Montreal’s Big|Brave push their vast, hypnotic sound to emotionally potent and soul-crushing extremes on their third full-length record, Ardor.
Following 2015’s critically-heralded Au De La, Ardor recaptures and refines the tone of its predecessor and fully embraces the band’s knack for crafting sprawling soundscapes full of cathartic tension and release. Somewhere between Swans‘ mind-numbing repetition and Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s post-apocalyptic sonic narratives lies Ardor‘s sound, thriving within walls of reverberating feedback and towering groove.
Big|Brave expertly ride the line between simplicity and expansiveness by utilizing deceptively simple guitars that conjure fairly straightforward grooves and riffs, but also slyly add subtle layers of instrumentation and ambiance to create a swirling vortex of sound that is ingeniously complex and explorative. With the right amount of restraint, the band build upon Ardor‘s three lengthy compositions until they eventually explode with fiery, sonic passion. With the addition of expressive and commanding vocals, Ardor is all at once beautiful and devastating.
With “Sound”, the band immediately barrage the listener with marching, mammoth-sized guitar riffs that are soaked from head-to-toe in murky distortion. Propelled by steady, seismic percussion, the opening track repetitively pummels the listener with behemoth riff after behemoth riff, slightly changing shape ever so often to prevent stagnation. The track is a relentless onslaught of enthralling, crushing groove that briefly decays into a section of guitar-generated drone during the middle, only to return monolithic gloom once again. To top everything off, vocalist Robin Wattie’s extensive array of ethereal croons and feral wails aids in giving the song, and the album, the unique edge it didn’t know it needed.
While “Sound” wasted no time delivering guitar-driven seismic upheaval, “Lull” takes its time building its thunderous climax, and the payoff is huge. Stripped-down, distorted riffs buzz and waver in front of a hollow, ambient backdrop while Wattie’s beautiful, yet temperamental vocals soothe, crack and cry out among the slow-burning sprawl. The guitars gradually become more and more abrasive as gorgeously somber violin (courtesy of Thee Silver Mt. Zion‘s Jessica Moss) flutters above the impending cataclysm. As Wattie’s vocals become more and more bestial, the instrumentation finally releases all the ire it has worked up along the way in a destructive final march of city-leveling riffs.
The final and longest cut on the record, “Borer”, utilizes both “Sound”‘s unbridled aggression and “Lull”‘s use of restraint to create the heaviest, most jarring moments on the release. The guitars come bearing down upon the listeners like a mighty avalanche, burying them beneath their sonic weight. The instrumentation flutters back and forth between sprawling doom and gloom and arresting stop-and-start rhythms that keep the listener on edge, and thoroughly crushed. As the song progresses, the instrumentation slowly dials back the metallic cacophony and eventually becomes a quiet hum. At this point, Wattie repeatedly delivers a memorable and potent refrain before the heaviness steadily creeps back in, but not with the same amount of sonic force, and gently fades into nothingness.
Ardor is a huge and triumphant album with a unique sound that effortlessly tows the line between lovely melancholia and insurmountable heaviness. It’s an emotionally intense opus that will envelop listeners more and more with repeated listens. With Ardor, this Canadian trio continue to transcend genres and carve their own niche within the scene.
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Label: Southern Lord
Favorite Track: “Borer”
For Fans Of: Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Codeine