Brutality came along at the first death knell of a genre that has outlasted just about every musical trend that has come and gone. They released some thrashy death metal demos, one of which (Dimension Demented) I reviewed in the print version of Unchain the Underground back in 1992. They shed any sense of frivolity on their 1993 debut (which AMG Himself, calls, “a motherfucking timeless classic”), Screams of Anguish. Two solid full lengths followed but Brutality were lost in a sea of inferior bands, reaching only moderate acclaim. Rather than lick their wounds and fade into obscurity, Brutality gathered their strength and composed an album that transcends the decades they lay dormant. Sea of Ignorance is relevant in this age of worldwide barbarism and is a tooth-evicting punch to the fucking face of any person that thought extreme music couldn’t mean something again.
2016’s Brutality are a deadly, honed destructive force. A tornado of riffs, vocals, precision bass, insane blasts and double bass. To call them an old school death metal band would be to do them a great disservice as the performances are all exemplary – a band of 20 years ago likely could not play music of this caliber, yet they’re old school in that in the last 20 years, few albums this well-written have been released. This is music that appeals to the limbic system of the brain in its outright, what else? Brutality, yet it does not neglect the cerebrum, as it’s technical but never to the point of losing sight of why we are all here – the RIFF and the SONG. Seldom is any band better than they are during “48 to 52,” a perfect combination of heaviness and melody. Swirling like a black hole, sucking all light and life into the darkness, this is why we listen to death metal. To be shocked by not just the weight of the music but the beauty that only certain ears can pick from among the carnage.
“Tribute,” displays a sense of melody that puts Book Of Souls to shame and name drops not only Maiden but a handful of extreme metal songs, albums and bands as popular as Slayer and underground as the mighty Hellwitch. The band builds tension with speed then breaks down to a groove with a vocal roar that could make the uninitiated immediately shit his or herself. “Barbarically Beheaded,” as the title would imply, is topical not only in lyrical content, but the music captures the current state of the world. It’s unsettling and jarring and sits among “These Walls Shall Be Your Grave” as one of Brutality‘s best compositions. Never a band to rest upon shocking the listener with gore and gross, Brutality stand shoulders above many of their contemporaries and as they did throughout the 90’s, leave us wondering why they didn’t achieve a greater level of success. Perhaps because the words “success” and “death metal” shouldn’t be uttered in the same breath, as Earache’s partnership with Columbia Records and everything about Illud Divinum Insanus have taught us.
As if to add insult to injury of the Deicides and Cannibal Corpses that rested on their laurels in their later years, Brutality cover Bathory‘s sprawling “Shores In Flames,” a black metal anthem, and maintain all of the atmosphere of the original while somehow, bafflingly, doing so in a very death metal fashion. Long-time guitarist Jay Fernandez handles the clean vocals and does an admirable job emulating Quorthon. His soloing is tasteful and fluid, always a compliment to the songs and never showy wanking. Check the solo that closes out the aforementioned “48 to 52” for a prime example. Dual vocals from Scott Riegel and bassist Jeff Acres provide a lot of variety, the former with a deeper guttural roar and the latter with a raspier scream. To my surprise, gone is Jim Corker on the drums, who was with the band since Dimension Demented and through 2013’s Ruins of Humans EP. New blood Ruston Grosse is a percussive pugilist of prodigious proportions. To an old fuck like me, Brutality sound as vicious as they did on their debut.
If more bands recorded music like this decades ago, the genre may not have experienced a downturn, but luckily Brutality are back to breathe new life into a drawn and quartered corpse and remind us of why this music is so great. It appeals to the primal nature and challenges the listener while, at the same time, remaining barbaric enough that you could beat someone to death while listening to it. Almost 20 years after In Mourning was unleashed and essentially ignored, with Sea Of Ignorance, Brutality have taken the bar for death metal and not just set it higher, but catapulted it into the stratosphere. Death metal, ironically, is alive and not just well, but foaming at the teeth to take hold of your jugular and drink every last drop of your blood. I, for one, am happy to sacrifice my sanguine elixir to feed the beast.