Published Mar 27, 2019At the very, very least, Brutus are intriguing. The up-and-coming act from Belgium — not to be confused with the Canadian rock band from the '70s, nor the Norwegian band of more recent vintage — have been turning some heads thanks largely to the powerful, emotional whirlwind driving each song. Their sound isn't new territory; it's in that realm between metal, hardcore and post rock where you'll find peers like Touché Amoré and Birds In Row (with shades of early Evanescence and even the Cranberries), but it's the diversity of their sounds and rhythms and the full-throated urgency of lead singer and drummer Stefanie Mannaerts that sets them apart from many emerging bands of their kind.
Since making their 2017 debut Burst, they've been touring with Thrice, Chelsea Wolfe and Russian Circles — and have won the endorsement of Metallica's Lars Ulrich? Now, having paid a visit to Vancouver producer Jesse Gander (White Lung, Japandroids), they've added a cogent sophomore effort that wrestles with conflicting feelings of love and friction, guilt and self-realization, distance and togetherness. "War" is the dramatic lynchpin; Mannaerts' emotive energy is palpable as she slowly ratchets up the tension before delivering the killing blow with her ferocious drumming, leading the band into the song's monumental ending.
"Fire" is a white-hot opener that's among the most well-crafted songs on the album, starting it off with their greatest strengths: blistering intensity and a hook that offers a slight reprieve without sacrificing any of that focus. "Cemetery" is a hardcore thrill in the vein of Modern Life Is War, featuring an especially vicious vocal performance by Mannaerts. "Techno" is a groovy one that comes down from its towering verses to land in a haunting, atmospheric chorus, while "Space" mixes a funky dance beat with post-rock atmospherics. "Horde V" is another high point, with an infectious hook underscored by furious drumming and creative guitar work.
One of the things Nest does best is display a trio using each of their roles with great efficiency to create a sound that's huge and expansive. Bassist Peter Mulders knows how to wield the low end to fill any gaps so that guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden can soar high into the stratosphere without needing a second rhythm player to keep grounded. That doesn't always mean that everything is seamless, though; there are times when Brutus seem to be putting pressure on themselves to do more, not realizing that the trick is often simpler than it seems.
At its root, this is an album about trying to figure out who you are during a stretch of time when things seem to be happening too fast to properly process. As those things fall into place, the band will likely only improve upon their winning formula. Brutus are only beginning, and Nest is a compelling statement made with raw emotion and astonishing force. (Sargent House)