Brutus – ‘Unison Life’

By Ash Bebbington

From the very opening minute of ‘Unison Life’, it’s clear that Brutus’ sound has evolved since its last release. Opener ‘Miles Away’ is primarily built around eerie synths and dreamlike vocals and is unlike anything the Belgian post-hardcore outfit has put out before. By the second song ‘Brave’, it becomes clear that this is evolution not revolution as they return to something closer to their signature sound. However, more melodic sounds are used throughout the record to create something more dynamic and varied than anything Brutus has put out to date.

Fans of the band will find plenty to love here, but what should newer listeners expect? Brutus is a post-hardcore band that brings in elements of metal and punk. If you like the sound of pacy, driving drum and bass sections, interwoven with intricate guitar pieces, all brought together by raucous vocals, you’ll have a blast with this record.

Considering the complexity of the music on this album, it is stunning that Brutus only has three members. All of them are incredibly technically proficient and each contributes massively to the band’s sound. Bassist Peter Mulders lays down the melodic canvas for the guitars to dance over. While the guitars often going to unexpected places, the bass is a constant, driving the songs forward. Guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden superbly brings the songs to life with his creative approach to post-hardcore songcraft. He rarely takes the easy route and hammers out a few power chords, instead taking the sound to interesting and unexpected places.

Meanwhile, Stefanie Mannaerts stars in her dual role as drummer and lead singer. Just listening to her across this record is enough to make you feel vicariously out of breath as she batters her kit without mercy and belts out the lyrics from the bottom of her diaphragm. On ‘Unison Life’, she is an absolute force of nature, turning in her best performance to date.

After the album’s melodic intro, ‘Brave’ delivers a gut punch of bass and drums as the vocals and guitars explore different tangents during the verses. All of the instruments then come back together for the chorus to create an anthemic sound.

‘Victoria’ is one of the album’s standout moments, as well as the most melodic. Mannaerts and Vanhoegaerden are on blistering form here, with vocals and guitars riffing off each other to create complex melodies. ‘What Have We Done’ carries on with this idea, whilst adding a bit more heaviness into the mix.

‘Dust’ and ‘Liar’ are some of ‘Unison Life’s’ heavier moments, the former a 6-minute epic and the latter a fairly straight ahead 3-minute rock song. As with previous Brutus album’s, the longest song is saved for last with ‘Desert Rain’ clocking in at almost 7 minutes. Vanhoegaerden’s guitar lines here are absolutely stupendous, while Mannaerts’ vocals soar over the top.

With ‘Unison Life’, Brutus has expanded on the sound that’s garnered them such acclaim in their career so far, bringing in more melody and more complexity than ever before. If you like your music to seamlessly slip between technically complex and crushingly heavy, this record is a must-listen.

ASH BEBBINGTON

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