Big|Brave – A Chaos of Flowers

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big|brave a chaos of flowers review

The question of what kind of band Big|Brave is has always seemed secondary to the kind of impact they leave. Unquestionably one of the heaviest acts of the past decade, they’ve never entirely subscribed to the conventional tropes of metal itself, employing feedback and drone and a form of sensorially overwhelming minimalism rather than riffs—though that didn’t stop me from more than once naming their records among my favorite metal albums of the year. With last year’s stunning nature morte, something of a shift occurred within the internal workings of Big|Brave’s music, as the Montreal trio began to more consciously incorporate elements of folk music, blues, and even an occasional riff that scans as metal in the most recognizable sense. It felt more like a new beginning than a culmination, a seed from which an even more bountiful harvest might emerge.

A Chaos of Flowers, arriving only one year later, confirms that very suggestion through a set of songs that casts their net even wider, capturing the most diverse sounds heard on any Big|Brave album to date and in even more concise installments. Compared to the monolithic drones of past albums like 2017’s Ardor, the mostly three-to-five-minute noise rock dirges on A Chaos of Flowers flash by with a sense of urgency that might seem paradoxical in the context of any other group that plays at such glacial tempos. But Big|Brave have never packed so many ideas into one album, offering a prismatic spectrum of their music rather than a pure ideal.

Given the proximity to its predecessor, A Chaos of Flowers feels like a companion album to nature morte. Even its cover art, depicting flowers splashing in a field of white paint, is a direct counterpart to nature morte‘s bouquet against a backdrop of black. Where texturally they draw from a similar palette—a curious intersection between folk and noise—the songs on A Chaos of Flowers progress farther afield of the group’s more direct permutations of sludgy minimalism. Of these eight songs, only “quotidian: solemnity” seems to draw a direct parallel to prior expressions of titanic feedback like those on 2021’s Vital. But even this one changes chords a few times.

While A Chaos of Flowers isn’t uniformly more hushed or gentle than its predecessor, Big|Brave seem even more comfortable leading with grace. With Robin Wattie’s lyrics based around an Emily Dickinson poem, leadoff track “I felt a funeral” is more negative space than overwhelming thrum, with occasional eruptions of barbed guitar licks from Matthieu Ball. The group combine restraint with hints of their ability to harness overwhelming power on “canon: in canon,” with Marisa Anderson’s gorgeous guitar accompaniment blessing it with a layer of haunting beauty. And the slow, gothic creep of “theft” flutters into rarefied space via the addition of saxophone from Patrick Shiroishi.

When A Chaos of Flowers rages at full capacity, Big|Brave rock in ways that truly only they can—and likewise in ways they never have before. Ball and Wattie trade their signature one-chord devastation for crushing, bluesy riffs on “not speaking of the ways,” which has the effect of being the most straightforward Big|Brave has ever sounded. Yet Tasy Hudson’s choice of employing a brushed technique, providing a pummel with a light touch, only adds to the curious tangle of contradictions that drives this fascinating album overall. Big|Brave have sounded louder, heavier even, but their world has never seemed so vast.

Label: Thrill Jockey

Year: 2024

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big|brave a chaos of flowers review

Big|Brave : A Chaos of Flowers

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