Album Review: Brothers Born, ‘Knife Wounds’
Musically, Mike Wyzik and Joel Stroetzel of Brothers Born come from very different backgrounds. Wyzik acted as the drummer for a pair of indie-folk outfits, Storm the Ohio and Red Door Exchange, while Stroetzel may be better recognized as the guitarist for Westfield, Mass.-based metal outfit Killswitch Engage. For their latest collaboration, the two manage to find common ground, fusing elements of both of their previous efforts for 11 tracks of powerful folk-rock heard on their debut album, Knife Wounds.
You wouldn’t expect it upon the initial listen, though. Album opener, “In a Moment,” is all fluttering acoustic guitar and almost-ethereal, faraway-sounding vocals on a cut that doesn’t quite reach the two-minute mark. It sets you up for a very different kind of album -- a bait-and-switch of sorts for what’s to come.
It’s a move that’s no doubt meant to build the Brothers Born’s momentum – something the Easthampon, Mass., twosome go to great lengths in creating. On the album’s second, titular track, the ‘80s-influenced riffs begin to soar while the vocals are bigger, with inflections similar to that of Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock.
By Knife Wounds’ fourth track, “With Bated Breath,” the Qyzik and Stroetzel – who say they bonded over a shared love for Tom Waits and Nick Cave -- achieve an effective blend of their respective backgrounds and influences. The darker, moodiness that was completely absent from the album’s opening tracks arrives, while the steadily paced vocals are paired atop grander, arena-ready arrangements. It makes for a menacing tension that’s also heard on “Lonely Highway” and “Running Into a Burning House.”
While those cuts seem to favor Stroetzel’s Killswitch Engage catalog, “To Lay It Down” and “8 AM Tail Lights” side on the duo’s folk tendencies. They’re beautifully sleepy cuts that still fit with the brooding nature established on the other, more stadium-ready tunes.
However, there’s still work to be done in uniting Wyzik and Stroetzel’s disparate resumes. The successful tracks seem to fall on either end of the spectrum, while anything in between – namely tracks like “Parachute” and the bluegrass-driven “The Border Lord” – seem to fall into undefined territory and fade into the album’s meticulously built background.
Nevertheless, Knife Wounds sets us up for exciting things to come in Brothers Born's ambitious collaboration.