Since their 2017 debut LP Burst, Leuven, Belgium’s Brutus have been delivering torrents of beautiful noise.
Formed on the back of a Refused tribute by singer/drummer Stefanie Mannaerts, bassist Peter Mulders and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden, Brutus weld together inflections of punk, metal and post-hardcore and turn it into melodic, blustery slabs of noise that hits with gale-force intensity.
Resolutely uplifting, fast, pummelling and gnarly all in the same breath, following their fantastic 2019 sophomore LP, Nest, Brutus return with a new air of confidence with Unison Life: their third album that has all the sonic twists, turns and high-wire drama that instantly sparks the senses.
Brutus quickly developed a reputation as not only one of the finest live bands around, spearheaded by Mannaerts’ vocal/drums combo; they are also the type of band that makes a record collection look bare should they not be included in it.
Unison Life will continue to add weight to such claims, starting with the horror film inspired crawling synth of Miles Away. Ironically, it’s the quietest moment on the album before suddenly exploding with crunching guitars and down-on the-chain bass weight. And from here, there’s barely time to catch our breath.
Victoria is the kind of anthemic punk stomp designed for open roads and maximum volume. Mannaerts’ soaring vocals and cavalier percussion rumbles through a debris of guitar chimes and bass chords (“Wake me up inside/ When the light strikes again”). It’s one of the finest tracks Brutus have written so far.
Brutus are renowned for their jaw-dropping choruses and it continues on What Have We Done. A song the band wouldn’t have written in their infant years, Mannaerts’ message slices like a hot knife through butter (“For too long/I’ve been dying inside”). These dark, candid musings form the bedrock of Unison Life, illuminating Brutus like never before. On Chainlife Mannaerts’ is even more frank “Did you know this life, is so short/Any time, I feel like my mind could blow up”) while the raging despair remains during Storm (“My life goes faster/Oh, as the storm rips slowly”).
Meanwhile Dreamlife bursts with the kind of engine roar that reaches the corners of the very arenas Brutus seem destined to not only play, but fill. Gushing with immediate soundscapes, there’s the thematic drama to match (“There is thunder in my heart/Lightning in my head/ Sometimes I’d wish I was never ever there”).
Not a band to fade off into the sunset with any contemplative feel good narratives, on Desert Rain Brutus produce what is perhaps the most savage of the bunch, with thunderous riffs and percussive blasts that could envelope a hurricane.
Brimming with speed and dynamic layers, Unison Life sees Brutus adopting a reach-for-the-skies maximalism that The Armed captured with ULTRAPOP. Dust, for example, sees the band pitting roaring pillars of sound against atmospheric build-ups inspired by post-rock. The end result? Something delivered through the prism of punk.
Since Burst, Brutus have been on a gradual ascent, and they reach the summit with Unison Life. An album that sees the band going from strength-to-strength. Not only is it their best album so far; in a year where punk and post-hardcore have thrived, Brutus join the party with something as good as anything in this space.
Unison Life is out now via Hassle Records/Sargent House. Purchase from Bandcamp.