1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 402

Burst, by Brutus
Suggested by Luke Kay

Brutus are from Belgium. I like Belgium.

Aside from a brief no-stop coach-dash through the territory when I was eleven, I’ve actually visited the country once. While there, I played cards pretty badly, ate multiple waffles, drank a cup of the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Hot Chocolate, and climbed the Belfry of Bruges, which was the proverbial f**king fairytale I expected.

The beer’s good in Belgium. So’s the chocolate, both solid and liquid as mentioned. And the comics too, such an Tintin and the Smurfs. But the music? I’ve no idea.

Happily, Google has an impressive list of Belgian bands, but scouring its contents brings me little succour. Of the hundreds on offer, I recognise five: Django Reinhardt, Revolting Cocks, 2 Unlimited, Technotronic, and Placebo, although Placebo is a stretch they were formed in London but claim Belgian heritage through Brian Molko’s birthplace. There’s still fun to be had, of course, in pickling out the best band names the country has to offer. My top three? Absynthe Minded, Evil Superstars, and Fleddie Melculy.

So what of Brutus? Formed in Flemish Brabant, the trio peddle an odd blend of progressive rock, post-hardcore and math rock. Frankly, those three genre monikers are starting to lose all meaning to me, as they seem to cover every third album or so, but I’m willing to go with it. Burst is their debut album, released in 2017.

If I had to describe Brutus and Burst with a single word, it’d be “frantic.” Everything seems to be played a little faster than everything else, with each instrument setting out its stall before being topped in tempo by the following one. At the core of it, there’s the remarkable Stephanie Mannaerts, who sings and drums at the same time. Her drumming it taut and rather tense, and it sets the tone perfectly, but her vocals? I’ll say “acquired taste” at best. She has a punk sound, packed with intensity and vigour, but it’s much more attitude than actual talent. Maybe I’m harsh, and my disconnect is more to do with the fact that she sounds like she’s straining to outpower the music at every step, but either way it’s hard to love.

So the drums are fast and frenetic. The vocals are strained and battling the music. The guitars are in the exact same wheelhouse, with a galloping whine sound that conjures up screeching saw biting through steel, or unoiled machinery operating at full speed. The whole thing is exhausting, a fast spring through your skull, kicking over the furniture and punching holes in walls.

As for songs, my standout is Crack / Waste, as the harshness and speed of the drums are tempered somewhat by a sound that’s a little fuller than the rest. Justice De Julia II runs it close, but in all honesty, if you listen to the opening track March then you’ll have the measure of the trio in two minutes and thirty-seven seconds flat.

Burst gets 4/10. I’d like to give it more, but the internal tensions it creates set me on edge and tighten my chest. I’m sure it’s nothing that a waffle won’t cure…  Sorry Brutus, but I’ll be sticking to the more universal Belgian exports going forward.

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