Album Of The Week: Brutus “Nest” // Stereogum

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The “about” line you’ll find on Brutussocial channels serves as an apt manifestation of the Belgian post-metal band’s art: minimalist, mysterious, and menacing. It reads:

“Trouble comes in threes. So does Brutus.”

While evocative, the tagline does not provide much in the way of background, clarity, or definition. Even so, it’s probably a better jumping-off point than whatever rote bit of bio I might offer by way of a beginning, so let’s take what they’ve given us and fill in the blanks, starting by breaking the phrase into its component parts:

“Trouble comes in threes.”

This is a reference to the Rule Of Three: an ancient principle that applies (or can be applied) to basically every element of human history, from the Egyptian pyramids and Aristotelian philosophy to marketing techniques and molecular physics. The Rule Of Three is so prevalent in communication that it’s often invisible, which only underscores its effectiveness. It is supposedly captured in the Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” (or “everything that comes in threes is perfect”). So far, so good? Good. So:

“So does Brutus.”

This would appear to be a reference to Brutus’ personnel configuration, the most obvious way in which the band “comes in threes.” Brutus are a power trio, i.e., a three-person lineup built around guitar, bass, and drums, in which every player is required to do the heavy lifting. In Brutus’ case, the work is split between drummer/singer Stefanie Mannaerts, bassist Peter Mulders, and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden. The archetypal power trio is Cream — Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker — who introduced the template in 1966, and whose protean dynamic was described beautifully by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who wrote of seeing the band for the first time:

The curtain drew back and the three of them started playing “Crossroads.” I had never seen or heard anything like it before. I was simply staggered by the amount of equipment they had: by Ginger Baker’s double bass drum, by Jack Bruce’s two 4-by-12 Marshall amps, and by all of Eric Clapton’s gear. It was an astounding sight and an explosive sound … I remember Ginger Baker was insane back then, and I’m sure he still is. He hit the drums harder than anyone I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of Keith Moon. And Ginger hit them in a rhythmic style all his own that was extraordinary. Eric Clapton we don’t have to talk about — it’s obvious how amazing he is. Then there’s Jack Bruce — probably the most musically gifted bass player who’s ever been.