Brooklyn wrecking crew Belus offer glimpse into their warped metallic world with ‘Apophenia’

During the Stanley Cup Finals this past spring, I had to wear the exact same shirt every day when the Penguins played, otherwise they’d lose. Olli Määttä No. 3 player T-shirt. I wore a different player one night because my regular shirt was not accessible, and sure enough, the Pens got waxed. You can bet the night they won’t the Cup over Nashville, I had that (very) unwashed Määttä shirt on my back.

Fact is, it meant nothing that I was wearing that shirt. It was a pattern of coincidence that I happened to have that shirt on and the team came out on top. I knew that in the back of my head, but I wasn’t about to tempt fate. it’s a phenomenon known as apophenia, and that also happens to be the name of the debut record from Brooklyn-based crushers Belus. “Apophenia” contains seven tracks that will tangle your brain, and taking on this first full recording from Belus took some time to fully absorb. There are so many tricks, twists, and turns here, that keeping up takes getting used to the terrain. The music, if you let it overtake you, might have you seeing strange patterns and visions, another form of apophenia (it’s a multi-faceted phenomenon that also is often linked to the early stages of schizophrenia), but that’s just your brain pushing you. The band—guitarist/vocalist Matt Mewton (Woe), bassist Leslie Wolf (Mortals), and drummer Jacques Johnson—have put out plenty of smaller releases during their seven-year run, but this is the first full vision we’ve gotten from the band, and it’s devastating.

“Chasm” starts the record, and it’s burly and proggy, as Johnson’s drums just go off. Gritty riffs and Mewton’s scarring growls combine, while things get even nastier, and the music begins to flood the room. The back end has more cool riffs and a black sense of creativity before fading away. “Monolith” has warmer guitars before the assault happens, as Wolf and Johnson thicken the bottom that begins pounding you. Black metal-style melodies run, while the guitars give off electricity, and the growls grind at the flesh. The song turns toward heavy demolition before heading off into space. “Avarice” bleeds into the scene, entering into a dark, black metal-style pace, as strange riffs and grisly growls amplify the violence. The track eventually gets trance-inducing and the music goes trippy, while the growls return to bring back menace, and the drums deliver death blows before the song comes to its end.

“Illusions” takes off in the fog, as guitars creep in, and the track stretches into mystical territory. The track eventually bursts, as harsh growls penetrate, the music makes you dizzy enough to clutch the wall, and a heavy dose of strangeness wafts in. The final minute is a head trip, with the melodies playing cruel games and the growls leaving gashes. “Psychosis” tears things apart, as Mewton’s growls chill the flesh, and the music floats dangerously above. Riffs cut through as the song hits demolition mode, bringing everything to a punchy end. “Omens” is a charge of suspense when it starts, as the song is slashed apart, the drums crush rock into rubble, and harsh growls jab at the ribcage. The music is boiling, giving off heat and humidity, while the band hits a trudging path later, bringing the song to a slow-driving, devastating finish. Closer “Equilibrium” is mind-bending and punishing right away, with a prog-fueled base, vocals scraping, and a heavy storm laying waste. Speedy shifts and disorienting stretches push you to the limit, while the music stings, and the guitars buzz. Finally, the melodies cascade, saturating the ground, while the song slowly slips away.

Belus’ first full-length effort is an invigorating, challenging experience, but every time I’ve delved into its flesh and organs, I’ve had a completely different experience. “Apophenia” is a damn effective first impression, another entry into underground metal that expands its reaches into new areas. It took a while to get their debut record in front of us, but now that it’s here, there’s no guessing where they’ll push into the future.

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