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Brutality - Sea Of Ignorance - 85%

Tomecki666, January 19th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Ceremonial Records (Digipak)

Ever since Brutality’s music fell on my ears I’ve been a fan. I consider them one of the most original bands in death metal and listened to their albums quite often over the years. Last year I had the pleasure of being pummeled by those guys live and to this day I smile when think about it because their show ruled that night and I had the chance to see them play. Another reason was finding out about a new album being in the works and possibly coming out in 2016. I was stoked, excited and waited patiently. Sea Of Ignorance is the name of it, it was out on Jan 22 2016 and I’ve already stopped counting the times I’ve listened to it.

The album starts with the title track and from the very first riff it sets the tone for the album. Fast, brutal and packed with energy, it feels like a quick and viciously premeditated kick to the face. Most of the songs on the album could be described in such manner to be honest with you but there is way more going on. I always remembered Brutality for the fact that none of the songs are alike and for keeping me entertained from the first note to the last. Such is the case with this album. When listening to guitar I find so many riffs that stick with me and I can differentiate songs very easy just by that. Listening to guitar work as a whole is enough to keep one occupied for a long while and then once you add all subtle melodies and themes here and there, expressive or maybe even touching solos, it’s almost impossible not to go back to listen to it again. Jay Fernandez, ladies and gents, outstanding(!), but his riffs are just a part of this machine and big crushing gears wouldn’t do much damage without a rumble of Jeff Acres' bass, Ruston Grosse’s drumming and Scott Reigel's vocals. Bass sound on this gem is meaty and drips with juice, positioned up front when need calls for bellow and staying in the background to keep the rumble; it adds a tremendous amount of force to power up this monster. Ruston’s drumming is as far away from your regular rhythm keeping as possible and at some point the word maniacal went through my mind. Not sure if he will continue as a full time member of Brutality but what he’s done on this album is exceptional. Scott has been taking vocal duties in Brutality ever since I remember, and let me just say over here that the manner that he sings with and sound of his growl is the one I used to measure other vocalists to. Not many growlers out there have such deep sounding roar and can still be intelligible throughout the song, even the whole album, and that is something that to me enhances the listening experience quite a bit. Another reason would be the lyrics, even though oscillating around death, are written with lots of wit and insist on digging through the subject a little deeper.

I could continue my praise for much longer here but it is not my intention to bore you death and take away all the secrets that this album possesses. Brutality is back and Sea Of Ignorance is out there and ready to be discovered. Get the album, listen to the music and bark BRUTALITY IS BACK!!!! just like the rest of us.

(Originally written for www.metalbite.com)

The Tides Re-surge Once Again - 75%

Roffle_the_Thrashard, June 23rd, 2017

Over a year after its day of release, Brutality's Sea of Ignorance is still a sight and sound to behold. Between 1996 and 2016 spans twenty years of change, conflict, and line-up changes, but one thing remains the same: Brutality still has the aptitude and prowess to create great death metal. I would not look at Sea of Ignorance as a mid-life crisis; something that suggests weakness and a lack of self-confidence, but as something that shows the world of metal that they are not be forgotten. While this release is not perfect, I look at it with appreciation that some of the old masters of the Floridian death metal sound are still churning out music.

All members are firing on all cylinders when it comes to the pace that Brutality sets on Sea of Ignorance. The record does not sound like tired veterans, but more like an ageless force of power. Technicality and speed don't seem to be terms foreign to Jeff Acres and his wrecking crew either. Songs like "Fatal Cure" possess those classic Tampa, Florida machine gun bass drum patterns along with blast beats that some bands would love to bring to the table nowadays. This is of course met with the sweeping and lightning-fast guitar and bass playing that has a tastefulness not seen in a long time by classic death metal groups and their more recent releases. Easily the most recognizable aspect of this tastefulness is the interesting harmonization in the guitar and bass parts throughout Sea of Ignorance. For example, on "Tribute" the opening passage features Jay Fernandez's classical-sounding and intertwining melodies that make many appearances throughout this record. Many songs seem to be composed as if a classical composer was at the reigns, at least in the riff department. There are rarely any riffs played here that can't be built upon in the ways that someone would add supporting and harmonizing counterparts.

The songs flow effortlessly without much stop and go and contain few riffs that suggest that Brutality hit many points of writer's block throughout the writing process for Sea of Ignorance. The riffs presented here are complex, yet they can still be boiled down to a simple starting point after one removes the masterful harmonies and counter-melodies. Some, such as on the title track sound like they were from a black metal group's repertoire. Brutality also uses outside samples for intros and outros sparingly on Sea of Ignorance, which also suggests that very few things went stagnant for this group when painting the apocalyptic blast that is this album. Anyone that has heard El Rostro de la Muerte by Hirax will understand what I'm saying. As much as the instrumentalists bring to the table on this record, Scott Reigel wasn't really holding up his end of the musical table for Sea of Ignorance like he has in the past. And just to turn away those that would accuse me of comparing him to his past self, the vocals that he laid down here without comparison to anything else are unfortunately, not up to par. They have power, no doubt, but instead of a gritty and wet roar, we get a dry growl. Reigel does manage to find a decent range in pitches at the very least however.

