The Maopolski brothers – Bryce (guitars/vocals) and Reece (bass/vocals) – formed Brotality in 2016 and soon landed lucrative support slots with Knocked Loose, Deep Purple and Judas Priest while still in adolescence. Readers this side of the pond will view them as the American equivalent of England’s teen prodigies in Tortured Demon, where the Parkinson brothers form the bedrock of that band. They both play an aggressive form of groove metal anchored in the technicalities of thrash, and they both share characteristics with perhaps the most famous prodigies in modern metal – Alien Weaponry. But unlike their Manchester and Auckland contemporaries, Brotality draw inspiration from the Christian faith. If the devil has all the best tunes, he did not reckon with this New York trio.
You’ll think you’ve stumbled onto a Pearl Jam album when you hear the slick hammer-on and pull-off shapes of opening instrumental, ‘Wild’. The techniques are pure heavy metal extravagance, but the crisp distortion of the major chords lend it an alternative rock vibe that many in the Americana genre now incorporate into their music. It’s understandable if you’re scratching your head when ‘Frost Empire’ kicks in with a complete contrast in mood – Reece’s drop-tuned bass groove ignites through his amp like a Godflesh dirge. In the mid range, Bryce’s riffing over the top uses an impressive range of chords but sticks to the scything palm-mutes of the thrash metal genre to pile on the pressure. You’ve not heard anything like the vocal approach. Imagine Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction) trying a husky baritone without dropping a semitone in range. Here is proof you can take the chunkiest metal and mix it with hard rock vocals.
Of course, the band cannot ignore the harsher side of the throat – they’re a metal band. Bryce Maopolski provides the malevolent voice like a young Chuck Schuldiner when called upon, but he prefers to concentrate his efforts on the colossal riff work. ‘Nosedive’ contains more metal hooks than an animal slaughterhouse. Watch the video on YouTube if you want to see their wide-eyed Christian fans lap it up like repressed teens allowed only one hour of secular music per week. The technical groove metal rhythms sparkle with the old-school élan of thrash but never upstage the snarling alt-rock melodies of the chorus. Close your eyes and you could be listening to Helmet in the chorus. The breakdown in the middle eight is pure Machine Head; the razzmatazz of the pentatonic riff at the end is Megadeth in spirit and execution. How do they write music so rich in cohesion yet so diverse in texture?
The quality of song smithery on The Woods Will End You is just as impressive as the band’s love for a Mastodon riff. Yes, the likes of ‘Skull Rot’ and ‘Sludgehammer’ have one eye on their next support slot when a legendary band passes through New York, but the nuances behind the guitar heroism become more apparent with each listen. The former introduces the Aegean tremolo melodies of Greece among the Alien Weaponry grooves and ends in the ferocious rage of a post-metal blast. How they introduce Alice in Chains and Pantera into the pastel hard rock of the latter warrants a separate dissertation.
Some of you will wonder if Christianity has a place in modern metal. Why should it be anathema? Perhaps the concept of this record could do with some more subtleties rather than using the woods as a metaphor for the path into darkness that can lead you into temptation. The band might also be too confident in their abilities on the eleven-minute jam through ‘The Moon Below’, which mixes Tool with King’s X and ends like something from the latest Cave In album. But who cares when the songs are as stupendous as ‘An Evil Presence’? The illuminous arpeggio riff after the second chorus reminds you that the six-string instrument can never fail to produce a tingling pleasure sensation when in the right hands.
Brotality take inspiration from the greats, but their youthful enthusiasm and precocious talent make for a remarkable listening experience on The Woods Will End You. It’s easy to lose your mind when you see three kids blitz through their instruments like veteran performers, but the sense that they live and breathe their music is infectious. One gasps at the thought that their best years are still ahead of them.
Release Date: 03/06/2022
Record Label: Rottweiler Records
Standout tracks: Frost Empire, Nosedive, An Evil Presence
Suggested Further Listening: Tortured Demon – In Desperation’s Grip (2021), Christ the Bait – Idolatrosities EP (2021), Alien Weaponry – Tangaroa (2021)