Big|Brave Credit: Mathieu Ball

Quebec trio Big|Brave have always been great at drawing things out. Most of their songs pass the ten-minute mark, and they’ve made a hallmark of deftly adding heady layers of emotion to minimal, glacial drone rock. On the brand-new Vital (Southern Lord), though, the band lean further into doom metal—and this dramatically less minimal sound works astoundingly well for them. The elements that make Big|Brave so beautiful and special remain—the folky flourishes, the incredible dynamic range, the lofty, gut-wrenching vocals of guitarist and front woman Robin Wattie—but they coexist with a new focus on crushing volume, walls of guitar, and sludgy drums. With the trio’s slamming rhythm section relentlessly hammering the depth and majesty of the songs into your skull, assisted by blistering but pristine production from Seth Manchester, Vital is the best Big|Brave album to date. It’s heavy, uncompromising, and powerful, and it elevates an already excellent band to a new level of greatness. Though the year is still young, Vital will be a hard record to top in 2021.   v