Full Article via Stereogum
Drummers are often the most dynamic visual component of any given rock band, but they’re almost never the focal point. This is the disappointing evolutionary result of basic logistical compromises and necessities. Drum kits are complicated and cumbersome structures behind which the human at the helm is obscured from view. They’re set up at the back of the stage and seated low, in the shadow of those musicians whose roles allow them more mobility and thus greater visibility. This is primarily why percussionists are rarely the rock band’s frontperson. Secondarily: It’s hard as hell to play drums while also singing.
Enter Brutus: a Belgian power trio comprising drummer/singer Stefanie Mannaerts, guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden, and bassist Peter Mulders. Brutus’ music requires no visual accompaniment or degree-of-difficulty qualifications to flat-out fucking rule. They play massive, cinematic, cathartic, absolutely breathtaking post-metal. Their songs are taut, exhilarating, expansive, and enthralling — huge Godspeed guitars with even-huger Baroness choruses. But better than that. And bigger. Brutus’ debut album, Burst, came out in 2017, behind which they toured with the likes of Russian Circles, Chelsea Wolfe, and Thrice. Their sophomore LP, Nest, is out in March, and the thing is a revelation. It’s outrageously early, I know, but just the same: I’ll be pretty shocked if Nest doesn’t end the year as one of its true highlights. It’s far and away my favorite 2019 LP so far.
Again, you don’t need to see Brutus to love their music, but even so, you absolutely MUST watch the band play Nest’s lead single “War.” Mannaerts is a fucking force of a nature. Her voice is richly textured, almost acrobatic, expressing emotion via melody with Cobain-ian rawness and force. At some points, I hear shades of Björk; at others, hues of Catatonia’s Cerys Matthews. These comparisons are meant to be read as high praise, but they can’t begin to convey Mannaerts’ power. And somehow, her drumming is every bit as intense and accomplished. She’s a basher in the style of Grohl or Bonham, but like those drummers, she plays with great finesse, too.
Watching her perform, though — watching her play drums and sing — kicks things up a whole ‘nother level. It is absolutely mesmerizing. It is mind-blowing. It is astonishing. (I don’t mean to discount the work of Vanhoegaerden or Mulders by any means, but they’re clearly the Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell of this particular experience.)