As bassist/keyboardist Devin Gasteiger stresses, "we never really wanted to be a song based band, but an album band, the way that artists we like such as Pink Floyd and Tool are. With them, you’re not getting the full picture unless you hear an album from beginning to end."
Braintoy have achieved just that with Vehicles, a piece of work greater than the sum of its individual parts. It will take you on a memorable sonic journey, beginning with the opening title track, a six and a half minute gem with an epic sweep. From the soaring ethereal vocals of its intro, "Vehicles" breaks into a sledgehammer sonic assault, then continues to explore peaks and valleys in totally exhilarating fashion. Braintoy cover more musical territory on this one song than most bands do on an entire album.
The white-knuckle rollercoaster ride continues through the next ten tracks, but the band know the wisdom of occasionally easing off the throttle and letting the listener catch his breath. The aptly-entitled "Interlude" possesses an ambient beauty suggestive of Brian Eno, while the atmospheric "Banyan Tree" features evocative acoustic guitar.
"Charles Justice (The Ballad Of)" is a short and searing skull-crushing number, heavier than a sumo wrestling tag team, while the soul-searching "The Projectionist" has a widescreen sound driven by high-decibel vocal harmonies, searing guitar, and compelling hooks that render it ripe for saturation rock radio airplay.
The dynamic musical and emotional range of Vehicles helps set Braintoy apart from many of their hard-edged peers. "Life is about many different emotions and situations," reflects singer/lyricist and newest member Tristan Green. "To have just one intense single emotion every night for an hour onstage to me would be unnatural."
The Braintoy sound defies easy definition. Elements of progressive and art rock can be detected within the hard rock template, while the empathetic instrumental work hints at the love of jazz shared by band members.
While not designed as a concept album in the classic sense, Vehicles does have a unifying theme running through it. It skillfully probes the evolution of different facets of life, whether its technology, biology, humanity, or relationships. For instance, the spoken word sample of futurist/inventor Ray Kurzweil in "Surgery Sink" addresses technological change. Heady stuff indeed, but Braintoy have the lyrical chops to pull it off, with Tristan’s words meshing seamlessly with the sophisticated musical virtuosity of his comrades.
The writing process in Braintoy is genuinely collaborative, democratic, and mutually supportive, with all songs being jointly credited. "No-one scoffs at each other’s ideas here. That’s what I love about it," says drummer Riley O’Connor. "If you have an idea, throw it out there, even if it’s not for your instrument." The fact that Green is also an accomplished instrumentalist adds to the chemistry. "He has a sympathy for what we are doing instrumentally, so it’s not like he’s some isolated diva that walks in," notes Devin.
To record Vehicles, Braintoy hooked up with noted producer Andre Wahl (Mudvayne, Spineshank, Joydrop). Sessions took place in an old schoolhouse in northern Ontario, and the isolated locale proved productive. "There was no cell service or internet, no stores, bars or car, no humans really. Just a slaughterhouse 500 metres away!," recalls Devin. "There was nothing to do but work, and I even built my own studio in the cabin I was staying in to track my keyboards."
Any pressures were relieved by extreme games of croquet, and Wahl proved the ideal producer. "Andre was awesome at getting sounds and bringing what we have to the next level," praises Gasteiger. "On top of that he then got Joe Barresi on board to mix." Barresi has produced and engineered albums for such hard rock heroes as The Melvins, Queens Of The Stoneage, L7, Bad Religion, Tool, and Kyuss. "Joe was the dream guy to mix," notes guitarist Christian Anderson. "It was like Christmas morning every day as he’d send us new mixes. We’d all listen and go, ‘this sounds f**** amazing!’" The result is a hard rock album of genuine international class, one that can proudly hold up its head alongside those of Barresi’s other clients.
Vehicles fulfills the potential first shown on Braintoy’s 2005 EP, Tremors. That disc earned rave reviews, its song "Destitutorial" was placed in the film Skinwalkers, and subsequent touring through North America showcased their strengths as a powerhouse band live. One early admirer was ace producer Dave Ogilvie (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson), who stated that "I’d recommend this group to anyone wanting to be blown away by a great heavy band."
They up the ante dramatically here, so give Vehicles a test drive. You won’t regret it!