Review Summary: A smorgasbord of technicality and insanity that will both please and drive away listeners.
Over the last few years a new breed of technical death metal bands have been sprouting up across the United States. These bands are mainly devoted to one thing: technicality. Following bands like Necrophagist and Spawn of Possession, this new wave of tech death is a prime showcase for what talent, drive, and determination can do when a musician puts his mind to it. It's also a prime showcase of how not to write songs. While the aforementioned Necrophagist and Spawn of Possession have at least good skills when it comes to song structure, most of the bands in the new litter of tech death have either very underdeveloped writing skills or none at all, with only certain exceptions to this rule such as Origin and The Faceless. Brain Drill falls into that category. While all of the albums, Quantum Catastrophe included, are extremely high in terms of technicality and musicianship, they are not the best in terms of actually writing songs.
One of the biggest complaints bands like Brain Drill get are that there is zero variety in their music. I can definitely see some merit to that claim. Without looking at the song titles and running times it does seem very hard for a first time listener to distinguish one song from another. The keen essential point of Brain Drill's music is to give your mind an overload of insanity. All of the songs have the same instrumental techniques to them: hammer ons, pull offs, tremolo picking, bass slapping, bass and guitar tapping, and blast beats. Many sections are recycled for later songs. The song structure is virtually nonexistent; there are no verses or choruses to speak of, and while the band does flow cleanly from one part of a song to the next, there's no real connection between parts of the songs beyond that. There are solos every so often but they're all the same excessive wanking all the other songs have. All the songs are at the same tempo: fast as ***. In terms of actual BPM, I would say anywhere from 250-280. Another big thing is that some people just aren't conditioned to listen to this kind of music. I know a lot of people who listened to the first song and shut it off half a minute in solely because it's a complete auditory overload. Hell, it took me a while to get accustomed to the sound of Brain Drill, and I've been listening to and playing extreme metal for years. The final track is of epic length (especially for death metal, as rarely do bands like this do songs exceeding 5 minutes), specifically it is slightly over 16 minutes. That is beyond Vital Remains territory. One thing many people have a problem with is just how quantized this album is, specifically on the drums. For those who don't know music jargon, quantizing means to edit a part for accuracy. The proof behind the editing here lies in a video Brain Drill posted to their Youtube channel of Dylan Ruskin and Ron Casey playing the track "Monumental Failure" from this album. Casey isn't entirely accurate in his playing, but when you listen to the album version, it is 100% spot on perfect. Many people consider this cheating or that it robs the album of whatever humanity it could have had, humanity meaning the idea that albums with slight inaccuracies are more enjoyable because you know humans recorded it that way. I fall slightly into that line of thinking. I've always hated the overproduced, sterile sound many metal albums have today, and Quantum Catastrophe falls squarely into the category of overproduced and sterile.
One thing that nobody can doubt though is just how talented these boys are. Even if they all use the same techniques over and over again, they are masterful in how well they play their instruments. Dylan Ruskin is insane on the guitar, going totally overboard with the guitar techniques listed above. Although Ivan Munguia is almost inaudible on the bass here, there are a few moments where his technique shines through, specifically the tapped intro to the opening track "Obliteration Untold". Ron Casey replaces "Lord" Marco Pitruzzella on drums, using all the same things Marco used: extreme double bass, blast beats, and gravity blasts. I will say it right now. I ***ing hate gravity blasts. I think it's just a way to create excessive noise that shouldn't be there; a white noise effect if you will. That is the impression I get from both Marco and Ron overusing the gravity blast. Vocalist Steve Rathjen would be perfect in any death metal band. His growls are deep and guttural, and his high screams are raspy and powerful. All four of these players are extremely skilled with their instrument of choice, and should be lauded as such.
The lyrics are rather good if you ask me. The album is a pseudo-concept album revolving around the prophecy that the world will end in 2012. Vocalist Rathjen wrote the lyrics, and he did a damn good job of talking about all the different things that could happen during a doomsday event and what could happen to people during a doomsday event: falling through crevices created by earthquakes, drowning in waters brought to shore by floods, people running around on fire, the sun being blocked out by volcanic ash clouds, and it all comes to a head in the epic final track "Quantum Catastrophe", with all of humanity dying as Mother Earth takes her final breaths. If there's any other thing about this album that should be lauded other than the instrumentation, it's the lyrics. They bring pictures to one's mind about what exactly a modern doomsday even would look like. And while it doesn't change my mind about 2012 being bull***, it certainly makes me wonder what would happen if a doomsday event were to happen in our age.
Sadly, the really good lyrics and amazing instrumentation does not make up for the mediocre songwriting and plastic production sound. Brain Drill really needs to step up and add some sort of variety to their music, because if they keep making the exact same songs over and over again for future releases, people will turn away from them and the band will die a lonely death. This goes for any of the modern tech death bands more concerned with how fast you can play or how many hammer ons you can fit into a 4 minute time period. Don't try to rip off Necrophagist and Spawn of Possession and Origin or any tech death band that gets it right, but please do try to be original. It'll make my listening to your albums much more pleasurable.