EP Review: Moscow Death Brigade – Flares Are Burning

I’m always looking for new tunes. I haunt sites, lurk around on Bandcamp, check in with labels to see what’s coming out. And sometimes I’ll just do a Spotify dive; pull up a band I dig, and start going down the Fans Also Like rabbit hole. It’s like digging through a musical thrift store; lots of “Nah… nah… nah… nah…” But also a great way to randomly stumble over a treasure. And that’s how I found Moscow Death Brigade.

From that name, I expected metal. Not quite, though there is a lot of speed and intensity. They call their sound “circle pit hip-hop,” and that’s as fair of a description as any. We get machine-gun rap flows over simple electronic beats, driven by punk rock energy and hooky gang vocals. It’s a fun, powerful mix, and it’s hard to say that there are a ton of bands out there with this exact mix going on. (Though What We Feel is in the same area code). I’ve been spinning MDB a lot since I found them.

And what great timing, as they just released a new four-song EP, Flares Are Burning. Interestingly, it’s an acoustic album, with two new tunes (“Against the World,” and the title track), and two unplugged versions of previous songs, “Ghettoblaster” and “Sound of Sirens.”

I have a soft spot for acoustic versions of typically ferocious songs/bands. (See also: The Vancouver Sessions from Chicago’s Very Own Flatfoot 56). In the case of Flares Are Burning, the new tunes have the same set of joys as the other two, and it’s always cool to hear a band do something fresh with their sound.

The title track gives us a dirge-ish chant for a chorus, backed with the sprinting flow that’s endemic to MDB‘s sound. Though acoustic, which gives the song an almost folky feel to a degree, it’s of a piece with this band’s overall sound; it’s easy to imagine a fully leaded version that opens up the pit.

As to the acoustic takes on previously released songs, the main joy is it’s easier to pull out the lyrics, which are often lost in the speed and aggression. Which is fine; I don’t usually care about whether the lyrics can be heard or not (I listen to a lot of death metal, after all). But… there is the “Oh, that’s what this song is about” element.

MDB released a video for “Sound of Sirens” in support of the EP. It’s a fairly common type of video, mostly a montage of fans and live shows. (Celtic punk seems to really like this kind of video). And that’s fine… it’s a nice reminder that shows were a thing, and shall be again.

It also touches on the universal aspect of music, or art as a whole. Because: come the day I finally get my ass out to Russia, I’ll definitely take the opportunity to catch some shows, and Moscow Death Brigade is at the top of my must-see list. (With Katalepsy running a close second). Wandering around doing the tourist thing is okay, I suppose, but I’d rather drink some beer and get in a circle pit.

This is good music and I like it.

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