Batillus - Concrete Sustain (2013)


Despite the popular belief of many people living in, or out, of New York State, Brooklyn is not only the home of hipsters or indie rock bands. Something much darker resides there, a culture of people with a penchant for heavy guitars and downright devilish vocals. One of the rising stars of the shadowy underworld is Batillus, a four piece band whose output might send many a hipster running for the border. Their clear focus on devastating riffs and larger than life soundscapes are also exactly what the Burroughs needed. On their latest album, the six track offering known as "Concrete Sustain," Batillus give you a piece of music that might create some darker imagery in your head. With deathly screams and heavy handed instrumentals, this is what the other side of Brooklyn looks like.

With a sound that hits you like the title implies, "Concrete" is a very rigid first track. While the music itself seems to be as stripped down and basic as you can get, there is a gritty edge to how it is delivered. Perhaps it is in the rattling distortion, or the raw yells of the vocals; but more than any of those is the industrial undertones that flood the track, enhancing the typical doom M.O. And while the run time may drag in the latter stages, it is a track that builds and ends organically. In that same vein, "Cast" packs a punch that would be nearly impossible to dodge. As each guitar strings shakes and vibrates through your speakers, you find yourself caught in the midst of some bizarre, devilish groove. The strained screams that rise and fall over the top of it all won't wow you with their range. But what they lack in versatility, they make up for in sheer strength of will, complementing the chunks of riffs that you're wading through. Topping out at just over eight minutes, "Beset" brings out the more traditional doom tenets, and parades them in sometimes frightening ways. With the tempo turned way down, and the distortion way up, you find yourself swimming in a sludgy, murky pool. That wave pattern only grows in size and scope, with deep growls adding to the bass heavy mix. There are moments, particularly in the outro, where you fear your speakers might not be able to handle the load.

It would be hard not to peg "Mirrors" as the strongest track on the album, as it sees the band at their unrestrained best. Everything has fallen into place, leaving a huge wave of sound pouring down on you. But it isn't an unbalanced piece of chaos. Rather, it is a methodical, almost surgically precise sonic attack on your brain, one that has potential to leave you drooling if the volume is too high. With each buildup, the band sets the table full of fine china, then smashes it all with one massive down beat. The bowel loosening growls that are heard hear would scare the squeamish.The industrial tones you witnessed earlier return on "Rust," complete with a very deep groove that may come as a surprise. It is the layering of instruments that makes this track some bombastic in sound, but it is the single pieces, taken at face value, that makes it so good.Bass and guitar are fused together as one, giving rise to an even more aggressive low end. The last minute would be enough to rattle the foundation of your house. But it is "Thorns" that might leave the most lingering impressive. Far more mellow, and even introducing some pretty ingenious melodies to the mix, this eight minute behemoth shows another side of the band entirely. Spacey and atmospheric, the band accomplish something here that helps to solidify the album as a whole.

It would be easy to stereotype an entire city, state or country based solely on the little things we know about it. But we've learned. Not everyone in Norway paints their face and screams in a black metal band. Not all Germans are obsessed with techno. And no, not everyone in Brooklyn lives in a commune and has a rooftop herb garden. Some do; but not all. Because despite what you may see in your travels on the internet, Brooklyn's music scene is as diverse as the people who live there. Batillus are a representation of one of the many sub cultures that exist, and they remind us that heavy music comes from all over the country, and all over the world. Through their six tracks and nearly forty minutes of raucous, blaring riffs and booming drums, they may have even painted Brooklyn as the new home for industrial doom metal. Take that, you four other Burroughs!

8/10