Wasting no time since the release of their breakout EP, Bottoming Out, Newfoundland hardcore act Brutal Youth signed on with Montreal punk label Stomp Records for their next instalment. Entitled Sanguine, the LP capitalizes on the four-piece’s penchant for balancing rough cut hardcore punk with a melodic intent. The tracks range from short bursts of rage-fueled aggression, to anthemic barking calls for social mobilization.
The album opens with a rough barking roar, sure to intimidate those with soft bellies and a weak constitution. Brutal Youth set the tone as one of offence – assailment over defence, initiative over reaction. These boys don’t subscribe to social pleasantries. Case and point: the breakneck pace and forceful vocal onslaught of “Denial,” which plateaus in an aggressive anthemic call to open your eyes and look past the lies we feed ourselves. With the tone firmly set, “Chlorine” follows with abrasive riffs raging against a bout of rattling, brash drums. Others like “Anger,” “Hostile Work Environment,” and “Bargaining” plough onwards like a sole survivor clinging to life in an apocalyptic city. Simply put, it’s a classic case of Black Flag, Outbreak – and any number of 80’s inspired hardcore punk acts – done right.
But Sanguine is more than just firsts and fury. In particular, the Brutal Youth hints at their melodic underlay in the conventional chorus-verse format of bass-heavy tracks like “The King” and “Whiteway.” Used sparingly, the band proves masters of pacing. Tracks like “Rogue Thoughts” and “Whiteways” bridge melody and chaos with a tactful insertion of “woah-oah” laden choruses and bass-thumping intros. Such fleeting pop-punk elements strategically serve as a crack of light faintly illuminating a dark room – bringing the bigger picture into clearer focus.
On a thematic note, the band organized the album around these of loss. The tracks “Denial,” “Anger,” “Bargaining,” “Depression,” and “Acceptance” take their names from the sequence composing the grieving process. Death and loss seem to be lurking around every corner, but the promise of emerging from personal despair seems to frame Sanguine’s overall album arc. For a genre that often gets branded as “simplistic” by outsiders, Brutal Youth set the bar high in achieving overarching themes through consistently purposeful execution.
Overall, Brutal Youth continue to move in new and exciting directions, while maintaining the raw, aggressive attitude that originally saw them stand out from the pack. If Bottoming Out marked their best work at the time, then Sanguine climbs yet another step of the ladder with no ceiling in sight. Brutal Youth have come along way since their simplistic beginnings. Here’s to hoping that their ascent continues with all the passion and ambition behind Sanguine.