Like calling an artist a genius, claiming a band is in a genre all its own is difficult to prove. Usually it’s an overstatement. Montreal’s BIG|BRAVE comes close, however, with its latest album A Gaze Among Them, out now on Southern Lord.
With simple arrangements of guitar, voice and drums, BIG|BRAVE blends elements of metal, drone, doom and post-rock with Robin Wattie’s vocals, which are sometimes warrior strong and at other times like a wounded animal at midnight.
It’s a totemic mix, one with near-religious resonance — a heavy, electrified equivalent to the ritualistic music of Tibetan Buddhism.
The album is only five tracks long, each one clocking in at around 10 minutes, the shortest just under three. It’s slow burning music, a horror-movie creep toward a corner we never quite see the other side of, except on tracks like “Holding Pattern.” There the fuse lit by Wattie and Ball’s noisy and textural guitar work, as well as Loel Campbell’s tribal drumming, erupts in a riot of sparks.
“There’s no actual riff,” Ball says about that part of the song. “We’re just playing what the drums are playing. We were percussionists at that point. The overtones that come out, we let them direct us.”
Not long after picking up the guitar, Ball became less interested in technique and more interested in making sounds like these, a fascination he carried forward into BIG|BRAVE.
“When I was younger I liked a lot of old math rock,” he says, but also Drive Like Jehu and the arty hardcore of Fugazi. The idea behind BIG|BRAVE was to take what those bands were doing and slow it down, with an intense, minimalist focus on each sound for maximalist effect.
Wattie and Ball have been with the band since it formed in 2012.
“We were pretty quiet. We were just jamming,” Ball says. “Very different.”
Wattie and Ball wanted to be a loud band without losing the dynamics and fragility of playing quietly and with intention, while also blending elements of drone and non-western music.
“I love all that kind of music — very simplistic, and ritualistic also. Which is something we strive for, especially with the live performance. Non-western music is a big influence on the band,” Ball says.
Playing live, BIG|BRAVE tries to create a fully realized unique environment, more like a play or a film than a rock show.
“It’s one cohesive piece, and you don’t come out of it the way you do with a rock show. With the slow pace, it’s a lot easier to create moods and this kind of ambiance,” Ball says.
BIG|BRAVE plays Eugene with Deafkids, an experimental metal band from São Paulo, Brazil. They’re touring behind their own new release, Metaprogramação, referencing the industrial pulse of bands like Ministry, a howling mix of electronic sound, indigenous rhythm and dystopian menace.
Joining BIG|BRAVE and Deafkids is Eugene’s Synaptic 9 pm Monday, Aug. 26, at Old Nick’s; $8 advance, $10 door, 21-plus.