Last year, I wrote quite a bit about the Leuven, Belgium-based post-rock trio BRUTUS. With the release of their full-length debut, 2017’s Burst, the acclaimed Belgian act — Stefanie Mannaerts (drums, vocals), Stijn Vanhoegaerden (guitar) and Peter Mulders (bass) — quickly developed a national and international presence with a sound and approach shaped and informed by necessity: Mannaerts eventually took up vocal duties because no one else would.
Since their debut effort’s release, they’ve toured with JOVM mainstay and labelmate Chelsea Wolfe, Thrice, Russian Circles, and others. The members of BRUTUS have also played sets across the European Union’s heavy music festival circuit. And adding to a growing profile, Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich has championed the band.
The Leuven-based trio’s Jesse Gander-produced sophomore album Nest was released last year through Sargent House Records. Nest finds the members of BRTUUS making a concerted effort to write tighter songs with a bigger sound — but simultaneously, the material sees Mannaerts fully and boldly embracing her dual roles as a vocalist and drummer.
Thematically speaking, the material focused on the path the trio have taken together that have led to the euphoric highs of achieving a lifelong dream. As a result, the material is deeply introspective with the members of the band considering the individual and group choices they’ve made to get where they are now — and the impact those choices have had on their loved ones and those who they’ve had to leave behind. In some way, it captures the bleak and raw ache of people who taking stock of themselves and their lives — alone. Naturally, that creates an uncomfortable yet necessary friction between wanting to continue the forward progression of a burgeoning career and the desire to maintain and cherish the connections of home.
The members of the Belgian trio closed out 2019 with their first ever Stateside headlining tour, which included a November stop at Saint Vitus Bar. Of course, before the COVID-19 related lockdowns and quarantines, the Belgian band had been busy touring to support Nest. Slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Sargent House Records, the Belgian band’s live album, Live In Ghent offers fans across the world a taste of what they’ve been forced to miss this year.
“When the real world went into lockdown, early March 2020, a year of live music disappeared before our eyes,” the members of BRUTUS explain. “Going on tour, playing festivals, watching bands, it’s all gone. It was as hard for us as it has been for everybody involved in live music. As a remedy, we took the time to look back on what we had already done and collected the footage we had of our previous shows. Painful and healing at the same time. That’s when we stumbled upon the recordings of our show at Handelsbeurs in Ghent, May 2019. A hometown show we fully recorded and filmed after a period of touring, in front of all our family and friends.”
“We know it’s just a recording and not even close to the real feeling we had on stage or the energy we got back from the crowd in the room, but looking back, almost a year later, we feel absolutely proud about that show.”
The latest batch of live footage from that show (which will appear on the live album) is of the band performing one of my favorite songs off the album — “Cemetery.” Effortlessly riding doom metal, thrash metal, shoegaze, hardcore punk and stoner rock, the song is centered around an arrangement of thunderous and forceful drumming, enormous power chords and Mannaerts howled vocal delivery, which gives the song a feral immediacy.
Naturally, the live footage will give fans — and hopefully readers and viewers — a sense of the band’s energetic and loud live sound. But it also serves as a reminder of those small and necessary joys that we miss so much as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. So far, the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to put a covering over our faces and socially distance whenever we’re out and about — and wash your hands. So please, put on a mask. It’s a minor inconvenience but we can get back some of the things we love sooner rather than later if you do.