Full feature via Stereogum
Next month, the Belgian post-metal trio Brutus will release their sophomore LP, Nest. It is a masterpiece. It is obviously a masterpiece. Even if you’ve only heard lone lead single “War,” you already know Nest is a masterpiece. “War” is like DeLillo’s “Pafko At The Wall“: a heart-stopping early introduction to a magnum opus.
“War” came out in the waning days of January 2019, and it would have easily been atop the list of that week’s best songs … except it arrived within the same window of eligibility as another instant-classic lead single from another obvious masterpiece. “War” had to settle for #2. When 2019 comes to a close and all its infinite music is in the books and all its endless ballots have been counted, those two songs could very well find themselves in the same exact positions they did on January 25. It would have been a great year.
SPOILER ALERT: It’s not actually gonna play out like that. Not exactly like that, at least. No doubt 2019 will have been a great year — that much is already written — but wherever “War” lands, it will have been pushed from its current perch by its own authors. Because while “War” is clearly a giant while standing alone, it is not, in context, Nest’s apex. It’s a highland plateau, a steppe, a stop. “War” is nestled into Nest’s midsection, a respite, a breath. Take it. Because the rest of Nest will render you breathless.
Today Brutus give to the world its next taste of Nest. The second single is called “Cemetery,” and it is a behemoth. “Cemetery” is the most exciting, ferocious, kinetic track on an album that consistently goes to 11 in categories like “Excitment,” “Ferocity,” and “Kinetic Energy.” “Cemetery” opens with a blistering burst of neck-snapping sludge — a bedrock provided by Brutus’ godlike rhythm section of drummer/singer Stefanie Mannaerts and bassist Peter Muldersguitarist — over which guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden stunts as if he were in Alcest or Explosions In The Sky, and Mannaerts snarls, howls, and roars as if she were a tornado.
The track transforms, though, just after the two-minute mark. It transcends. All the furious, jagged metallic clamor is broken down and somehow rebuilt as a jet engine. The thing doesn’t just roar; it takes flight. Climbing, climbing … and then, as the piece heads into its final half-minute, it fires full-blast and jumps into goddamn orbit. This is the apex.
Throughout “Cemetery,” as all of Nest, Mannaerts’ vocal performance is the element that elevates the music from merely outstanding to highest-echelon elite. Her most obvious forebear, to my ear, is Björk, but Björk never made music half as heavy as this. Corin Tucker? Maybe. But Sleater-Kinney were based in punk, not metal, and as such, were never so boldly cinematic as Brutus.
These are obviously imperfect comparisons, but more to the point, they’re unfair. Björk and Corin Tucker are icons, and they earned their status as such over decades, whereas Brutus are on the eve of their second LP and almost nobody on the planet has ever even heard the first one. Almost nobody on the planet has ever even heard of Brutus. Lots of people are no doubt discovering them RIGHT NOW, in this very moment on this very page, learning a little bit more with each word, here, with the rest of us. Where else? When? Brutus are basically rookies. Stefanie Mannaerts cannot be expected to stand alongside legends. And yet? She does. She belongs in no lesser league. The evidence speaks for itself. She’s earning it RIGHT NOW. Brutus are a month away from the release of a masterpiece. We are here just in time to witness something amazing. We are so lucky. We are here, together, to hear this.