Artist: Brutai

Album Title: Born

Label: Transcend Music

Date Of Release: 25 November 2016

After what seems like an interminable wait for me, I am finally listening to the debut album from London-based metallers Brutai. I have been following the fledgling career of this quintet for quite some time, was impressed by the self-titled EP that they released back in 2013 and was even more impressed with the band when I saw them on stage in London earlier in 2016. Not only were they thoroughly nice blokes, they slayed in the live arena, more than ably holding their own on an impressive bill that included Earthside, Voices From The Fusilage and Toska.

The hype leading up to this release has been big, heightened by my own sense of impatient excitement. Now normally, when my expectations are so high, I’m left feeling disappointed. But not so here, not even a little bit. Brutai have delivered the goods in spades, offering us the album that I and many others dared to hope for.

Brutai are comprised of guitarist/vocalist Felix Lawrie, guitarist Henry Ryan, keyboardist/vocalist Alex Lorimer, bassist Christian Sturgess and drummer Mathieu Bauer. And whilst they are all wonderfully adept at playing their chosen instruments, they come together brilliantly, creating a finished article that is arguably even bigger and stronger than the sum of its component parts. I have listened to ‘Born’ over and over again and have deliberately delayed committing my review to paper for as long as possible so that I could offer as thorough a critique as possible. Believe me, Brutai deserve nothing less.

Sitting her now, I am firmly of the opinion that if I wanted to listen to a more modern style of heavy metal, Brutai are the band and ‘Born’ is my chosen weapon. A few weeks ago, I might have chosen Textures but today, it is Brutai. Yup, ‘Born’ is that good.

When I first heard Brutai’s earlier output, I immediately described them in my own mind as a blend of Voyager meets Soilwork, meets metalcore, meets pop. I put this to the band during an interview back in April and the response from the five was not unfavourable. By and large, I think this off-the-cuff description stands up to a certain amount of scrutiny, although I’d also add in there a splash of djent, tech and prog metal for good measure. Truth be told though, Brutai’s sound is one that’s difficult to pigeonhole and I really like that about them. When so many acts are searching in vain for a unique selling point, Brutai sound fresh, invigorating and just a little different from everything else around them.

Given that it is the lead single from ‘Born’ and as such will be the song with which most people reading this will be familiar, let’s deal with ‘Deep’ first. Taken on its own in isolation, it is both a little misleading and absolutely indicative of Brutai’s music. On the one hand, it is without question the most immediate track on the album, the catchiest, in-your-face and the most mainstream-pop friendly. From the opening vocal, to the bold electronic sounds via the hugely infectious chorus, it packs a real punch. But then, dig a little deeper and those big down-tuned riffs are present, as are cleverly subtle moments of complexity in terms of some of the off-kilter rhythms and shifts in focus, not to mention the metalcore breakdown and the imposing atmospherics brought to life by the layers of synths from Lorimer. To therefore dismiss this song as merely a radio friendly romp is to do it a great disservice.

Taking a step back however, and the album begins with ‘Relapse’ which kicks off in moody, almost cinematic fashion before a heavy no nonsense riff takes over, albeit retaining the dark and oppressive atmospheres that are prevalent from the beginning. Caustic vocals take an early lead before being replaced by a clean delivery that actually sends shivers down my spine. The melodic elements are bold but strangely subtle at the same time, playing an important role without overshadowing or dominating the song.

Photo credit: Will Ireland Photography

Photo credit: Will Ireland Photography

‘Of Ashes’ is ushered in on a hugely groovy riff with tech metal overtones, whilst the synths build surreptitiously, coming to the fore as the riffs change tack. Lawrie’s clean vocals are bang on in terms of delivery, something that I could say throughout without fail. The drumming of Bauer is striking in its precision and dexterity, as is the bass playing from Sturgess and the lead guitar work that makes an appearance as the track moves inexorably towards its conclusion.

I really like the opening lead guitar melodies on ‘Lucidity’ and the way in which the clean and gruff vocals vie for supremacy, leading to a cleanly-delivered, insanely hook-laden chorus. To me, this represents Brutai at their most progressive as the song never seems to remain in one place for any real length of time. In places, it is also one of the most technically adept and aggressive cuts to be heard on ‘Born’, underlining their individual prowess and their undeniable metal credentials along the way.

The serene and dreamy intro to ‘Valediction’ complete with poignant lead guitar embellishment, is utterly beautiful, but then so is the whole track if I’m honest. The key word is then ‘groove’ as the stop-start riff joins the party early on in proceedings. That said, the overall tone is more low-key and less abrasive as Brutai experiment with something altogether more subtle and nuanced to devastating effect.

‘Never Change’ is a beautiful anthem with a stunning chorus and heartfelt vocals that communicate so much. It is perhaps my favourite song on the entire album, as the performance from Lawrie, coupled with the chorus melody speaks to me and has a power that has to be heard to be believed. You can hear the heartache in the vocals and it’s the kind of song where you tilt your head back and sing along to the heavens regardless of where you are or indeed if you can sing.

I can personally hear a little of the aforementioned Soilwork within ‘Dear Emily’, primarily in the barked gruff vocals. The magic of this song can be heard in the juxtaposition between the quieter, more reflective moments and the sections of harsher djent/tech metal bombardment complete with intriguing rhythms that baffle my musically illiterate brain. The layers of vocals make for a rousing conclusion, once again reiterating just how impressive this aspect is on this record.

‘Over Now’ requires yet more superlatives. The Voyager-isms are at their most obvious as the composition strikes a near-perfect balance between enormous melodies, all-encompassing atmospheres from Lorimer and pin-sharp technical instrumentation in terms of the Bauer/Sturgess rhythmic machine and both Ryan’s and Lawrie’s more flamboyant six string work. The vocals are yet again spectacular, a soothing counterpoint to the controlled tumult below.

‘Visitors’ once again brings the more progressive tendencies to the fore, challenging the listener with an ultra-modern, edgy and spiky composition that takes its time to get under your skin. And then it’s up to ‘The Border’ to close out this most impressive of albums. It is the longest track on ‘Born’ and it serves up a final seven-minute smorgasbord of everything that Brutai do well throughout the album. The chorus is a sprawling delight, as is the metronomic riffing and the closing vocal performance that fittingly, is the last thing you hear. But more than all that, the whole thing is delivered perfectly, thereby enhancing the song’s epic nature and, in so doing, leaves an impression as large as its grooves in the process.

To conclude, ‘Born’ is incisive, sharp and clinical, full of strong riffs, muscular rhythms as well as moments of extreme yet measured brutality. At the same time however, Brutai demonstrate a well-honed sense of melody and overt pop sympathies, allowing their compositions to bludgeon one moment and then soar majestically the next. I have to frequently remind myself that this is Brutai’s debut full-length, because it is just so adept, so commanding and so self-assured. It might be late in the day, but ‘Born’ is deservedly one of my albums of the year. The only problem? How on Earth do they top it?

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25


If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

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