Review: Brutus ‘Unison Life’

Last November, I had the great pleasure of reviewing the Brutus gig in Brighton and, as a big fan of the band, I was thrilled to be able to see these guys playing so close to home. So, after writing my review, I have been asked to kindly do a review of their latest album, Unison Life. Life being a bitch, I could not get my head around anything and struggled to write about an album that I loved, listened regularly since its release in late October, and is even included on my AOTY list. So, here am I, writing from my hotel room in central Manchester after a well-deserved break, finally being able to talk properly about Belgium’s finest post-hardcore band and their third full-length album.

Brutus 'Unison Life'

On the record opening track, Miles Away, drummer/singer Stefanie Mannaerts demonstrates the full range of her voice – sometimes soothing, sometimes raw and raspy, but always on point – blends perfectly with the more dynamic Brave where she also gets to display her drumming skills. This record also has more melodic structure where the trio gets to make something cohesive of a chaos. It’s hard to explain, but when you hear a song like Dust or even their single Liar, you get to be stunned by the rhythm section (Stefanie and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden) from the start, then you notice the nice post-rock touches from bassist Peter Mulders.

The combination is weird, and it fails more often that it should, but not here. It works wonders throughout the entire record, even on tracks like Victoria and Chainlife, which are more effective live than on record. I must insist on the fact that, on this occasion, it is a hell of a compliment and anyone who ever saw Brutus live can testify because it is obvious that the Belgian trio shine the most is on stage, big or small, tiny venue or big festival. So, having perfectly catered songs throughout a full-length album is super impressive, but doing it three times in a row is more than a flex at this point, it’s magic.

It’s honest, raw and heart-wrenching…

I think that magic in Brutus resides in the fact that you can hear the tiredness (Storm), the sorrow (Desert Rain, which could have been a Wiegedood or an Amenra song, I mean those blast beats are just too good), the dread (Dreamlife) in those simple and yet so spot-on lyrics in every single track. It’s honest, raw and heart-wrenching at times. The best example I can give you on that point would be What Have We Done. Not only because of the quiet-loud-quiet bits, or because of the lyrics which struck a few personal chords, it’s because the whole song spoke to the sixteen and the thirty-three-and-a-half year old in me. It just ticks all the right boxes for anyone who loves post-rock, post-metal or post-hardcore. No one in their right mind would be able to headbang or dance to Unison Life, but you can do it for pretty much any song here. Magic, as I just said.

Unison Life does not compromise in the slightest, and it shows; the sense of emergency is still present, as if every single song wrote, recorded and played were their last ever, which gives them this extra edge, this extra sharpness. If you still haven’t indulged yourself in Brutus, I’d strongly recommend you stop whatever you are doing, put on the best headphones you’ve got and let the magic happen. Trust me, it will happen. It always does with Brutus.

Label: Sargent House
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Scribed by: Nessie Spencer