With a name like Throwing Bricks, you know this Dutch post-metal/hardcore quintet will prefer to rip out their spleen than make subtle gestures. Their 2020 debut album, What Will Be Lost, piqued the attention of Kerrang! and Metal Hammer and captured the mental health torment of a claustrophobic existence made even worse by the global pandemic. How they follow up this monstrous record is a question on the lips of those that discovered the group two years ago. If you’re new to this band, you should be just as intrigued – this is the sound of trauma boiling over into self-annihilation.
Apparently, The Burden offers a glimmer of hope where its predecessor deigned to offer only despair, but you wouldn’t know this on listening to the visceral agony of ‘Bricks of Grace’. The heavy staccato lock-in of all instruments in the intro will make your chin tremble. Vocalist, Niels Koster, doesn’t bother to double-track his voice or conserve his larynx in his one-take scream approach. You don’t get a second chance when you’re on your knees with a gun to your head pleading for your life, so why should it be any different in the studio? The aggression is hardcore in spirit and execution, but the riffs are metallic in their delivery. How they keep up the basic ingredients of the percussive intro for the first four minutes is a testament to the sophisticated minimalism and intricacy of each instrument. A literal interpretation of the lyrics is irrelevant. Music like this is all about emotion, in this case, the emotion of grief. And grief is a process that can provide a roadmap to recovery.
‘False Promises’ and ‘Clearly Awake’ throb with the pain of betrayal and the wounds of forlorn hope. The latter carries a heavy post-metal candle with subtleties of atmospheric black metal to fill the gaps. You’ll hear traces of Rolo Tomassi’s latest record in the white-hot rage of the song’s heavier moments, while the latter composition reminds you what screamo sounded like in the mid-90s when it was a loose concoction of emotional hardcore and noise rock guitars. You can imagine Niels Koster grabbing the head of a spectator and screaming into his skull in a moment of transcendental catharsis. Listen to the abstract melodies underneath the onslaught of noisy guitars. Jesse Stey and Marius Prins make it their mission to find a luscious resonance to match the power of their crunchiest amp distortion on ‘Doubt’. They find common ground in a neo-black metal outro, but not before landing on a sequence of chords that twitch in tragic pain like the partners of a suicide pact waiting to see who will go first.
Nine songs of hysterical outpouring and muscular guitars would not grow monotonous with this level of intensity and emotion, but Throwing Bricks enter that stage of psychopathy that shows erratic impulse control and a tendency to take risks. And it works wonders. ‘Hall of Mirrors’ starts like Harakiri for the Sky with a blaze of hardcore-black metal fusion before retreating into a surprise spoken word introspection from the lips of guest performer, Shira van der Wouden. Now you can feel the torturous aspects of grief. Her transition from a sultry American-tinged soliloquy to a psychotic scream of “the tragedy became so fucking real!” will make your fingers squirm into fist shapes. She leads the way on the successor song, ‘Safta’, but not once does the fall in tempo squander the momentum of the first five tracks. Cult of Luna are the masters of this approach, but Throwing Bricks could one day join them as peers on the evidence of this ambitious change of direction in the middle of an album.
Like all good records, The Burden raises many questions during the listening experience. Is the title track onto something new with its atmospheric sludge metal leanings? Niels Koster sounds like he could be seconds away from a nosebleed brought on by his vessel-bursting performance on the microphone. How clever that they start the penultimate song like Neurosis and end it like Darkthrone. If there is a reprieve on this LP, it’s the superficial hope that the future will be less painful rather than more peaceful for the body and the mind. In that regard, this album will remind you of the debut record from Absent in Body. The mind of its creators is too damaged to dream of a felicitous life ahead. Their words are less important than the emotions behind them.
The Dutch quintet are more likely to throw bricks at their mirror reflections than at the glass houses of their enemies, and we’re all the better for it as spectators to their drama. It’s not pretty peering into the dead eyes of its creators, but The Burden reminds us that pain is often the only thing that connects the lonely self to the superficial happiness of the world beyond our glass window.
Release Date: 28/10/2022
Record Label: Tartarus Records
Standout tracks: Bricks of Grace, Doubt, Safta
Suggested Further Listening: Everest Queen – Murmurations (2022), Harakiri for the Sky – Mӕre (2021), Absent in Body – Plague God (2022)