Big|Brave are bold in a number of ways, but chief among them is how they can continue to disorient and disarm with a musical goal that is simple yet breathtaking. A Gaze Among Them furthers the Canadian act’s ability to mix space, volume, and emotion to craft haunting reflections on life. Theirs is a difficult to classify merger of experimental rock and drone metal that takes more than a few sonic cues from shoegaze. However, what’s maybe most impressive is how much the group’s latest sticks in the listener’s head without even a hint of a hook throughout.
That’s not to say that vocalist Robin Wattie isn’t fantastic – her chant-like hymns recall an ancient European folk style that doesn’t necessarily exist. In fact, the whole record has a haunting folk atmosphere, maybe related to the album art’s focus on fire. The meditative aspects recall an overlong (but enchanting) fireside chat as the embers dwindle to their eventual end. In that regard, there’s an intermediate element to the music that plays off that idea: the songs feel like they aren’t telling the beginning or the end of the story but rather the long and perplexing middle that takes up the brunt of our lives. Throbbing bass lines, pensive percussion, and Wattie’s siren chants are hypnotic in their repetition, changing at the band’s speed, not the listener’s expectations. Much like the first night of long-overdue family or friend reunion, it’s best to let what’s going to happen unfold at a deliberate pace rather than rush things.
All of this is to say that A Gaze Among Them is delightfully enchanting, mesmerizing, and furiously pensive. It’s raw and emotional but not overly so. There’s a careful balance to it all. For those looking for heavy music that doesn’t have to bludgeon to make its point, Big|Brave may just be your new favorite band.