[30th April 2013]
04. Straight Silver (Feat. Rich O’Donnell)
It’s groovy, it’s proggy, it’s modern and yet it doesn’t ‘djent’. No sir, the début release of fresh new faces Brutai skirts around that particular trend, instead offering something a lot more intriguing and impossible to label. The London-based lads, supported by Xerath‘s drummer Michael Pitman as session player, have crafted five tracks of top quality metal, drawing from both prog-metal and metalcore realms, and holding a secret weapon of a vocalist who possesses an impressive set of pipes. Fans of modern metal, listen up.
With a roar of “curse of life!”, opening number “Flood” kicks off in solid form, weaving around guitar lines, tight staccato rhythms and unconventional time signatures, before rolling into a grand chorus. As the EP progresses, the song structures feel a little unfocused at first listen, but soon the various elements fall into place. Each track quickly unfolds to be its own entity; “Straight Silver” delves for a while into double-bass and tremolo guitar with a trace of black metal, while “Sleepers” and “Onyx” inject tinkling piano into the chugging guitar work.
This guitar work is consistently an attractive part of the package; axemen Felix Lawrie and Henry Ryan have an unusual knack of switching genre styles without the result sounding jarring. The solos fall squarely in the ‘prog’ camp with their technical precision, particularly on “Alpha” and “Onyx”, but they avoid the predictable fretboard-tickling of other prog bands. The band must also be commended for avoiding the potentially off-putting trappings of metalcore, namely extensive breakdowns. While certainly Brutai are no strangers to rhythmic grooving, their breaking down only lasts a few seconds before they move back to a more melodic course.
And so we come to the secret vocal weapon, named Felix Lawrie. Throughout the 25-minute runtime, the listener is treated to a full harsh range, from brutal lows to a rasping pseudo-howl, juxtaposing these with similarly varied cleans. The growling certainly hits hardest, and while his upper raspy registers may not be to everyone’s taste, no-one can argue that they complement the music perfectly. His singing, however, is on another level entirely; the bridge and chorus sections of “Alpha” have an empowering quality, while conversely the melancholic note struck in “Sleepers” is poignant, echoing Queen as he sings “Who wants to live forever?”. Guest vocalist Rich O’Donnell (Karybdis) aids him on “Straight Silver”, contributing his own impressive hoarse throat to one of the stronger tracks on the album, both in its cohesion and hard-hitting lyrics: “The only cross that you bear, was to serve your nation’s behest/A country which felt no dependance, no hope, just dishonour”.
Blemishes of the record are low in number; as already mentioned, the higher harsh register is divisive, and it can take a while for each densely-packed track to properly sink in. While one can argue whether an EP necessitating several spins to unravel its contents is truly a negative point or not, once past that stage it becomes irrelevant. Each of the five tracks help shape the Brutai blueprint, either alone or as a whole, and provides the perfect springboard for the band to jump in a myriad of directions. Considering the strength of this EP, it is advisable that fans of modern progressive metal take note of this band; this is a very promising start.