In terms of production, Sea of Ignorance is fairly pleasing. It does reek of the flatness of records like The End Complete by Obituary. You know what I mean: lifeless and bland tone in the drums and bass end of the band's sound. I will say though, that the balance of the instruments is considerably good. The bass guitar isn't drowned out completely in the mix and manages to peek out of its spot in the recordings with some flourishes such as on the title track. The vocals are fitted into the production correctly as well, although I will admit that the sustain put on Reigel's screams when he goes for longer held growls tapers off too quickly for my liking. Overall, Jarrett Pritchard has done a satisfactory job as a producer. No more no less.

For a group of veteran death metallers, Brutality possesses a sizable degree of tenacity and force that younger groups of today would envy. Even a year after its release, Sea of Ignorance is still able to deliver its intended payload: despair and unrestrained fury in the form of distorted guitars, guttural vocals, and lightning fast drumming. This record is a triumph for this band in particular given their history of conflicts and line-up changes. Despite its intensity however, nothing stands to be to catchy and I'm not sure if I would return to this record on a whim. Perhaps the abundance of the classical style riffs that lacked hooks, or the fact that almost all songs had a very similar note choice caused this, but can we complain about Brutality releasing new material? I'd wager that the answer be 'no.'

Ushering in Digital Armageddon - 82%

blarg223, February 16th, 2016

Let’s face it: the end of the world is nigh. C’mon, natural disasters are levelling third world countries every day, religious extremists are beheading people in the streets, and global governments are being assembled to oppress and control the masses through worldwide totalitarian regimes. I know this, you know this, and classic Floridian death metal band Brutality has certainly come to terms with it, enough to write their latest album “Sea of Ignorance” about the ills the world is facing on a daily basis.

For those unfamiliar with Brutality, these guys are one of the oldest Florida death metal bands still around. They were formed in 1987, released their debut and masterpiece “Screams of Anguish” six years later, and released two more full lengths in ’94 and ’96. Then they broke up and reformed a couple dozen times between now and then, and finally, 20 years after their last full length album, graced us with the philosophical slice of melody-infused old school death metal that is “Sea of Ignorance.” The album features only remaining original member Jeff Acres on bass and vocals, as well as Brutality veterans Jay Fernandez and Scott Reigel on guitar and vocals respectively. I feel as though that shorts Jay and Scott a little bit, so let me also add that when I say veterans, I mean for well over 20 years. Both of these guys played on “Screams of Anguish” the year I was fucking born. Drums are handled by Ruston Grosse who has quite the pedigree himself, having played for Rumplestiltskin Grinder, as well as live for Master and Insatanity.

This album is more than just an album; it’s a bone-weary declaration of despair and ultimate resignation to the hopeless fate of humanity, certainly not without a note of bitterness and disdain. As I noted previously, the lyrics deal mostly with all the modern plagues of society and mankind today. Human extinction, warfare, suicide, and other dark subjects litter the album. The art depicts what I assume is left of the world after man’s demise; smokestacks churning out foul smog the blots out the sun, a field of cross-marked graves, and our precious source of knowledge, televisions, piled up in a worthless heap, still glowing, but ultimately useless now. To be frank, I am not a fan of the style of the cover art. I like the idea, but digital art is not for me. It looks a little too modern for my taste.

The music itself sounds incredible. The guitars have the right amount of crunch, and lay on top of each other perfectly. So many times, one guitar keeps a steady rhythm underneath everything, generally matched by the kick drums, and another plays an intricate melodic riff over the top to give the song more spice. Without one or the other, the sound would fall flat. The vocals are well-mixed and easy to understand, and the bass pops up on occasion to add another dimension most bands in this style lack. The songs are structured like most classic death metal, centering on a specific riff or idea that is twisted into multiple shapes throughout the songs various turns. I do take a bit of an issue with the pacing of the album as a whole, however, and I will discuss that shortly.

The riffs comprise mostly of tremolo picked, vorpal sharp lines that slice the listener to the marrow with easy, coupled with grooving power chord exchanges to bury you under a mountain of rock-solid brutality. The drums, upon first listen are very straight forward; lots of double bass to compliment the flurries of picked guitar notes and peppered with blasts occasionally, though this certainly is no blastathon. However, when one sits and listens more closely, it becomes exceedingly apparent what a master of his craft Ruston is. The cymbal work here is frighteningly intricate, even through the faster parts of the songs. Jazzy little cymbal fills certainly add an interesting dimension to an otherwise very straightforward album, for while this album certainly does like to shift pace a lot, it’s definitely not the most complex album this year, or probably even this week. But hey, the focus here is not complexity; the focal point instead is masterful songwriting and epic melodies fused with massive riffs, and at that, Brutality excel.

