What is there to really say about The Brave? They came out at a time when it felt like a new metalcore band from Australia was emerging every other week, and because of that, they almost immediately got lost in the shuffle of bands fixated on the exact same end goal as they were. Granted, it’s not like Epoch was an awful album by any stretch, but with a lack of distinct personality or flair that couldn’t be gotten from dozens of sources elsewhere, it’s not one that’s withstood outside of a narrow section of the scene whatsoever. And so, Aura looks to be subsequently positioned as the follow-up that’ll really take them to the stars, and yet that’s just as difficult to believe when it’s being propped up by the usually ambitious pulls that so many others in their position have blurted out. It’s designed to spark emotions and deal with difficult questions and topics within life, and that’s all well and good but very few bands who’ve made those sorts of claims have delivered on them, and with The Brave’s – to be charitable – shaky track record when it comes to making an impact with their music, it’s hard to see how it’ll change for them.
And while in most other cases it would be cause for a thorough rinsing at yet another metalcore band simply going with the flow without developing any sort of identity of their own, it just doesn’t feel worth it with The Brave. Not only would it be like kicking a band when they’re already down, but it’s not like Aura is particularly awful for what it is; it’s just that what it is, is horribly limited as to what it can actually achieve. The super-melodic, user-friendly metalcore mould fits this album like a glove, and The Brave aren’t looking to disturb what they’ve already got. Therefore, the result is an album that simply feels like it exists, not bucking against the status quo one single iota, and thus leaving next to no impact even after multiple listens, by sheer virtue of having next to no ideas of its own.
It’s easily the most common thread here, as track after track passes by adhering to the rulebook letter by letter, blending the typical steely guitar chugs with wispy synths and industrial-strength polish for a sound that’s ethereal enough to make a wider impact, but with enough of a heavier thread to hold its own in the current scene. In other words, it’s the definition of UNFD-core that’s been forged and redone countless times over the past few years, and The Brave’s version of it feels like perhaps the most blank yet. Maybe the main selling point is Nathan Toussaint’s reliance on primarily clean singing – and to be fair, it’s probably the standout feature in the way it can blow up the likes of Out Of Reach or Burn way past their usual proportions – but that’s still a marginal plus point in what is effectively the melodic metalcore blueprint that The Word Alive already aced on Dark Matter three years ago. It’s not even like The Brave’s take is the absolute worst, but it’s just so uninteresting and formulaic that it’s hard to see where the deeper appeal is even rooted. It’s an incredibly cut-and-dry formula from song to song, and moments where experimentation is present end up so seldom and so hit-or-miss that they’re hardly worth considering; for every good idea like the synthesised scratches that give Technicolor a bit more flavour, there’s the saggy, saccharine ballad of the title track that couldn’t feel more like an afterthought if it tried. Couple that with writing that falls deeply into the category of nebulous metalcore populism with little real bite or personality, and Aura’s existence as a box-ticking exercise as opposed to an actual creative endeavour feels more and more certain.
And again, there’s no joy in saying that; given the relative non-start of their last album, it was easy to hope that The Brave could at least learn from their mistakes and take another crack at something great. Except they haven’t, and doubling down on the same features that failed to connect the first time isn’t going to magically solve that same problem. It’s not as if this is the worst metalcore album ever either, and a handful of decent melodic moments do nudge it away from an abject fail, but Aura’s purpose of existing and filling in space is nothing to praise. It might be worth a try for the most ardent of completionists, but if this album didn’t exist at all, things would be no better or worse off.
For fans of: In Hearts Wake, Northlane, The Plot In You
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Aura’ by The Brave is released on 5th April on UNFD.