Brain Famine – Exploding Paranoid Universe Review and Interview
I clearly remember the day I first heard Brain Famine. It was a Wednesday, or possibly a Friday, but maybe another day of the week too, I think. It was definitely during the year, and there was some kind of weather that day, maybe regular or maybe rain or something. Anyway, none of that mattered because of how thoroughly I was annihilated by their 2011 self-titled EP. Now the Massachusetts trio is back with a full-length album, and I can assure you one thing: no dick will be left uncrushed.
Brain Famine recipe:
4 buttloads ground death
2.5 fists distilled grind
2 kegs moldy thrash
1 baseball bat
Put all ingredients in something, doesn’t matter what, shake around until it congeals. Forget about in the backyard until hardened and crusty. Serve with bat directly to face.
If the above recipe doesn’t have you drooling blood for Brain Famine, then see me after class. Their 6-song effort from 2011 thrashes its way through a swamp of raucous death metal that has an almost rock n’ roll catchiness to it. And upon the sudden release of their full-length debut, guitarist/primary songwriter Chris Leamy was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. I thought my first question about their formation would be pretty cliché, but it turns out Brain Famine has a pretty bizarre backstory.
John/Chris/Matt all agreed to 10-hour RoboRectal male pap smears administered by the Onboard Pleasure Butler Utility which comes installed in their reconstituted Trebent that is accidentally hurtling through the Milky Way. The combined flecks of DNA from the pap smears get 3D printed into a monolithic time capsule to be shat out of the vehicle towards Earth. 666 years later, it lands in Weymouth and 3 Krokodil addicts mistake it for Jenkem by-product, chugging immediately. 69 months later, each addict shits out one deformed ass-baby. When the ass-babies grow up and attend college, each parent has Empty Nest Syndrome so they start Brain Famine to cope with the extra free time. The universe never gets saved. Horrible story, don’t print it.
I believe him. The cosmic/anal journey produced a positively addicting brand of GrindeathrashTM, exemplified perfectly in “Hallucinating Contagion.” The other thing that’ll hook you through the album is riffs. Riffs for days, man. Any band rooted in a single sub genre can fall into a rut of hammering away at that aesthetic with little variation. While we as fans can enjoy the overall product, that typically doesn’t result in a desire for repeated listens or standout tunes. Luckily, there is a distinct style to the twists, turns, and note choices woven into Brain Famine’s music, a jaunty chromaticism that gives every tune a fire-spitting, beer-chugging (and memorable!) swagger. It’s as much a rowdy good time as it is a kick to the inside of the skull. Chris elaborated on their writing process and influences for me:
So far, I have written all the tunes. That entails me having tons of riffs always lying around, followed by days/weeks/months of agony hammering them out into an entertaining arrangement (always the difficult part). So it’s usually like this: I write a song, which is pretty fast and has some twisty & turny parts. Then it comes to practice, gets filtered through the performance of Matt & John, and it always ends up 200% faster and more stressful, and our wrists hurt.
As for the note choices – I don’t know if the result resembles this but I view it as Carcass/Xysma/Cadaver/Carnage-style heavy notes colliding with fast, twitchy, thrashy shit like Atheist, old Sepultura, Kreator, Absu, Sadus, Hellwitch, and then rip off some weird death metal gestures from old Morbid Angel, Demilich, Autopsy, Disharmonic Orchestra etc. Then because we also like hardcore, powerviolence, noise, shit like Dysrhythmia, Frank Zappa, and Allan Holdsworth, it probably filters through sideways and confuses the sound, hahaha.
And those monstrously layered, filthy swamp-thing vocals?
Meth, krokodil, poppers, year-long cigar benders, and worship of people like Kelly Shaefer, Jeff Walker, Proscriptor, Mille Petrozza, David Vincent in 1989, Alan Dubin, early Deicide, etc.
And somehow, after filtering through all that, there is an unmistakable fun factor to Exploding Paranoid Universe. Don’t mistake that word for a lack of serious music here; there is no getting around the excellent performances of all the players involved. The breakneck precision of the drumming alone should have most people interested, and the aforementioned riffing doesn’t feel phoned in for a second. However, if this album were a person, it would be that huge dude with a beard who always wears a filthy denim vest, has already chugged ten beers before you started on one, always starts the mosh pit by throwing a hardcore dancer at someone, knows every single band in the world on a personal level, and is the nicest person you know. Also, he’ll accidentally break your arm some day, but you won’t even be mad. That person is this album: a whirlwind of serious grinding, headbanging fury that remains accessible and always listenable.
Brain Famine (perhaps unintentionally) followed an almost Krallice-like release strategy. After over a year of no online updates (during which I sadly assumed they were done), Exploding Paranoid Universe was suddenly on their Bandcamp page for a name-your-price download. Recording is a hassle for any band, and it’s especially easy to understand setbacks at the underground level. Chris explained:
John did the drums in a day, but we developed the rest of the performances (bass lines, vox patterns, lyrics, leads, solos) very slowly. Then, we took ages on the mixdown cuz we’re inefficient amateur engineers. Then the guy doing the art was busy, so there’s another 6 months gone. We also moved practice spaces twice during this time. It wasn’t really like “shit, how are we gonna do this,” it was more just unconsciously elbowing obstacles out of the way until we realized it was like 1.5 years of bullshit.
And now we can all rest easy with the new album under our pillow every night. Chris is also aiming for another EP or split “within a year or so,” and some regional touring possibilities with their new live vocalist Pat Rennick (Spitting Black, ex-Deathamphetamine).
With all the boring stuff out of the way, I got to my only important question: If you could choose one Brain Famine song for President Obama to recite the lyrics to while looking straight into the camera during the State of the Union address, what would it be and why?
I’m pulling a wild card and having him read the “liner notes” on Bandcamp from our first release because it references my friend Dan’s sexual favors and spiritual guidance.
Now that’s a message I can stand behind, Obama. Check out Brain Famine on Facebook and Bandcamp, and thank those dudes for their time and the excellent music.
Thanks for the support and thanks for enjoying the tunes! Totally appreciated. Share and spread, it’s free.