BIG | BRAVE unleash into gender, race, protest issues with blunt minimalism on captivating ‘Vital’

We’re living in a strange time, and that doesn’t necessarily just mean the pandemic that has overtaken our lives. There seem to be more important conversations happening within our society whether that’s over class structure, people’s sexuality and identities, what justice really means and who it impacts, and other matters such as these. As a white cis male, I can’t really say what kind of progress we’ve made, because my life is not personally impacted, though many of my friends’ plights are.

I mention this because we have “Vital,” the amazing new record from minimalist doom power trio BIG | BRAVE to discuss, and like the records the band made that preceded this one, there is a lot to unravel, and this piece won’t be able to untangle all of it. On this album, the band tackles issues including gender and race, how other people’s behaviors impact us and the rest of society, and the matter of protest that we’ve seen occur so much the past 12 months especially. The band—guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball, drummer Tasy Hudson—continue their pattern of plodding, stabbing, urgent doom that gets into your system and rewires you. I love this band and have for many years, and every time out, they come up with something that maintains their overall DNA but pushes things into new areas and sections of shadows.  

“ABATING THE INCARNATION OF MATTER” punches in with moody melody and Wattie’s yelped cries as she jabs, “A weighted thought swallowed whole, blindly a harrowing inhale, ceding to this disease.” The place slithers and keeps landing punches as a fog rises and spreads, and the momentum halts for a moment before the door is kicked in again. The vocals rip back in as Wattie hits with shrieks, the drums are bashed, and the vibe disappears into the night. “HALF BREED” is built on a section from an Alexander Chee essay from the book How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, as Wattie calls out, “Pattern for the history of half-breeds hidden in every culture; historically we are allowed neither the privileges of the ruling class nor the community of those who are ruled,” though that’s stretched out over time. The pacing is start-stop clubbing as Wattie’s singing pushes higher, sounds burn, and noises bubble amid hammer strikes. The band keeps lacing with energy, pushing into your bloodstream as things quiet, and Wattie calls, “The pattern of…” recalling the start of the words she eloquently and emotionally called back earlier.

“WITED. STILL AND ALL…” is a shorter track that has Wattie’s voice hovering and sounds whirring as clouds gather. The music slowly spreads, leaving ghostly tracks behind, eventually slipping into the atmosphere. “OF THIS ILK” smashes in, with the vocals digging under your nails and the playing slowly battering, eating away at your psyche. The track maintains a similar vibe to what preceded it as the playing weighs on you but also stimulates, the forces collide and cause great clashing, and a wave of silence washes over fast before the playing agitates all over, the low end rumbles, and the track fades out into silence. “VITAL” is the closer and opens in noise hum while the seismic shift moves, and Wattie’s vocals emerges through the mist. The pace hulks as hammer shots echo, sounds ease and then crush, and the senses are utterly blasted. The guitars continue to push, the drumming just smashes, and blood surges, eventually giving way to the void.

The lyrical content that’s behind the music on “Vital” is so crucially important right now, and really it should always have been. BIG | BRAVE confidently and emotionally navigate these waters on these five tracks, and reading the words, minimalist as they may be, should leave a gaping hole in your heart and mind. This is one powerhouse of a band not just musically but with the messages they impart to every person who makes the wise choice to listen to their music.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bigbravemusic

To buy the album (vinyl is available in July), go here: https://southernlord.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://southernlord.com/