Album Debut: Brutal Blues – Brutal Blues
Norway's Brutal Blues are a collaboration between guitarist/vocalist Steinar (Parlamentarisk Sodomi, Psudoku, BxSxRx) and drummer Anders (Noxagt, Blodsprut, Moha!, Ultralyd). The name they operate under is kind of a red herring. On the one hand, it's nonsense. It's a name, it doesn't matter. But it makes you think. In fact, based on Steinar's history of fun band backstories, you'll probably overthink it. Steinar told me as much when I offered my own elaborate concept: Atomsmasher plus The James Gang. Am I really overthinking this? "Yes, we like Atomsmasher," Steinar wrote back. "Yes, you are overthinking this."
Normally a one-man-band type of guy, Steinar met Anders through the grind grapevine. "We knew each other because we had both played grind for years. First the drummer Anders asked me to join him to play his solo material for some gigs. Soon we started Brutal Blues instead."
It's a complimentary match. The duo display a sort of rhythmic ESP without losing their own distinguishing characteristics. Anders has a knack for evolving repetitive grooves with subtle variations. Steinar's off-kilter downstrokes and discordant spasms manage to swing while being bewildering. Combined, it's the best of both worlds. They must have locked in from the beginning, right? "Not at all," responded Steinar. "We are still learning how to play our instruments."
Zinger aside, Brutal Blues are able to erect quite a few intricate structures within these short blasts. The group shifts quickly for a reason. According to Steinar, "The most important technique is to move on to the next riff before the listener discovers how stupid it is. Then the worst ideas have extra maximum effect. In addition we make different refreshing mistakes every time we play a particular song, so our music is always butchered in new, ultra-revitalizing ways."
Again, that's part punchline (and part honest, naked truth regarding the process of improvisation), although it does get at the heart of why Brutal Blues can be stuck on repeat without weakening or fatiguing: there's a lot of stuff here. Riffs and rhythms are manipulated like a Rubik's Cube, twisted up, down, and around. Steinar's wild howls steady these dizzying mini labyrinths, contrasting the complex with the primal. Anders might as well be a fill robot built by Texas Instruments. The two also fire off noise assaults and spray ambient washes. It's a ton of stimuli.
Given a different production it'd be too much. However the comparatively clean guitar tone and overall warmth of the sound provides enough room to engage the listener without suffocating them. It's effective. It's also DIY efficient. "We recorded it live ourselves at our space located in Rifferiet, which is also the office of a company that provides riff services to many Norwegian bands," Steinar remembered. "The synths and samples were added later but we trigger them live now to deliver the optimal blues experience to our audience."
And that's kind of it: "optimal blues experience." That tells you everything and nothing. After all, you're overthinking it. Brutal Blues rips. That's it.
While I had time with Steinar, I inquired whether we'd see more from his crusty grinder Parlamentarisk Sodomi and Psudoku, the alternate-universe iteration of the former. He said they'd both return, but didn't give a date. Hey, it's hard to pin down the timey-wimey interdimensional stuff. Finally, I asked once again about backstories, thinking specifically of BxSxRx, the product of a failed experiment by Norwegian scientists to create a pig-person for the government. So which comes first, the songs or the concepts?
"It's impossible to say because old and new ideas are combined and destroyed in no logical order. But in general, the bad ideas appear first. Then they are rehearsed, recorded and released for home enjoyment. Then the good ideas appear and you forget to use them before you die."
Brutal Blues will be out via Selfmadegod Records on June 17. You can preorder it now.