Once in awhile a band stands out from the roaring din and demands to be heard. Unbeknownst to most of the world there’s a distillation of sound and intention, a pressure building on small stages far away, and then BOOM! An album appears with such finesse, such focus, that you can’t help but admire it instantly, and what you thought you knew about genre somehow…changes. Burst is this album and Brutus are this band.
Brutus are a three-piece from Leuven, Belgium, and Burst is one of the best albums of 2017.
RELEASE DATE: 12 May 2017 LABEL: Hassle Records (EU), Sargent House (US/Worldwide)
Effortlessly flowing through genres like they don’t exist, Burst references punk, post rock, hardcore, black metal, shoegaze, math and dare I say pop; Brutus have absolutely nailed the ‘genre-meld’. Despite this, not once does Burst feel awkward or forced, in fact each unexpected turn sounds in retrospect like exactly the right thing to do, it makes sense because it’s ahead of the curve. It’s intrinsically cool.
Brutus seem to have a sixth sense for rhythmic placement and melodic timing, the composition and instrumentation on Burst is outstanding; much of which is down to drummer/vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts.
The drumming on Burst is impressive in it’s own right; full of groove, punk beats and ‘out-of-nowhere’ black metal inspired blasts. But the thing is, Stefanie also manages to deliver impassioned, emotive vocals simultaneously; and she can really wail. Her voice has a hoarse quality comparable to Bjork which she uses to great advantage; luring the listener with heartbreak then shocking with abrasiveness. Songs move through full-on yelling to huge chorus hooks but you couldn’t say the vocal style is anything other than authentic punk.
As a listener you get the feeling Brutus focus more on creating moments and moods than songs. The album is separated into ideas, but feelings linger across multiple tracks; it’s an intense, involved listen. Album title Burst is really an apt description of their sound; tense energy on the brink of collapse, evolving atmospheres that build until bursting.
Opening track ‘March’ is fairly unassuming until 1:02; that half-time change, the vocal hook: suddenly Brutus are credible. Lead single and catchiest song ‘All Alone’ breaks into 25 seconds of blasts and atmospheric guitar noise at 1:33; unapologetic, unpretentious. A held bass tremolo and Brutus dissolve into dreamy post rock 1:30 into the superb, ‘Justice de Julia II’. The pause between ‘Horde II’ and ‘Baby Seal’, reminiscent of The Distillers; devastatingly effective and emotive.
Production on Burst is so appropriate it never draws attention. This album sounds like Brutus in their raw form; maybe a bit nicer, a bit more controlled than they might sound live, but the minimal production style serves the music perfectly. Nowhere is this more evident than in ‘Drive’; building guitar noise explodes into crisp, punctuated drums and bass, with vocals just loud enough to take charge. During the chorus there’s a wild delayed guitar line that slightly overshadows the vocals; it makes for an exciting, totally genuine experience.
Burst is an exceptional album by a very bright new band at the absolute crest of trend.