Since their second album, 2013’s Stay Honest, Brutal Youth have spent 3 whole years honing their punk craft through a cycle of constant touring and the storming Bottoming Out EP. All of this hard work has sure as hell paid off. Biding their time between full length releases was a fine idea because the wait has been well worth it. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you one of the albums of the year.
This may sound like a bold claim but this is an album filled with melodic hardcore hooks, pop punk sing-a-longs and a surprisingly large amount of emotional heft. “I. Denial” starts proceedings off deceptively slowly with swirls of atmospherics and a spoken word sample. It’s like the band are taxiing for take off and boy do they take off. A muscular hardcore riff and frenzied drumming burst out of the mix that are so powerful they could bring down abandoned buildings. This combined with some catchy ‘woah oohs’ and a shout along chorus of ‘You’ve got to hold on to what you’ve got’ get things off to a storming start. It’s all uphill from here. “The King” is pure punk rock alchemy. An ascending and descending muted riff gives way to a powerful, life affirming chorus. This song and “Thick as Thieves” are the kind that make you glad to be alive. Moments like these are the reason we listen to punk in 2016.
Previous criticisms of the band have noted that previous albums have been a little overstuffed with similar sounding hardcore tracks and an over reliance on ‘woah oohs’ to keep things moving. That is certainly not the case with Sanguine. Even the straight hardcore songs contain subtle differences, whether it be a prominent bass riff, such as on “Bargaining” or a slowed down bridge. “Spencer Street” even begins with a shredding classic metal solo. The ‘woah oohs’ are used sparingly across the course of the album which means that when are they are employed, such as on “Rogue Thoughts”, the songs stand out rather than get swallowed up. The variety on show makes the moments of pure hardcore all the more satisfying. “II.Anger” has a stalking hardcore riff that could melt paint. There are obvious similarities with hardcore heroes Kid Dynamite, 7seconds and even Gorilla Biscuits but Brutal Youth are certainly their own band.
By condensing the album to 14 songs Brutal Youth have made a tight and impactful record. It’s a notable progression from Stay Honest but loses none of the power and fury of that album. They have settled on their own sound with beauty, chaos, noise and emotional weight knitted skillfully together. Whatever they hoped to achieve with Sanguine they have and then some.This is clearly an emotional record for vocalist Patty. The whole album is framed around the 5 stages of grief which gives the album real substance. Nevertheless, it certainly doesn’t come across as a concept record. Lyrics such as those on penultimate track “Todd Serious” are imbued with a sense of pain and loss. However, it is clear that this album is a cathartic experience for him. Aptly titled closer “V.Acceptance” suggests he is ready to move on with the line: ‘I love you and I miss you/Thanks for the memories’. Don’t let the often emotional lyrics put you off though. This is an album to set the pit ablaze.