Album Review: Brutus – Nest

Brutus are a Belgian post-metal trio featuring Stefanie Mannaerts (drums and vocals), Stijn Vanhoegaerden (guitarist), and Peter Mulders (bassist). Signed to Sargent House, Brutus met critical and commercial acclaim with Burst, a debut album with black metal, punk, and hardcore elements. Then, in 2019, Brutus generated a wave of buzz for the release of their second album Nest with the release of music videos for “War” and “Cemetery.” Intricately composed with elements of death and black metal, Nest is a tightly wrought and deeply moving album that also feels ahead of its time.

“Fire” lights up Nest with serene guitar flourishes by Vanhoegaerden and lush cymbals of Mannaerts, creating an ambient landscape of sound. “Fire” is symphonic and ephemeral, at once inviting and reflecting the rest of Nest to listeners. The mood of the song eventually changes and the performance speed picks up with ferocious thrash riffs, grinding beats, and belting vocals. Mannaerts’ voice is towering yet affecting, particularly when she sings, “I need to clear my thoughts.” The slamming snare drum and powerful singing opens “Django” into darkness. Each musician in the Brutus trio carries so much weight instrumentally, and that is evident in “Django.” The fuzzy bass of Mulders’ playing compliments the soft hums later in the track. The chanting and backup vocals later on also give “Django” a hypnotic and trance element that is epic and fantastic.

“Cemetery” is an inspired song with captivating and variegated melodies. The song starts off with an onslaught of crusty vocals, loud and dirty grunge riffs, and a trance wall of sound. Towards the end, “Cemetery” mellows out with gentle careening and airy flourishes. The music video for “Cemetery” was released ahead of Nest. Directed by Thou’s Mitchell Wells, “Cemetery” compliments Nest visually with a dark color palate and shades of crimson red and azure blue.

The auditory arc of “Techno” bends to brutal and ruthless depths. It is also marked by moments of tranquility with soft singing and gentle guitar weeping. “Techno” begins with sludgy and fuzzy bass playing by Mulders. Technical guitar parts of Vanhoegaerden and rapid drumming by Mannaerts’ soon join the barrage. Brutus carry “Techno” to gorgeous and gritty territory, with tranquil yet eviscerating guitar notes, powerful vocals, and aggressive beats. “Carry” is a moving, emotionally deep song, with sweet and calming melodies bursting with sincerity and feeling. The soft humming and cool howls punctuating this tune are uncompromising yet pleasurable. The speaker in the song movingly sings about someone dying in her arms, pleading, “please give me the strength to fight.”

“War” still holds up since it first dropped early in 2019. Like a funeral dirge, on “War,” Mannaerts sings solemnly, “our world is gone.” The music video for “War,” filmed live at Rain City, unleashed the wave of anticipation for Nest. This operatic song shifts gears and speed, with gnarly riffs, stampeding drums, and accompanying bass. “War” transforms into a death metal assault and battery that is both unrelenting and fun.

“Blind” is a thrash metal song that quickens the pulse. The echoing quality to the crashing cymbals and tempestuous riffs are magnanimous in their grandiosity. The soloing on top of the singing are exciting, fresh, and original in the feelings evoked. “Blind” is orchestral in composition, with doubling vocals that are watery and deep. “Distance” is gothic in structure, with dreamy singing, opulent bass, and otherworldly cymbals. The energy on this track builds like an implosion, pulling listeners into an exhilarating center that holds before detonating.  

“Space” lives up to its name with cosmic ambiance, taking listeners to the stars. Chants, funky basslines, high hats, and groovy guitars populate this dance track. This rhythmic and soulful jam sounds like nothing else on the album. Experientially, “Space” is a pause from the tone and mood of the surrounding sounds. Healing and cathartic, “Space” is an uplifting and cleansing song that is immensely gratifying to hear.

“Horde V” returns listeners to the familiar thrash territory with an onslaught of racing beats. The penultimate song on the album, “Horde V” is a noise metal headbanger with rolling drums and manic guitar strumming. “Sugar Dragon” is the last song on Nest. By the time “Sugar Dragon” comes along, the experience of listening to Nest feels richly rewarding. The song is full of rugged and dissonant sounds, followed by affecting and soulful serenity, capturing the feeling of what Nest is all about really.

With Nest, Brutus are doing something new and different with respect to the rock and metal scenes today. Nest is a darkly heavy and radiantly beautiful album transforming and invigorating contemporary hardcore music. With onslaughts of heavy instrumentation and joyful, emotional ambience, Nest by Brutus is a memorable, near perfect record. Far exceeding high expectations, Nest by Brutus is worth hearing over and over again.

Purchase this album here.

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