Brutai live review - The Borderline, London

An eclectic lineup descends on London

A press shot of Brutai

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It’s a packed evening tonight, with a multi-band bill showcasing varied acts from the Transcend Music and Incendia Management stables. As a result, the audience represents a cross-section of fans from old school rockers to young hipsters and much more in-between. With any such bill, the pros of providing a range of musical entertainments are balanced by the cons of shorter sets and squeezed changeover times.

But all is going smoothly as Brutai hits the stage – a band that Prog is very keen to check out. Although they’ve been together for a few years now, Brutai haven’t got around to releasing a full album until now – and it’s this debut, Born, that they’re here to launch.

The epic, classically inclined intro music and cymbal swells from drummer Mathieu Bauer (already bare-chested – does he know something we don’t?) usher in Relapse, and a wall of thick guitars, rumbling double bass pedals, punishing half-time riffing and bewildering musical complexity hits us.

It’s hard to keep up as frontman/guitarist Felix Lawrie switches between growling vocals and a cleaner delivery, with terrific harmonies in conjunction with keyboardist Alex Lorimer, while Bauer drives everything remorselessly from behind the kit – and given the intensity of his playing, that T-shirt removal was probably a good idea!

This band are definitely in the progressive metal vein, with the emphasis on the former as they explore wide musical terrains. Launching into Never Change with its sweeping vocals and unexpected space, and Onyx, which injects a bit of funk into proceedings and has bassist Christian Sturgess centre-stage, it’s easy to see why certain Scandinavian bands are touted as a possible influence. However, as Lawrie wraps up his effusive thanks to the fans, the band’s management and record company, and they break out the more groove-oriented and vocally catchy Deep, you might well be more tempted to use a band like Frost* as a point of reference.

The rather muddy sound that takes about half the set to straighten out is unfortunate, especially with so many musical elements in play. And it’s a shame that so much of what Lorimer is playing on keyboards gets almost completely lost, apart from intros and quiet breakdown sections, but one suspects the band have little control over either aspect.

Finishing off with the take-no-prisoners combo of Sleepers and Flood, it’s hard to resist the band’s utter commitment and unfailing, consistent energy – these are talented guys who deserve more than a cursory investigation. Great gig – a quality tour de force.

Gary Mackenzie

Gary has contributed reviews and news features for Prog Magazine for over a decade now. A fan of prog and heavy rock since childhood, his main areas of interest are classic and symphonic prog, prog-metal and modern acts bringing in fresh influences to the genre. He has a professional background in youth and community work, he teaches drum kit in schools and is a working musician. Gary was the drummer in semi-legendary NWOBHM band Praying Mantis for a couple of years and has been a member of indie-prog-pop-art-rock combo The Mighty Handful for more than twenty years. He loves cats and skiing, and has a Blue Peter badge.