Brutal Jr.: Party Garage | [Broken Sound Tapes; June 21]

Landing somewhere among doom metal, punk rock, and synthwave, the music of Carrboro’s Brutal Jr. is nothing if not ambitious. Produced by Mike Robinson (Lonnie Walker, Annuals), their first full-length record Party Garbage is a sprawling sci-fi concept album about narrator OC-666’s tumultuous return to their homeland.

Taking shape as a glitchy transmission from OC-666, Party Garbage catalogues a world ravaged by drugs, corruption, pollution, and the subsequent fight for retribution.

Brutal Jr.’s music is built around a dense, fuzzed-out low-end that’s split between synthesizers and bass guitar and propelled by John Meier’s (Naked Naps, Noah Cross) tight percussion. Distorted vocals and sludgy bass lines are trademark features in the album, but the tracks that shine brightest juxtapose this darkness with moments of levity.

Daniel Morales’ strained, discordant vocals capture the narrator’s desperation in “The Cursed Image” while shimmering, marimba-esque keys evoke a sense of hopefulness. Meanwhile, “inthecity” serves as our narrator’s triumphant rallying cry with chunky guitar riffs and slicing synth lines, capped off with a spastic solo from guest guitarist Elijah Melanson (Zephyranthes).

However, those moments wouldn’t feel so powerful without the grit and grime of tracks like “Sin Trading” and “OC-666.” By blending the breakdown styles of hardcore and metal, Brutal Jr. crafts a signature sound full of growling bass lines, snappy percussion, and fervid vocals.

For all its strong points, Party Garbage still feels like the band hasn’t quite found their core sound. “Eyes Roll Back” features a clunkily-placed “Pop, Lock & Drop It” sample, and while it’s an interesting textural element, it comes in too strong and detracts from the story. Morales’ vocals also are in danger of getting lost in the soundscape, detracting from the emotion embedded in this dystopian tale.

While bumpy at parts, Party Garbage is a successful debut for this experimental punk trio. It’s both expansive and succinct, and packs in enough detail to warrant multiple listens with new enjoyment on each spin.

Comment on this story at

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.