BRAINERD – Animal Mother
(2005 Party Records)
Written by Joe Price
Brainerd has an ambiguous style. Animal Mother opens with a blistering metal assault of tribal drum rhythms and heavy guitars. Singer Deitrich barks “Jesus!” repeatedly before the shouted chorus, “Can you smell the meat?” Repeat a few times and crank up the intensity and you have a powerful opening to this band’s second album. They actually manage to take it up a notch with the next track, “Tabula Rasa.” This song is energy in music form. The rhythm is tireless and hypnotic, like waves of the ocean, and the vocal melody only intensifies its effect. The death-metal vocals of the first track give way to spacey musings about the “ghosts all around you.”
By the time “Deb Lee”, the thirds song, kicks into “The tail of a honky-tonk wandering soul / Who traveled across the sea,” it’s apparent that Brainerd has a multifaceted personality. Don’t get me wrong; they are always dark, usually bleak, and often tinged with cynical humor, but they run that attitude through its paces and after the momentum of the opening tracks, they switch seamlessly into their rock ‘n’ roll persona. “Deb Lee” is whimsical in a grouchy-pirate-drunk-in-the-bar sort of way. The song’s AC/DC riffing and solos break up storytelling verses that build tension until the massive release that is the powerhouse, seemingly endless last half of the song. Brainerd transitions easily between metal and rock ‘n’ roll, mixing the two styles and attitudes smoothly and at will.
On track four, “Underwater,” they shift gears again. It’s a sort of psychedelic alt-rock that is more toned down than the previous tracks, but loses none of the momentum that has been established. The album maintains continuity without becoming repetitious. The band has a core identity that is never lost even as they blend in elements of different styles. Then they smash back into the hard stuff again with “Legion.” It’s not a song about war or the occult, but a death-metal tirade aimed at an ex who’s “packed full of diseases, packed full of lies.” One can’t help but notice a touch of mirth in Dietrich’s voice, gruff though it may be, as he lists the ways that his former lover is like “a legion of whores.”
Sick humor pervades the disc, but is not limited to the album’s nine songs. Even the inside cover is a monument to the grotesque. Their band photos are not the usual stiff, uncomfortable snapshots of so many other bands. Each member is pictured in his own convincingly staged death scene, including drummer Kinzler’s unfortunate passing by autoerotic asphyxiation. The enigmatic photo of the mysterious bearded man with the golden locks and the shining sword is another highlight, not to mention the red and dripping nude female on the cover whose face is ominously absent from the picture.
Animal Mother starts with a track titled “Jesus” and ends with a track titled “Sin,” and there’s plenty of morally reprehensible material, complex instrumental jamming, and smolderingly sarcastic ideas filling the space between the two. Add that to the excellent production quality, and this album kicks ass.