Review Summary: As ugly as advertised.
Whatever subtlety Bruxa Maria once possessed has been eradicated. With an album title as confrontational as Build Yourself A Shelter And Pray
, it’s practically guaranteed that something vicious awaits beyond appearances. The London quartet’s fifth LP certainly lives up to such an expectation; whatever psychedelic leanings were present on The Maddening
have been smothered, their vacancy now inhabited by a destructive mixture of buzzing, winding riffs, a growling bass, militant percussion, screeching vocals, and an unyielding wall of static that gives chase to the listener for the entire duration of the record. There’s no light to intercede and provide salvation, no gentle interlude to use as a brief respite—the band have their audience captive in their dizzying environment of cacophonous dissonance, generating an atmosphere that depicts a crumbling industrial hellscape decaying under perpetually gray skies. The collective’s evolved sound—a relentless blunt instrument of chaos that scratches against the walls of a reverb prison—is one based around constant aggression, and it can be experienced regardless of the approach the U.K. gang employs. Gradual build-ups, all-out assaults, and droning soundscapes inevitably slip into the omnipresent bedlam, leading to a record that relishes in the lurking threat of its explosive power.
The general foundation that was present on The Maddening
persists; Bruxa Maria ground themselves in the nadirs of noise rock, presenting a sound that’s clear enough to outline every involved part, yet ultimately distorted to where the discordant instrumentation can liberally thrash about and provide as much static as possible. These are no longer brief ventures, with the group opting to base Build Yourself A Shelter
around grander songs, occasionally embarking upon epics that progressively unravel en route to a despairing conclusion. A tune like “Blind Side” is in no rush to demolish the listener, instead letting an unremitting percussion kit slowly grow in volume, clearing the way for the guitar and bass to amplify the intensity through increasingly louder riffs, eventually culminating in screams and clean, choir-esque vocals that clash against the shadowy backdrop. The ending one-two attack of “Accountability (Lose Your Job)” and “The Neck Verse” verge entirely into a purely atmospheric approach; the former employs a looping sample and electronic ambiance to gain momentum, whereas the latter dismisses it, languishing in decaying sound as the album slowly ends. The band’s newfound willingness to let their sound breathe works exceptionally well, allowing the pure strength of their noisy compositions to trudge along, eventually causing the layered, droning guitar parts to adopt a hypnotic quality that can draw a listener further into the depths.
Although the central appeal of the album lies in its expansive explorations of noisy, mesmerizing compositions, Bruxa Maria are capable of alternating their methodology in order to differentiate the record. Whatever contributes to the atmosphere—that aforementioned apocalyptic scene of failing architecture—is considered fair game, ranging from the industrial-tinged synth line that pierces through “Dance Like Vasilli” to the unexpected breakdowns of the menacing “Run Pilgrim.” The latter number flexes Bruxa Maria’s arrangement capabilities and overall playing ability, featuring a more technical lead riff and a thrilling increase in tempo that makes the ensuing collapse all the more exciting. There’s an inherent messiness to every song as the band crawls through their decrepit interiors; the transitions of “Totalitarian Pissing” have an off-kilter vibe to their lumbering ebb-and-flow, stumbling through tempo shifts as if precision was an afterthought. It’s a sensation doubtlessly enhanced by the caustic, cynical vocals that attempt to overcome the towering reverb wall, ranging from playful singing to arbitrary shrieks that contribute to the album’s foreboding tone. When the synth contributions are given more prominence, such as their spiraling, futuristic incursions on “Hospital Visit,” the record obtains a novel dimension to its madness, imbuing proceedings with further depth that makes continued visits more rewarding as separate layers are peeled away.
The perpetual noise assault is a fearsome force, but when elongated to the extent it is on Build Yourself a Shelter
, it begins to feel as if a certain dynamic is absent. Prior releases saw Bruxa Maria employ spacey ambiance to balance their aggression and ultimately add new dimensions to their songwriting. With its presence minimized to spotlight the craziness alone, there’s less tension to generate; the U.K. crew is firmly planted in their domain of insanity, leaving few surprises for the audience to encounter, and it tilts the scale towards a primarily drone aesthetic that has a tendency to wander, having no direction to head in and no destination to reach. When the aforementioned “Blind Side” attains its pinnacle following a meticulous build-up, it fails to reach another level or really go anywhere at all, unsure of how to progress the tune onward. This extends to the album’s grand finale, which feels as though it should be the culmination of all that precedes it, yet both veer into aimless ambiance that damages any amassed momentum. In conjunction with supporting songs that build upon the atmosphere, this may have been less egregious. Instead, it sounds as if the record was on the precipice of something special and slowly backed away from it—which could be said for the LP as a whole. The heights Bruxa Maria reach are terrifying, but the low points are dragged out to where it’s difficult to ignore the lulls. When it clicks, the collective’s reverb prison is absolutely suffocating once trapped inside; it’s just missing the necessary refinement and precision to step to the next echelon of noisy madness.