Review: Throwing Bricks ‘The Burden’

I have talked about genre definitions and pigeonholes before, the invention of which seems mainly to aid music journalists to fill column inches talking about styles and influences that fall roughly under the same umbrella. Likewise, the concept of ‘post-something’ as an epithet for a band that falls further outside of those definitions and might be one of the most hand-waving, vague descriptions going.

Throwing Bricks 'The Burden'

Throwing Bricks, a savage five-piece from the Netherlands, are described as post-metal. Their sound is a raging smorgasbord of sludge, screamo, hardcore and black metal that, despite exposure on Kerrang! Metal Hammer and the BBC, have already been billed as ‘not for the purists’ given that their sound truly lies beyond the stated genre influences.

Much like their Swedish ‘post’ counterparts Cult Of Luna, the band refuse to be limited by the confines of these notions and on their second album, The Burden, seek to push the boundaries and strike out on their own experimental path.

Crisp and modern sounding, Bricks Of Grace opens the follow up to 2020s grief laden What Will Be Lost with taught staccato drumming. Short, punchy stabs of guitar set the platform for Niels Koster’s feral rasping. As the song builds, Throwing Bricks add layers of dense sound and backing vocals to the combative sound. Initially recalling the late nineties hardcore bludgeon from the likes of Bloodlet, they expand to walk the same melodic and complex path as the aforementioned Swedes.

The music twists and turns in lingering melodic directions before returning to full-on ferocity. The middle passage is tender and still; a singular guitar heralds a beautiful passage of almost light Indie/shoegaze, broken by the impassioned pleading vocals before they return at full strength for the battering of the climax.

Introducing more of a black metal edge on False Promises, the pace may mimic a slower hardcore sludge pace but the guitars hum with a tremolo-picked flourish and buzz behind the rhythm section, sounding like an army going into battle. Never content to settle, the band again drifts in and out of music passages that deviate from the brutality by introducing an expansive melodic edge, juxtaposing the jackhammer like blows of Bart Van Der Blom’s drums.

After this emphatic opening statement, Throwing Bricks change tact and Clearly Awake jangles with a Sub Pop flourish. Mixing lighter, upbeat, almost a surf rock on steroids motif that wouldn’t feel out of place coming from some of the grunge influenced bands that were around at the tail end of the nineties, if not for the interruption of machine gun heavy blasts and the roaring vocals.

Doubt is full on blackgaze. The band cite a black metal influence and even this is not straight forward. A quick glance at the cover for The Burden and the first thing that struck me is the use of similar colours to Deafheaven’s Sunbather, proving that even here, the band seek subversion. This fourth track on the album nods to the San Francisco crew and their ability to blend heavy passages with transitions into melodic and almost wistful dream like moments.

Their sound is a raging smorgasbord of sludge, screamo, hardcore and black metal…

This split personality continues with the instrumental Endless Blockade. The band morphs from light ethereal meanderings to Pallbearer like triumphant doom in the space of two minutes, it serves as an introduction for Hall Of Mirrors which sees the band return to the intensity of the screamo/hardcore style The Burden opened with.

Here they dispense with pleasantries and let fly with churning riffs and furious double bass drumming until seemingly burning out midway, drifting off into a surreal passage about death, featuring a spoken word performance by Utrecht artist Shira van der Wouden. Building with hysteria until it reaches its peak with ‘The tragedy was so fucking real’ before sliding back into heavier territory. An isolated and impassioned moment of drama that cannot be denied.

Van der Wouden’s contribution continues on Safta that’s epic in length and an introspective moment of suffocating calm. Over the tentative exploring piano and droning reverb, her voice is vulnerable and searching, the observations simultaneously full of hope and doubt. As the piece goes on, the heavier elements are reintroduced, but shorn of their earlier savagery and match the downbeat mood.

The final two tracks are full of contrast and conflicting styles that make this album such a compelling listen. The former being the slow burning and sprawling semi title track The Burden Noose, which works through a quiet/loud dynamic; one minute the band are light and airy, caught in moments of dream like peace before exploding with shimmering black metal snarls then settling into more measured muscular grooves.

The latter, Find My Way Out, closes out The Burden employing the same split personality hardcore sludge style that has served Crowbar so well over their career. Starting with a full tilt punk paced assault, they switch speeds to a slower crunch complete with clanking bass notes and deft blue licks. Despite all this, the album ends with a feeling of positivity that permeates the fury, something the band were keen to focus on following their more tragedy themed debut.

This sophomore album from Throwing Bricks sees them at their most emotionally heavy and honest yet and manages to capture all the nuances and mood shifts they try and introduce.

I started off talking about pigeonholes and the previous comment about Throwing Bricks not being one for the purists is simply because they refuse to fall into any one easily definable genre. Some people might find that frustrating, but in truth, it is liberating. Throwing Bricks don’t always hit as expected, and no it probably isn’t going to be exactly what ‘a fan of X genre’ is looking for, but those willing to look a little further will find there is a lot going on here to like.

Label: Tartarus Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden