brutaiThanks to considerable publicity, I have read a lot about modern metal band Brutai and was surprised to learn that this is their debut album. I was particularly interested in this release as they are due to play at ProgPower Europe in 2017, so this was going to be a useful and hopefully enjoyable preview. One of my fellow ProgPower goers recently likened Brutai to a cross between Mercenary and Darkwater – on the strength of that it sounded very promising, then.

In fact my first impression was of soft Soilwork, and of Sonic Syndicate. “Relapse” opened the album not with a whimper and not with a bang but something in between. There’s a clear melodic hook, which I liked, and it’s commercial without being a pop song. The growls seem to serve no other purpose than to make it seem harder and more metal. The base (not bass) line of “Relapse” and “Deep”, which follows, is catchy and pleasant. It’s a shame that the keyboard section at the very end of “Deep” was tagged on, as it would have made an interesting development in the middle of the track, more so than the growls, which seemed out of place. In fact I thought the keyboard samples on the song and album as a whole are excellent, add atmospheric value and are underused. It wouldn’t be right to say that “Deep” lacked depth. Brutai do mix it up but it defaults too much to the light and airy, in part due to the vocalist’s soft tones and the understated drumming.

“Lucidity” starts with a melodic punch before an ineffectual clean-harsh vocal duel. The instrumentals do have colour, and spread out into interesting patterns. The vocals have a kind of prog feel to them, or at least it sounds as if they’re meaningful, but the instrumental pattern is more interesting, or at least it is until it dies out when there was more to place on display. One thing I am grateful for is that unlike a lot of so-called modern metal, Brutai don’t overdo it with screams and over-production, and there is a clear and largely successful attempt to create sophisticated and interesting songs. “Valediction” does have a nice pittery-pattery atmosphere, and an emotional hook, which could go either way and finishes up wavering between an emotional upsurge and not-so-impressive slush. The songs have very similar qualities. When they do hit on a rich and hypnotic passage as they do at the end of “Dear Emily”, they either switch to some new idea or as in this case the track ends. I found this frustrating. This negative effect works for black metal, not this. The song itself is a good one, with lush proggy instrumentals supplementing a delicate lyrical line, although I couldn’t see the point of the growls in the earlier part of the song. They just don’t fit in. “Over Now” is nicely played piece of emotional prog-pop – I enjoyed the atmospheric keyboards especially but again the best bit was the final part of the song, leaving a sense of incompleteness. Whilst I saw qualities in “Dear Emily” and “Over Now”, I just found “Visitors” all over the place. It defines what I didn’t like about this album – too many styles, trying to be metal, prog, emo, everything, nothing. So too “The Border”, which closes the album, is like a prog metal medley. I did like the Haken-type irregular vocal, which appears at one point, but that was one just one small part of a song which exploded with technical ideas but had no obvious focus or cohesion. By the end I felt I’d listened to everything but had no grasp of the song I’d just been listening to.

There’s the basis of “something” here, but “Born” came out as being too lightweight in its mix and tone, and guilty of trying to do too many things. I could detect something fresh here though, and enjoyed a lot of it. I just feel that Brutai need to work their ideas better, but at least it’s clear that they have them. They strive for complexity but the result is immature song structures. I just wish they’d spent more time defining the concept, implanting fewer ideas into our head, and concentrating on what they were left with for greater impact, so allowing us to absorb and enjoy them more.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)