutionary or anything since the idea has been around for well over two decades, they do manage to create a much more melodic take of Zorn’s vision and de-emphasize the chaotic aspects to a certain degree and tame them into more digestible forms. The hypnotic repetitive parts add a solid foundation to the rhythm while the conservative solos are dished out only occasionally for contrast’s sake. Several aspects water this interesting album down for me a bit. First are the childish conversational bits such as on “Gassed” and “Palantine” which sound like some teenage funk rock bands from the 80s. Secondly is the band isn’t always adventurous enough to keep the ideas interesting. While the Zorn influences are aplenty, there is never any larger than life moments that transcend the listener into another dimension like excellent avant-garde and experimental music should. While the overall songs are themselves well composed, BRAIN TENTACLES just doesn’t go beyond an established comfort zone. A little more hot sauce on the plate please. Having said that, this is a decent debut album that shows great potential and has a great variation of styles on display. I do however think they would sound better with at least some guitar supplementation on board or even some other instrumental contribution as the music seems a little sparse at times.


Album · 2016 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Metal bands that decide to throw out one of the genre's most dominant instruments aren't unheard of, but they're not exactly common either. In the case of US act Brain Tentacles they've done away with the guitar and replaced it with a saxophone. The group describe their music as a mix of metal, jazz and noise and that's pretty accurate about what you'll find on this, their self-titled debut album.

Due to lacking guitars (though it does have bass and plenty of it), it came as a surprise to me how metal this actually sounds. I guess I shouldn't been, as there are other acts out there that I'm familiar with that have likewise emulated the usual setup metal in their own unique way, such as Apocalyptica on their cello's on Van Canto with their very voices. Brain Tentacles have only subbed the one instrument here, but it turns out that was all they needed to make their sound the most interesting out of all the such bands I've heard. That may because unlike those other two artists, these guys actually play experimental music as well, rather than essentially producing generic work in a non-standard way. Brain Tentacles is an avant-garde jazz metal album, to my ears, and you don't hear those every day, guitars or no guitars. It's a wonder that jazz metal hasn't become a major thing yet, as artists have been experimenting mixing the two for countless years.

The album is mostly instrumental with occasional vocal parts. I'm not personally a fan of pure instrumental music for the most part, but I actually wish this album was as I feel the vocal parts are the weak link in the band's sound, though they do add some shades of extreme metal that make me think mostly of sludge metal, or even hardcore punk music. The music is good throughout, but once the wow factor has had time to wear off, which for me happened about half way through the album, I didn't find it to be as spectacular as I initially thought it was going to be. The opening duo of Kingda Ka and Fruitcake hit me hard but with such short durations don't make up even a tenth of the album's running time. The album also ends with an extended voice-over section which seems to be the band's attempt at a comedy skit, but it goes on for far too long to be funny.

Brain Tentacles produced an interesting album here. They aren't the first band to try to do something like this as there was also a band called Zu who made some releases considered to be avant-garde metal using a saxophone instead of a guitar, but it's still pretty unique and will certainly broaden your horizons about how metal can be made. For my part it's something I'll probably return to on those rare occasions when my usual go to genres just aren't the cup of tea I need, rather than be something on regular rotation.


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