37. Brutus – Nest (Sargent House, 2019)
All three members of Brutus had been playing in the Belgian music scene for over a decade before forming this band, but Brutus has quickly become the best and most ambitious project any of them have been in. Drummer/vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts has said in interviews that they went into Brutus with the intent of starting a more complex band (she and guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden had previously played stripped-down garage punk in Starfucker), and after making their ambitions clear on their 2017 debut album Burst, they fully perfected their sound on their 2019 sophomore album Nest. It’s got musical ingredients from all over the place — whiplash-inducing punk, expansive post-hardcore, atmospheric post-metal, glossy pop, and more — and Brutus bring it all together with addictive songwriting and breathtaking musicianship. Every member of this band is a total pro. Stefanie’s bone-rattling drumming is matched by her soaring voice, Stijn shreds without overtaking the song, and he and bassist Peter Mulders create widescreen soundscapes with just their two instruments. On a technical level, the album is as impressive as great technical death metal, but the choruses make Brutus as accessible as anything on rock radio. They toured in 2018 with Thrice, and Nest scratches a similar itch for me that Thrice scratched around the time of 2003’s The Artist In The Ambulance. That album allowed them to fit in with the emo-pop boom of the time, but their adventurous songwriting and technical proficiency allowed them to far outlast the bulk of their peers. And that type of melodic yet heavy post-hardcore lives on through Nest.