The only real complaint I have about this album will probably be a predictable point of contention: the Bathory cover. I don’t care for it. However, I more or less consider my own opinion invalid for two reasons: first, I don’t really give a shit about Bathory. Never have, unlikely if I ever do. This is the second “Bathory song” I’ve ever heard, and I really prefer to keep it that way. I am not a fan of Quorthon or the style of music he played, whether Viking metal or black metal. Second, clean vocals in death metal are my number one pet peeve. I cannot listen to anything that mixes death growls and cleans, no matter how masterfully either is executed. For this reason, I’ve also never listened to Opeth, and avoid most prog at all costs. So, from personal opinion, those points certainly ruin the song for me. Speaking more objectively, I do think the cover was extremely well executed, though I do still have a couple minor criticisms. I do think it is a bit long; an over 11 minute epic in the midst of mostly sub 4 minute tracks is a bit excessive. Also, I do feel as though it interrupts the album’s pacing a great deal. I feel it would have melded with the flow of the album about two tracks earlier. The song itself feels like a mighty transition, like it is a mystic bridge into the foggy unknown, preparing the audience for the second half of the album. With only one song following it, I feel as though the metaphorical bridge is a bit of a letdown, especially in the midst of such an otherwise strong album. As I stated, it could have gone about two songs earlier or have been left out completely without any arguments from me.

Is Sea of Ignorance going to displace Screams of Anguish as my favorite Brutality album? Fuck no. I don’t think anything ever could, that album is a goddamn masterpiece. Is Sea of Ignorance a powerful and worthy addition to a legendary band’s catalog, and a glorious return? Damn right it is. Any fan of classic death metal and especially the Florida scene would be highly remiss if they skipped this extremely fun listening experience. This album is an epic exercise in OSDM revival magic and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. 8/10

Reclaiming the Rot - 77%

autothrall, January 22nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Repulsive Echo Records (Digipak)

I go into a number of these death metal reunion/comeback albums with an appropriate level of trepidation, so often are they lacking or just plain content to recycle a level of musicianship and songwriting that they had already conquered. Brutality had a long history of several successive reformations and splits before they got their act back together around 2012 and soon after graced us with a solid EP in Ruins of Humans, so perhaps some of the apprehension was unwarranted. Having now heard the crowd-funded Sea of Ignorance over the course of several spins, I can say that this is in fact a competent reclamation of their status on the Tampa underground and in all likelihood one of the most genuinely 'Florida' sounding USDM records I've heard in some years, rekindling not only the aesthetics of their first two cult classic albums but also some of the fires that lit other bands like Resurrection, Deicide and old Death.

That's not to say it's exceptional in any way, but if we're seeking a record that could have come out in 1996 as a successor to When the Sky Turns Black, this scratches the itch slightly better than the album that actually DID come out, In Mourning, which wasn't bad, but definitely dulled down a little of the appeal. This new Brutality is more or less a measured balance of slower, double bass drumming death metal roil patterns, a little lumbering death/doom, and some spry melodic death integration in a few of the faster tremolo picked guitar harmonies which offers a welcome relief against this ever becoming dull. Leads are well structured and catchy, revealing both classical and bluesy orientations that work well against the brutal rhythm riffing, especially in cuts like "Fatal Cure"; and it's good they do, because without this element I feel this might become a painstakingly average affair since there is simply little creativity in revisiting the blueprints so long left behind and not tweaking or twisting them in any new combination. The broad gutturals and snarls of Reigel and Acres are not the most distinct in death metal, and almost all the important atmosphere created throughout the original tunes would be nowhere without all those harmonies and controlled shredding passages. They truly elevate the experience, the product of some good decision making.

Drums and bass are brick tight here, but the latter doesn't develop much of a presence against the churning of the other guitars. As for the cover of Bathory's "Shores in Flames", I feel as if it might have been better left off the album or put on a tribute or something, because the style here is so different than what Brutality write for themselves that it stands out like a dragon ship in a white water rafting contest. I appreciate that these guys have a broad taste in metal and enjoy Quorthon, but the real issue is that they never 'own' the cover. It never becomes flush and fluid with the other songs, and while its produced cleanly it feels too much like the original, just meatier. It simply breaks up the flow of the other songs, and I probably would have enjoyed it a little more if it was replaced or just left off the core of the album entirely. It's not 'bad' by any means, but to interrupt these 3-4 minute bruisers with an 11+ Viking heavy metal epic seems like the one choice here that doesn't live up to the rest, which are all pretty sound...this is a Brutality record by and large which lives up to the band's name and legacy, and even though it's not likely to supersede any nostalgic twinge I might have for Screams of Anguish or When the Sky Turns Black, it's proof positive that a), they are back, and b) they've still got it.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com