Big, brave and bold contemporary heavy music
Montreal’s BIG|BRAVE have been working their way towards the underground metal spotlight since their inception in 2012. Abandoning their original makings as an experimental-folk-ambient duo and moving away from post-metal tendencies, the trio have been breaking ground, signing to a most appropriate label, Southern Lord, as well as providing tour support for labelmates/contemporaries, such as Sunn O))), Daughters, Deafheaven, SLEEP and so on.
In addition to gearing up for their fourth long-player, as well as a collaborative record with The Body, BIG|BRAVE have, just like their distinct aural assault of sludge and post-metal, been slowly building up tension and anticipation. Vital (2021) follows through on that anticipation with a massively colossal and epic masterwork that showcases a band at its creative finest and a refreshing yet relevant take on the sounds that make BIG|BRAVE who they are.
Kicking things off with a monumental opener in “Abating the Incarnation of Matter,” the heaviest of the heavier sensibilities are boasted in the most subtle and esoteric means possible. They fill out all the low-end without a bass player, wailing feedback or heavy drumming but instead with semi-clean vocals and no unnecessary tempo changes. At the root, this is one of the characteristics that pigeonhole BIG|BRAVE into an interesting niche, incorporating varied stylistic backgrounds and tastes into a cohesive and progressive sheen.
The particularly drudging single “Half Breed” follows suit and takes its damn sweet time, clocking in at over eight minutes. Robin Wattie’s soaring and idiosyncratic, Björk-esque vocal style sits extremely comfortably interweaving in between and on top of the mix of huge guitar riffage and drum production. The final lyrics end with the repeated mantra “The pattern for…,” leading the listener to cling on for inconclusive dear closure before the droning ambient interlude track “Wited, Still and All…” cuts in.
“Of This Ilk” draws more of the common Swans comparisons, what with the interlocked band dynamics and all. This becomes especially true for the post-metal/post-rock ending riff that, like a classical piece, is equally devastating in its heaviness yet flooring with its sheer beauty.
Providing a little leeway with some concluding ambient atmospheres, “Vital” fades infamously.The title track with no big shocker here is a more patient cut, taking quite a handful of minutes to get to the “meat” of the song. BIG|BRAVE go all out, incorporating elements of their drone synthesis, some funeral doom and even some squirming, fuzzed-out guitar noise cutting through here and there. Again, just when you may be weren’t/were/weren’t again expecting it, BIG|BRAVE come in with the riff heard ’round the world. Appropriately, a heavily reverberated lead flies high over the caverns and valleys of doom underneath it, trailing up, away and out.
Are you supposed to mosh? Headbang? Maybe cross your arms and awkwardly tap your foot? Who knows, and who really cares. BIG|BRAVE is and has been one of the more distinct bands in a distinct genre, who probably haven’t gotten the recognition they absolutely deserve. There are equal parts Marriages and Grouper as there are Earth and Primitive Man. Yet, BIG|BRAVE surpass comparisons to like sounded artists since they offer a very refreshing and artistic take, and with the help of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Efrim Menuck and his analog recording studio, Hotel2Tango, Vital (2021) already is a mainstay for the Southern Lord catalog and a new wave of hip, heavy music.