Review Summary: Another solid effort from one of the UK's hardest-working bands.
For a band to stand out in today’s hardcore scene, there are key elements involved. Firstly, a solid work ethic and commitment to touring, writing and recording is required in order to disseminate the music to the masses. Secondly, it helps to have a unique selling point; something that distinguishes the band from the legions of imitators and keeps them from the road to obscurity. It is fair to say that Cardiff five-piece Brutality Will Prevail possess both these factors in abundance.
The band came to the forefront of attention in the UK hardcore scene with the release of 2010’s critically-acclaimed Root Of All Evil, an album that combined all the raw heaviness and passion of the scene with elements of sludge and doom metal that made for an atmospheric and, at times, mesmerising listening experience. With the subsequent release of their Sleep Paralysis EP, the band explored these influences further, building an intensely dark, heavy and atmospheric sound. Anticipation was rife, then, as fans awaited the band’s next step with the release of full-length Scatter The Ashes.
Album opener Life Lines does an effective job of settling the listener in; the ambling acoustic guitar is reminiscent of the quieter, atmospheric guitar that opens their previous releases. What follows, however, is nothing short of astonishing. As the feedback cranks up to a palpable intensity, the blistering opening riff of Sins Of Commitment drops – a jaw-dropping assault of furious, frantic drums and guitars that hits faster and harder than anything this band has done before. It’s breathless, relentless stuff; for a band renowned for their specialising in down-tempo hardcore, this is unchartered territory, and they pull it off to devastating effect. As the heavy guitars ring out, allowing the listener to catch their breath, the detuned crunchy bass fills the void followed by the apocalyptic cry of “the oath is broken; the sins have been committed”, leading to an utterly mesmerising slow outro with the most powerful atmospheric lead guitar. An incredible start to the album.
Having set the bar so high so early, it was always going to be a challenge to maintain it throughout the album. Rather than persisting with the blistering pace of Sins Of Commitment, the band revert to what they do so well – heavy, all-out hardcore with their signature sludge/doom elements. Casket features a stomping dissonant main riff, an outstanding guest vocal appearance from Mother Of Mercy’s Bob Wilson whose visceral screams drive home the passion in the song, and a mesmerising atmospheric interlude in 6/8 before a final two-step section. Second Sight is similarly effective with its stomping riffs, Ajay’s cathartic vocals and a hard-hitting time-switching outro riff preceded by the anthemic refrain of “scatter my ashes; let the devil do his work”, destined to be a hit at live shows. The pace of the album is then cranked up again with 1348, an astonishing barrage of driving punk drumming, fast-paced riffs and frantic screams culminating in a blast beat; the only downside is that it ends all too soon.
Throughout the album, one of the most impressive features is the vocal performance of Ajay. While his distinct sneering/shouting style may not be to everyone’s taste, it is effective in driving home the cathartic nature of his words. Lines such as “a broken man is what I’ve become” (The Path) and “when I’m left with nothing but myself, I think I realise what it’s like to be dead” (Fallen Apart) are delivered with the unwavering passion and conviction with which they were undoubtedly written. The latter, in particular, is a standout moment of the album, leading to an utterly devastating, crushingly slow beatdown, tailor-made to spark bedlam when performed live.
The only real downside to the album is that it loses its way somewhat towards the end. Penultimate track Twisting Tongues brings nothing new to the table and is hard to describe as anything more than filler, lacking the devastating hard-hitting moments of previous songs. Finally, in the closing title track, the band omits the detuned guitars, beatdowns and even Ajay’s distinct vocals in favour of a more melodic, atmospheric approach, with Basement’s Alex Fisher taking over vocal duty. It’s a well-intentioned effort to round off the album, but Fisher’s clean vocals arguably just aren’t up to the job. Nonetheless, an underwhelming end to the album should not detract from what is, for the most part, a very solid album from a very talented hard-working band.
As Brutality Will Prevail continue to set the bar high with each release, it will be interesting to see where they go from here. In any case, based on their track record, we shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out.