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Top-shelf, no-bullshit death metal - 82%

TheWaltzer, December 7th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Slovak Metal Army (Bandcamp)

It always feels a bit personal when reviewing a metal album from my home country of Slovakia. The historical myth of being a tiny, overlooked nation translates, to an extent, into the metal scene as well. In the last few years, this seems to be changing, as more local bands break out and get some well-deserved underground recognition. And it ain’t just Malokarpatan. Take Brute, for example. The long-running death metal band has flown under many a radar even around here, but upon releasing their third album, “Henchmen”, it seems perplexing as to why.

Brute’s brand of death metal is actually not what the band name might suggest. Rather than being brutish, these guys are focused and technically gifted. “Henchmen” seems to be more influenced by big US death metal bands than their European counterparts from places like Sweden or Poland. Think the speed and ferocity of a band like Deicide, but played in a songwriting style more akin to Suffocation or Nile. Brute can do technical as well as straightforward, but they let the individual sections develop for a while so that the riffs can bash your skull repeatedly. Such writing style proves to be extremely effective - there is hardly a dull moment and for the most part, the songs do indeed gradually gain power, a solid feat given how many shitfing sectiongs they feature.

On “Henchmen”, there is plenty that both lovers of frenetic blasting and technical afficionados can enjoy, oftentimes within the same song. My favorite cut on here is “Severe Zeal” which is constantly speeding up and slowing down, raining down awesome mid-tempo riffs and pinch harmonics, only to contrast fast and slow even more in its second half. And as icing on the cake, have some unexpected melodic licks - these are featured in most of the songs, the most overt one being the gentle section at 3:11 in “Walls of Purple Hue”.

The album itself is standard death metal in terms of its parts. Nothing that hasn’t been done before. You have heard the Mullen-esque guttural vocals, you have heard the blasting sections and the occasional simplistic, thrashy riff (check out “Three Days”). However, what is not quite as standard is the quality - everything performance and every little detail has been taken care of remarkably well. Even the production is very good - the balance is spot-on, the guitars are absolutely free of any muddy tone. This suits the band's goal of providing a lot of clarity to the riffs. Finally, the grumbling, audible bass underneath secures the low end nicely.

Somewhere on the line between old school and technical, Brute have definitely found a sweet spot. This is music made by death metal fans - for death metal fans. Perhaps it could have been a little bit longer, since 7 songs (plus an intro) at 35 minutes will leave you wanting more. Perhaps these guys could have pushed themselves a little bit after nailing their formula so well. Then again... no wheels were reinvented by Brute, but the ones that are already there will run you over just as well.