Brodequin – Harbinger of Woe


Twenty years between albums is a monumental hiatus for a band. Tennessee death metal trio, Brodequin (pronounced “bro-dah-kay”), are the latest to return from an extended absence of two decades, and they act as if they never went away. An LP of only thirty-one minutes with little deviation from their trademark mix of sludgy/brutal death metal will be good news to the fanbase, but how many of them are still around? More importantly, is there anything interesting about this type of jaded extreme metal?

Brodequin make it easy for you to dismiss them as monotonous noise. Opener, ‘Diabolical Edict’, provides us with an ultra-violent death metal draped in fuzzy overdrive and coated in an extra layer of claustrophobic distortion for good measure. The asphyxiation vocals are grotesque, but how sludgy is the production? It makes the clarity of the drums in the mix even more of an engineering triumph. This music is more technical that it appears even if the vocals are offensive in their monotone stubbornness. Track two, ‘Fall of the Leaf’, is not too different. A rare venture into the middle of the fretboard gives us a few seconds of novel enjoyment, but the slashed windpipe voice projections are already irksome at this stage of the record. Imagine a person drowning in their own blood after a botched suicide attempt (like Dylan Klebold, the Columbine High School shooter who failed to blow his head off and died of drowning in a mouthful of gushing blood).

You can assume that every song on this album will be in the same key as early as track three, ‘Theresiana’. This is old school death metal with a noxious plume of smoke behind it and an admirable use of monkish chanting in the fills. The colossal down-picking and half-timing rhythms keep it alive when you’re ready to ruminate on your weekend grocery shopping. Unfortunately, the timbres in ‘Of Pillars and Trees’ are black and grey and as dull as a beach stroll in the east coast of Scotland in February. Death metal used to be menacing, but now it prefers to dwell upon harmless fantasies. That’s because its protagonists have no ambition to inflict anything on the outside world. ‘Tenaillement’ is indistinguishable from every other song on this album until the pinch-harmonic grooves establish a foothold in the maelstrom of inoffensive noise.

If you want barbarism in music, listen to a Conan album. It’s true that you can imagine the earth shaking under the weight of the audio siege in ‘Vii Nails’, but the music lacks direction. Is it right to be offended by an artist’s lack of ambition? At best, this record might win praise for offering a competent imitation of Mortician’s mid-1990s output.

High moments of enjoyment are rare on Harbinger of Woe. The superb plectrum action from the guitarist in ‘Suffocation in Ash’ is an exception, but does most of the action here make you want to murder somebody or go to sleep? Perhaps the one saving grace of ‘Maleficium’ is its sludgy guitar tone – otherwise it would be an unlistenable piece of brutal death metal. Most songs degenerate into the sound of a train carriage door opening during a full-speed rush.

This album would be perfect as part of a Guantanamo Bay torture experiment involving extreme sleep deprivation. Listening to it on repeat is worse than dying of self-starvation. Harbinger of Woe is an underwhelming return for a band that last released an LP in 2004.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/03/2024

Record Label: Season of Mist

Standout tracks: Theresiana, Tenaillement, Suffocation in Ash

Suggested Further Listening: 200 Stab Wounds – Slave to the Scalpel (2021), Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise from the Grave (2022), Sanguisugabogg – Homicidal Ecstasy (2023)