Occasionally I’ll stumble across something interesting musically accidently, much like Jerry Lewis performing some pratfall back in 1955. I’ll go left when I was supposed to go right and BAM! I go face first into some new sound(new to me.) Canada’s Big ‡ Brave is one such new sound(new to me.) I haven’t stepped into the wayback machine to see what came before their brand new Southern Lord release called Ardor, but if this record is indicative of what I’ll find, then I’m all in.
Big ‡ Brave’s sound could be described as experimental. There’s hints of extreme heaviness mixed with softer touches. There are interesting starts and stops in their songs, and those songs expand over the 10 minute mark(at least on their latest.) But throwing the experimental tag to the side, this 3-piece likes to make sludgy, slow-churning metal. Lead singer and guitarist Robin Wattie gives this band its secret weapon; her voice. She elevates over the two-guitar and drum attack(no bass, just pummeling guitar) like a cross between Dolores O’Riordan, Bjork, and a banshee. Musically the band churns like Earth, Om, Boris, and Sleep; yet add idiosyncrasies in their songs like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and post-rock outfits like Mogwai and This Will Destroy You would. For a three-piece band Big ‡ Brave make one hell of a noise.
Ardor is majestic in its noise making(the band being on Southern Lord almost guarantees you’re in for some ear-shattering sounds.) It’s only three tracks, but those three tracks make their mark. “Sound” opens with fluttering guitar squall and then an explosion of drums. It feels like a call-to-arms. Imagine Chavez covering Sun O))) and you might have an idea of what’s going on here. Wattie’s vocals quiver and quake above the war-torn musical landscape. There’s a tension that builds amidst the start and stop interplay of the guitars and drums. At over 11 minutes the song qualifies as epic(and that’s the shortest track here.) “Lull” feels like some dark, Gothic lullaby, wrapping its tendrils around you like an ethereal fog making its way across a darkening landscape. “Lull” is slowcore sludge that pulls you in. Vocally this track sounds like Black Mountain, with Robin Wattie’s cries reminiscent of Amber Webber. “Borer” closes the album not with a bang, but more of a slow motion drop from a jagged cliff in Mordor. It makes its way through over 14 minutes of slowcore starts and stops like some death machine plowing through a fiery, desolate post-apocalyptic landscape.
Ardor feels like a dark, impressionistic painting, much like its album cover. These aren’t songs more than they’re visceral musical movements taking us on a mythical journey via ominous guitar squall, slow-motion tribal drums, and vocals that pierce through the sludge.
Whenever an album comes out via Southern Lord there’s a certain expectation of heaviness. Big ‡ Brave’s Ardor lives up to that expectation and surpasses it by taking that heaviness and doom and transcending it to a whole new level of art.
7.9 out of 10