One can almost imagine a trio of scene veterans forming Brain Tentacles with the explicit goal of antagonizing metal purists. Featuring Bruce Lamont of Yakuza and Corrections House on horns, vocals, piano and synths; Dave Witte of Discordance Axis, Municipal Waste, Burnt By The Sun and Human Remains (among others) on drums; and Aaron Dallison of Keelhaul on bass, synths and vocals, Brain Tentacles summon a completely unpredictable cacophony that will leaves listeners both baffled and entertained.
The press release accompanying the band’s self-titled debut (get it from Amazon) strives to connect the group to John Zorn‘s Naked City, and describes them as a “metallic jazz trio.” This is a decent initial reference point, since discerning listeners will find that as with Naked City, much of the material leans heavily on composed sections—while there are certainly elements of improvisation present, it doesn’t seem to be the group’s primary mode. On several songs, like “Fruitcake” and “Gassed,” the horns seem to take the place of guitar, essentially playing riffs. The riffs on these songs aren’t necessarily standard metal fare, though, which bolsters the utterly idiosyncratic atmosphere of the album.
Other tracks, especially the one-two punch of “Cosmic Warriors Girth Curse” and “Hand of God,” take somewhat from a sludge blueprint, with immensely heavy, plodding tempos interspersed with punk-style galloping sections. In some ways, whether intended or not, a sonic analogue seems to reveal itself: California powerviolence legends Man Is The Bastard. Both bands are utterly unique unto themselves, but there is a certain commonality in their unusual way of stomping at slower tempos, and Dallison’s immense bass tone also brings to mind MITB’s two-bass-guitar approach.
The album continues to explore all kinds of territory throughout its runtime. “The Sadist” comes across as a completely unhinged take on black metal, with Witte’s trademark blast beats, Lamont’s feedback-like saxophone screeching and throat-shredding vocals. Meanwhile, “Fata Morgana” brings to mind a different John Zorn project—not Naked City, but rather the Painkiller track “Blackhole Dub” from 1992’s Buried Secrets. On this track, the volume becomes more subdued and the mood becomes that of a dark noir soundtrack.
Brain Tentacles will not endear themselves to your typical metalhead; this is only for those with a more adventurous spirit. The group’s sound is completely gonzo, yet almost lighthearted, perhaps recalling the irreverence of a group like Old Lady Drivers (better known as OLD). While certainly not destined to take over the world, Brain Tentacles will find their audience, or considering the kind of musical obsession that leads one to listen to a group like this, maybe the audience will find them.