I can only imagine what it must have been like for people to first hear albums such as 2112 from Rush, or Dark Side of the Moon from Pink Floyd. I was too young when those albums came out to know what a truly unique sound was being produced by these fine musicians, and the cultural impact that those albums had on the population. I do, however, know the history. Out of the miasma of frivolous cock rock came a thinking man’s music, or at the very least, music that was compositionally more advanced than what was being consumed by the masses . . . yet no less musical. As of a few days ago, I think I finally understand how those music fans of the ‘70’s must have felt. You see, I received a copy of Braintoy’s latest release entitled Vehicles, and I was immediately astonished by the array of sounds that found their way to my ears.
The title track kicks things off with a building piano / synthesizer intro, as the accompanying instruments gradually join the fray, the keys suddenly disappear and the listener is propelled into a world of swirling musicality. The guitars of Christian Anderson are tastefully distorted as he lays down a technically proficient riff that’s like peanut butter on the brain. I’ve found myself humming that riff for the past three mornings, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have that versus something annoying like “Yellow Submarine.” As the song flows, the tension is in constant flux and I can’t help but latch onto the lyrics of new vocalist Tristan Green as he croons “it can’t be ignored.” No . . . it can’t be ignored. Braintoy have firmly positioned themselves to become the champions of progressive rock / metal for years to come. Keep an ear out for the multitude of poly-rhythms at the choruses, they add a nice touch.
“Computational Symptoms” picks up where “Vehicles” left off, with a great guitar and keyboard opening that just melts into the succulence of Tristan’s vocals. As the song kicks into a higher gear, we get an unobstructed view of the true power of this band. The rhythm section of Devin Gasteiger and Riley O’Connor provide the most outstanding display of acrobatics this side of Cirque Du Soleil. Never have I heard a band this tight, yet retain such a keen sense of melody. Christian’s guitar solo could easily be placed along those of any of the great prog guitarists and his approach towards the riff leading out of the break is a lesson in style.
“Theft Prevention” should be in heavy rotation on any of the rock stations around the world. It has all of the elements that make a song great. Excellent opening riff that flows seamlessly into a melodic chorus. Heavy ass, attention grabbin’ break. Musical technicality that separates itself from the rest of the radio jargon. And, baby . . . that groove is what great music is all about!
As all the great bands do, Braintoy change things up and keep the listener challenged. It’s not all about the band challenging themselves, but bands have to give the music fan something that has them constantly returning for more. “Banyan Tree” is an acoustic driven tune that highlights more of Tristan’s beautiful vocals. Devin adds little piano flourishes over Christian’s guitar work, and it’s not until we’re nearing the end of the tune that we finally hear from Riley. Being the most accessible tune on Vehicles, “Banyan Tree” will more than likely find it’s way on the radio at some point.
As the mellowness of “Banyan Tree” fades, Braintoy return to flexing some musical muscle with “The Projectionist.” The song opens with Tristan’s vocal wail over a distorted bass line before it breaks into utter chaos. That dynamic tightness is on full display again, yet countered with uber-melodic vocals. The interplay of bass and guitar after the break are a great touch. Again . . . thinking man’s music. Consistently keeping the listener on their toes. Always having the listener suspect what’s going to be around the corner, but never really knowing.
“Sputnik II” is an incredible sonic piece of art. Droning keyboards and effect laden guitars layered over impressive drum work introduce the tune. In fact, Riley’s performance on this tune is top shelf and all drummers, up n’ comers and established skinsmen alike, should take note. Tristan’s vocals have a Chris Cornell quality to them and add a sort of familiarity to the music. It’s a masterpiece, folks. Braintoy intermingle the heavy aspects of rock with the jazzy overtures of the keyboards, throw in some mellower, sensitive moments, and ultimately have this listener catching his breath at the end of the song.
“Interlude” is a shadow of Porcupine Tree’s quieter moments with it’s layers of vocal harmonies and ambient keyboard textures. Again, the vocal work shines like the stars on a cloudless night. It’s “Surgery Sink” that may be the most striking tune on Vehicles. The clean guitar arpeggio’s lay down the foundation of the song while the bass and drums interweave around each other before all coming together to create a pummeling groove. “Charles Justice (The Ballad of . . . )” is a true metal moment and shows the boys can stand toe to toe with any of the heavy weights out there. “Arsonists and Architects” is a well written lyric that provides us a social / political commentary (depending how you interpret the words) on the policy makers of our world. And “Said and Done” puts a bow on the whole glimmering package with it’s ambient piano / keyboard driven vibe.
Vehicles is the album I’ve waited for years to hear. It has the classic prog rock elements of Rush and Pink Floyd, yet perfectly blends the elements of the modern prog giants like Tool and Porcupine Tree. It’s heavy music with a touch of compassion, sensitive without being wimpy. It’s a combination of all the things that we love about music, but it sounds fresh. It’s an album that can’t be overlooked because the music industry needs this album to bring real music back to the airwaves. I know the year is early, but Vehicles is my early favorite for Album of the Year. There’s no weak moment on it. It’s diverse enough to keep things interesting for years to come.
There you have it . . . the Pope decrees that you scroll down, click the link to the Braintoy home page, purchase the album, and then call every radio station you can and demand that Vehicles be in steady rotation. If you don’t, who will? - Pope JTE
To purchase, hit link below