Music reviewers are inherently sceptical and often contrarian creatures, so when an artist arrives carrying plaudits from the grandees of heavy music, it’s hard not to default to cynicism. You’d be especially forgiven for hanging onto that cynicism with both hands when metal’s own great soothsayer, Lars Ulrich, adds his own recommendations to the mix – Ulrich labelling Arctic Monkeys as his favourite Metal band in 2012 still raises some serious questions about his take on the heavy music zeitgeist.
Praise be, then, that Brutus’ sophomore album – Nest (Hassle Records) – is as high-reaching, diverse and passionate as all of the pre-release chatter and track drops would have you believe.
By now, unless you’re physically repelled by the idea of brilliant, raw and mesmerically heavy live music, you’ve probably seen Brutus’ rendition of track ‘War’ played from Rain City. While the post-Metal backline of guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden and bassist Peter Mulders are clearly the base on which the whole piece is built, the focal point is undoubtedly drummer/vocalist, Stefanie Mannaerts, who visibly gives every bit of her essence to this performance.
The feeling of complete artistic immersion runs through this whole album like lettering on a stick of rock. It’s undoubtedly a consummately well-balanced record too, layering post-metal cuts that show Brutus’ Russian Circles allegiance with a punkish spirit that speaks to their past as a Refused tribute act. It’s also hard to get away from comparisons to Norwegian punks Blood Command on stabbier cuts like ‘Fire’ and ‘Cemetery’ but while BC loop back to big melodic hooks, Brutus offer moments of sweetness only to snatch them away moments later.
The standout tracks on the album do this acutely well – there’s a moment on the simmering, superb ‘Space’ when everything falls into place with this major note and it’s like the audio equivalent of stumbling across an oasis in the desert. It sounds like post-Rock’s answer to ‘In Your Eyes’ by Peter Gabriel, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Other highlights like album closer ‘Sugar Dragon’ are more seemingly introspective as Mannaerts struggles to put toxic relationships behind her. It’s a meandering and swirling ode to our inescapable pasts, moving from raw emotion and self-pity to fury as she rages against her drums like a fevered dervish.
Nest manages to do so many things over the course of its relatively short run-time – it captures the groaning atmosphere of post-Metal but dodges indulgence, has the ability to kick it into breakneck punk territory and yet avoids universalisms to create a truly personal and emotive work; a tour-de-force that requires you to sit down and listen with total focus.
8 / 10