Brodequin - Harbinger Of Woe

Artist: Brodequin

Album Title: Harbinger Of Woe

Label: Season Of Mist: Underground Activists

Date of Release: 22 March 2024

“With ‘Harbinger of Woe’, Brodequin reclaim their throne as the most brutal band in all of death metal.”

Yup, they went there. As press release hyperbole goes, this quote is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while. It’s a good job I take these statements with a pinch of salt. Mind you, when you read something like that, it’s only natural to want to take a listen to see whether or not it’s true. And that’s why you’re reading this; the hyperbole did its job and I checked out ‘Harbinger Of Woe’, by Brodequin as a result. Well, as a result of this quote and the artwork which is both beautiful and disturbing in equal measure.

Taking a step back, it might be helpful to offer a little background information and context before uncovering the music itself. I’d never heard of Brodequin before now, and I suspect that unless you are a death metal aficionado, you may be in the same boat. As it turns out, Knoxville death metal trio Brodequin have been around since 1998, releasing full-length albums in 2000, 2001, and 2004. However, that was it. Until now. Citing ‘a series of deaths in the family’, brothers Jamie (bass/vocals) and Mike Bailey (guitar) felt they had to put the band on hold until they could give their music the focus and attention it required.

I’ve never heard their early material, but when you’re name-checked by John Gallagher, the Dying Fetus vocalist and guitarist, alongside a phrase like ‘relentless barbaric intensity’ or ‘one of the most brutal death metal albums ever’ (about their 2000 debut ‘Instruments Of Torture’), Brodequin must have been doing something right. And the fact that they are named after a Medieval torture device, one of the most barbaric ever made, their pedigree just increases.

And now, after two decades away, the Bailey brothers, alongside drummer Brennan Shackelford return to the world of death metal with ‘Harbinger Of Woe’. But does it make them “the most brutal band in all of death metal”?

Brutality in a musical context, just like any other facet, is a very subjective term. It all depends on what the listener deems to be ‘brutal’ at the end of the day. Is your definition of ‘brutal’ a thirty-minute onslaught of raw, dirty, muscular riffing, alongside a relentless drum battery and vocals so deep and guttural that they sound barely audible within the torrent of aural abuse being hurled from the speakers? If so, then yes, maybe Brodequin could be considered to be the most brutal death metal band I the world. It’s impossible to say for sure having not heard every single death metal band ever in existence, but the tagline is certainly plausible.

Brodequin - Harbinger Of Woe

What I like about Brodequin, however, is that their brutality is laced with some measure of groove and even a brief smattering of melody and catchiness. It’s enough for me, and ensures that I return more often than I otherwise normally would to have my head caved in by the bludgeoning.

‘Diabolical Edict’ sets an immediate tone, taking precisely half a second to flatten everything in its path thanks to a ferocious blastbeat and huge riffs, suddenly accentuated by the sounds of screams and tortured pain before marching on with inexorable power, delivering pulverising riff after pulverising riff. The vocals are insane, so low, so guttural, and evil sounding, occasionally barely audible above the riotous cacophony surrounding them. However, the song does slacken the pace once or twice to allow the guitar notes to ring out a touch more, introducing some sickening groove in the process. It’s at this point where the guitar tone really makes its impression on me, and I find myself grinning sadistically as a result. Try as I might, I really like this.

And therein lies the standard Brodequin blueprint. Some songs are sub-three-minute affairs where speed of attack is the central focus, impressively fast and precise drumming driving the wretched, twisted compositions forward. The trio do descend on occasion into something veering into cacophony, but somehow, they manage to still make the whole thing listenable. Take ‘Tenaillement’ or ‘Theresiana’ as examples. In the case of the former, the maelstrom is accented by pinched harmonics, whilst the latter is a song that is primarily all-out death metal attack, verging on the unhinged. However, Brodequin throw in a few well-placed plainsong samples and a huge chugging riff or two and they have my full, undivided attention.

Whilst it is almost impossible and perhaps a little pointless to pull out individual tracks for special mention as favourites, I feel the need to reference both ‘Of Pillars And Trees’ and ‘Vredens Dag’ for a moment in the spotlight. In the case of the former, it features some of the fastest and most precise drumming on the album. But it also benefits from an extended mid-section where the pace of the scything riffing is decreased so that the band can instead bulldoze the listener into submission. The groove within this track is just marvellous. ‘Vredens Dag’ on the other hand, is a favourite because of the way in which it shifts effortlessly between bitumen-like riffs and vortex-inducing speed. There’s a touch of black metal darkness to the atmosphere that’s subtly introduced, too, which I really like.

I’m not sure that I could listen to an album like this, or a musical approach like that found on ‘Harbinger Of Woe’ exclusively, or even on a daily basis. Brodequin’s music is so uncompromising that it sometimes takes a little psyching up on my part to feel resilient enough to press play. But, when I do press play, I rarely regret my choice, for it is absolutely undeniable that there’s something very impressive and rather special about Brodequin. I’ll leave it up to you to each decide individually whether ‘Harbinger Of Woe’ proves Brodequin to be the most brutal death metal band on the planet. For what it’s worth, though, I happen to think they must be pretty damn close.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%



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