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When times are tough, or you’re feeling worn down, you start longing for a life of total peace. A life where there are no fights, arguments or lies; where there is no such thing as disappointment and your actions have no consequences. Some might call it a “fantasy world”. Genre-jumping Belgian trio Brutus call it the “Unison Life” – a phrase that titles their third studio album. Unison Life is about all the stuff that wears you down in the first place. It’s the ugliness, the pain, and the acts of bravery that get you through it all. Beginning with a portrait of contentment and unravelling from there, the album goes into battle and asks what really counts. In their own words: “Is this Unison Life a hoax? Or a quest?”
Unison Life asks whether a life of contentment is a myth or a challenge; a delusion or a goal. The themes are intimate but universal, with Mannaerts considering ageing without feeling changed (“Victoria”), the demands of friendship when you’re already drained (“Dust”), the fear of letting people down (“Chainlife”) and the difficulty of suffering in silence (“Brave”). Lead single “Liar” is Brutus in a nutshell, starting off with a snaking guitar riff, lifting off into an anthemic post-rock chorus, and finally reaching a chug-heavy third act that makes good use of those chimes they found. It’s a bridge between Nest and Unison Life, combining the changes of direction they’re known for with the concentrated force of the new album. “When we wrote it, everything we had written was very heavy. For us it’s a logical consequence to counter that with a song that wasn’t too dark or upsetting.”
The biggest deviation from Brutus’ usual sound is opener “Miles Away”. It’s their first and only song without drums, but it still has all the energy of the sky before an electrical storm. Initially written as the album’s conclusion, the lyrics see Mannaerts observing her life from the outside. That feeling of being a step removed – of feeling “miles away” – from your own life is repeated throughout the album, but in this case it’s a reflection on the song itself, which was the first piece of music they wrote where everything clicked into place.
“We had done all this exploring, and we were working so hard trying to do better for this band and this record, and when we wrote ‘Miles Away’ it felt right. Like it always had to be like that,” Mannaerts remembers. “I felt like I finally opened my eyes and realised that what we’re doing now, here in this rehearsal room, is a good thing, and the rest can follow.”
Unison Life finds Brutus at their most intentional. They were more deliberate about the sound, which links into the artwork (produced by Mulders), as well as the music video for “Liar”, which saw Mannaerts travel to Morocco for the first video the band has done that has fun with concepts and storytelling. The absence of touring over the last few years has seen Brutus channel 100% of their energy into Unison Life, and the result is a blistering illustration of a boundary-pushing band at the top of their game.
Label: Hassle Records
Pre-Order / Release Date: 2022-10-22