|A Gaze Among Them
|Southern Lord Recordings
I would like to open this review with a brief disclaimer about my relationship with Big | Brave: I have been following the activities of the Montréal-based band for quite some time with pleasure, particularly for what they did in Au De La and Ardor (while they kept on growing, also by opening for such legends as Sunn O)))); thanks to some sort of planetary alignment, I decided to go see them live in Montréal as part of our honeymoon, after nine thousand hours of flights and movements around the city (I didn’t cover the event personally, but you can find a report here). Let’s just say it was not a nice experience, physically speaking, to be plowed by a piercing wall of sound in the basement of a church after such a tour de force. However, a part of me kept a really intense memory of that moment, which immediately woke up when I first read about the release of A Gaze Among Them.
Once again on Southern Lord, the duo consisting of Robin Wattie (vocals, guitars, amps) and Mathieu Ball (guitars, amps) welcomed the new drumer Loel Campbell, on top of the collaboration with Thierry Amar from Godspeed You! Black Emperor on contrabass, and Seth Manchester dealing with synths, mixing and production. A Gaze Among Them comes with a spectacular cover artwork (created by Wattie herself): a colorful explosion after a couple of albums that were, visually speaking, enveloped in the uttermost darkness; here we can see matter mixing up and acquiring new tones, spaces that redefine themselves and transform outside of rigid and easy shapes. Big | Brave have always been kind of a difficult project to define in musical terms, incorporating elements of drone, post-rock, post-metal, ambient, and doom metal, all contributing to the creation of a sound that, I believe, has here reached its peak.
“Muted Shifting Of Space” comes forth in distorted fashion, at the same time heavy and uncertain, putting into music that aforementioned concept of the redefinition of ancient spaces, not ours, as humanity modifies the world. Powers that define the other and the concept of otherness itself. The somewhat ritual vocals sung by Robin Wattie accompany the drums and riffing up to the final charge «You don’t get to do this!»; the narrator, the gaze among them, is here to fight. The following song “Holding Pattern” draws inspiration from the flight maneuver that is used to maintain position over a place, waiting for landing or attacking. The musical atmosphere becomes heavier and the rhythm faster, the narrator here attacks those who market themselves as allies of a cause, while only trying to keep the cause itself in a perpetual suspension, hoping to attract attention on themselves and playing with the bodies and blood of those who are actually pushing the fight, leading to a suspension of the all their demands.
I won’t go on with a track-by-track analysis of the whole record, but let me just mention the video of the final track “Sibling” in order to highlight the attention employed by Big | Brave in every aspect of their creature. Despite the colors of the cover artwork, A Gaze Among Them actually seems to be the thickest and heaviest album in the career of the Canadian band, which has by now fully become one of the most intriguing acts in these areas.
Upon further reflection and by using some perspective, this album is potentially a very relevant piece in the recent history of music related to doom metal. A constantly changing universe with ever more evanescent borders, which has been giving us some real gems. I’ll be honest with you, the reason why Russian Circles’ Blood Year might not be my personal album of the year is to be found in A Gaze Among Them. I really hope that the next time I see a live show by Big | Brave might be a bit luckier than the previous one and, mainly, that it may come soon.