Some bands understand the value in an explosive opening to an album. Brutus have that down to a tee; their newly released, and highly anticipated album Nest starts with three of the strongest tracks the band have made today. Using that burst of energy which sets things going, Brutus ride their initial all the way to the end of the album, rarely slowing down. This works in context with their furious brand of post-rock tinged hardcore, reading something like a mix of Russian Circles and a punk band. The end result is an album which is almost, dare we say it, dance-able, drawing strength of expression from its hardcore roots and a scintillating approach to guitar tone and usage from its meaty post-rock side.
As time goes by, “Fire”, the opening track to the album, is sure to be one of the most memorable from the band. It does a great job in highlighting the double strengths of Stefanie Mannearts, the frontwoman and drummer for the band. First, her vocal performance on the track is nothing short of captivating. It has an aesthetic that moves quickly between a cynical edge born in European and British rock/pop from the 90’s with a harder center of hardcore screaming. The end result is evocative and powerful, a combination which works well with her drumming on the track. This moves from a punk-centered mainline, moving in to fit with the faster guitar parts, and a more circumspect approach when those guitars turn towards their more post-rock moods on the choruses.
The verses then are wholly dedicated to fire (get it) and fury, usually displaying the band’s harsher side. This is true for the album itself as much as it is for the track; this kind of two-step beat can get tiring after a bit, as the interaction and dynamics becomes clear and, unfortunately, somewhat repetitive. The band do a good job of embellishing some of those more straight-forward riffs with more ethereal tones, adding another layer of complexity and subtlety to them. The end result manages to dispel a lot of the staleness that might have otherwise dominated the interchange otherwise, although some tracks can indeed be a bit too obvious.
Things take a turn for the better on the next wholly distinctive track on the album, “War”. There, Mannearts’ vocals play with a different dynamic, one created by heart-straining highs and more bottom-first sounds. The result is a track intro which perfectly sets up the noisier middle sections to come, creating some of the more surprising and effective moments on the album. The riff which announces the track proper after the intro, coupled with the excellent bass and drum work which accompanies it, is a great example of Brutus at their best; its punk fury comes right on top a more delay-ridden approach and twists the narrative, taking the listener by surprise before returning to the more tremolo influenced riff.
Bottom line, Brutus know the deck of cards they’re playing with and they know how to play it well. When they do, their energy is hard to contain, bursting at the seams with the deep expressions of emotion on the vocals, the lofty guitar ideas, and underscored by punk aggression. It might have been better, however, if some of those cards were played out of step or at moments when we didn’t see them coming. The magic trick loses some its shine when you see it performed in the same fashion time and time again, the explanations to the illusion starting to appear at the seams. Luckily, Nest has enough power on it to carry its performance through, even if it does leave you somewhat wanting at times.
Nest was released on March 29th. You can head on over to their Bandcamp page above to grab it!