Review – Braineater: Weak, Frail, and Powerless

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  • Bio: "GRINDY, GRIM, AND FROSTBITTEN GARBAGE DISPOSAL NOISES WITH HINTS OF TOILET FLUSHING AND DEATH METAL"
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  • Label: Sun Chariot Records
  • Release Date: February 15th, 2016
  • Genre: Death Metal, Grindcore
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

In the few years California’s Braineater has existed, they went through a few major changes. Originally calling themselves Astaroth in 2012, they eventually shifted to the name Volvagia (the name still used as their official Facebook account) before finally settling on Braineater later that year. Since then, there has been a demo at the tail-end of 2013, a contribution to a split with Vanquisher the next, and just last year saw the band’s debut EP titled Reclusive drop. Not to sit still for long, Braineater, now a two-piece, ventured into the studio once more to record their sophomore EP Weak, Frail, and Powerless for release through Sun Chariot Records. But does this latest offering stand as one worth sampling, or is it just a collective mess of death and punk influenced material?

Unlike Reclusive‘s higher-budget sounding production, Weak, Frail, and Powerless travels the lo-fi route. It’s understandable considering their last effort seemed to focus a good deal of slams, whereas this new iteration is heavy on the grindcore, making the d.i.y. sound feel a little more at home than that comparable to the quality of a later Death recording. Unfortunately, the muffled approach doesn’t always work in the band’s favor here, as the music isn’t always delegated to working alongside it. Instead, it works to try to break out of those imposed limitations with higher pitches that often clash with it.

Weak, Fail, and Powerless is like taking the technical aspects of Death and lacing it with deathgrind like Exhumed and a nasal additional vocal approach reminiscent of Macabre. When the duo really hunker down on the death metal aspects, the muffled approach can really come through, especially when resorting to doom metal pacing or general slams mid-song, such as during the closing of “Opinionated”. For the most part, the raspy shouting approach is kept more to the background than as the running stylistic choice at the forefront of the levels like on the rest of the tracks, allowing the deeper tuning to really come forward and offer up a dismal, sometimes uncompromising atmosphere. It’s something you can tell “Call in the Bear Jew (Ode to Donny Donowitz)” was aiming for between the two audio samples, and manages to hit with a sandpaper presence that rubs hard along your ear drums.

However, it’s when the band really amps up the technicality that things become a little too much. “Hooked on LCD” takes more from a punk hardcore playbook than anything, which is far from a bad thing structurally. The output, however, just doesn’t work well with the analog approach. The bass-heavy segments, like around the chaos of two minutes in, sounds good, but nowhere near as burdening as the bass heavy simpler, less complex segments that are hindered by the higher pitched shouting that simply comes off obnoxiously out-of-place. “The Bird and the Lamb” amps this up with random blast beats in what can sometimes feel like a slightly avant-garde grindcore piece. The hardcore grooves felt about half-way through sound fantastic, and even the aforementioned screaming works for the most part due to that steady hardcore presence, though they still could be a bit lower in the mix. Other than that, the intricacies work out a lot better, feeling like a far more refined piece compared to the rest of the offering.

Braineater

All that said, the main downfall to Weak, Frail, and Powerless is that it basically sounds like the title implies. There really isn’t any need to go the analog mastering route with this one, and having it presented like Reclusive would have benefitted this effort so much better. There wouldn’t be this odd clashing between deeper tuning and higher random notes and nasal screaming, which really should have been a background aspect outside the direct hardcore and grindcore elements. In fact, it would have made this effort not only sound more professional, but also a lot tighter, giving the listener a more precise picture of what the band is going for, and kept things like the altered screaming and bass only introduction of “The Bird and the Lamb” from being as annoying as it was.

A number of spins through with Weak, Frail, and Powerless, and I still feel I haven’t been able to grasp the whole thing as well as I probably should [and this is coming from someone who’s heard his fair share of analog death and black metal releases over the years], not to mention found very little to be memorable beyond the timing changes and ominous doom metal segments. This is sad to say given it couldn’t be said after just one listen through Reclusive. Whatever the reason for the way this EP sounds, it only made the four songs sound amateurish despite obviously having some decent compositions at the helm. Instead of presenting something that today’s recording standards could have properly accentuated, we’re left with something that feels cheap, gimmicky, and muddy, the latter especially when not playing to the band’s strength of death metal with or without crushing doom metal attributes. Hopefully the next release ups the writing and production values a little more, as this is just an overall weak sounding effort that only sets the group back, especially with newcomers.

Braineater

Digital review copy of this release provided by Sun Chariot Records.