Once upon a time, this writer, still a wet-behind-the-ears thrash aficionado, met his first brother-in-metal. He was a lanky fellow who’d rattle his neighbors’ windows with sessions of Cannibal Corpse and hit the pits so hard he’d be out of class for a week. So strong was our bromance that I cut my very first class to hit my first real show with him — I even had a beer (underage!) — what a rebel I was. I owe him, specifically his deification of Glen Benton, for a good portion of my listening habits. Wherever he is, I like to think that Brutal Unrest put out their latest LP, Trinitas, with his denture-rattling volumes in mind.
After nearly a decade refining their sound, the Germans have finally struck gold in their worship of everyone’s favorite Satanist. Opener “Systematic Torture” rains hammer blows of Deicide down upon your head, intent on punching through to the gray matter before long. Feral waves of brutality give way to pocketed mines of dissonance, ready to detonate at a moment’s notice. Tommy Sonnenburg refreshingly avoids a rote dual vocal performance, instead blurting and squirming his way through gutturals similar to Aeon’s Tommy Dahlström. Follow-ups “Pathogenic Nation” and “Pandemic Wings” cascade crashing cymbals across the grinding viciousness of Aeon before unsheathing another dose of dissonance. Their moments of Ulcerated discord recall Behemoth’s interspersed minor melodies on The Satanist. Rife with discomfort, they chew through your intestines but beg for an angular skull-basher to complete the picture. As a result, Brutal Unrest often sound like full-fledged tech-death, lacking only the technical innards to make the transition. Is that a problem? Absolutely not. Brutal Unrest excel regardless, exploding out of your chest with their infectious riffs and propellant force…
…Until the second half. Trinitas avoids careening off the side of a cliff, yes, but Brutal Unrest run into difficulty matching the sheer excellence of the album’s A-side. Their riffs grow a little weaker, their grinds fewer and farther between. The core refrains of “Enslaved by Hate” irked me with their repetitive nature, and I still cannot get behind the chopped salad of sound bites that replace the vocals on “Cotardious.” Even a good underlying rhythm cannot extract the stilted, on-the-nose drudgery from a jumble of voiceovers from Bobcat Goldthwait’s film God Bless America.1 Closers “Postmortal Enslavement” and “Covered by Black” do their damnedest to retain some of Brutal Unrest’s door kicking brutality, though the latter sticks around too long for my liking. Sonnenburg relies on his capable low-end heavily throughout, and I appreciate his refusal to automatically turn to Dial-A-Benton extremes. However, his well-spaced highs provide a more compelling companion through Trinitas’ warzone and would improve the record with more consistent appearances.
Unfortunately, if Brutal Unrest equals “brutal,” and “brutal” means “DR5” nowadays, then you know what’s coming next. I may have expected the (Choose 2: “poor,” “loud,” “crushed,” “spotty”) production on Trinitas, but that does not excuse it. While I love the luxurious cymbal crashes, I have never been a fan of the Suffocation snare job. Brutal Unrest’s snare, in particular, sits right in front and wears on me every time. Dennis Thiele (Prostitute Disfigurement, Resurrected) offers a fine performance, but for my money Alexander Hilla and David Schneider steal the show with their rock-solid riff work. They collaborate on some fantastic tandem moments and combine for one of the first fantastic openings of the new year. The immediate and ear-grabbing nature of “Sarcophagus’ Aftermath” never relents, even as the track develops a suspiciously intriguing rhythm beneath a chronicling of Chernobylian woes.
Early returns appear promising, at least after the melted poopsicle that was 2016. Coupled with the impending slampocalypse, Brutal Unrest signal that yes, this year will be fucking brutal. The great casualty of 2017 may, in fact, be my wallet; I expect my chiropractor bills will pile up with all this head-banging. So bring the neighbors some cookies and return their shit you borrowed and forgot to return. If Trinitas has anything to say about it, you’re going to need all of that good will to avoid a year’s worth of noise complaints.