4th Album from Norwegian prog rockers Brimstone. Press pack says this is “a return of sorts to Brimstone’s musical roots, with a strong late 60’s/early 70’s prog vibe evident throughout.” Long songs expected……..
My editor must think I have a fondness for Scandinavian prog rock because hot on the heels of D’Accord’s D’Accord III comes their Norwegian Label Mates’ Brimstone and their latest album Mannsverk. After being slightly underwhelmed by the former, my hopes weren’t that high for this 4 piece but let’s have a listen……..
The album opens with “A Norwegian Requiem” replete with a fuzz bass sounds and shuffling drum beat before the keyboard atmospherics and jazzy guitar riff come in. The production is also what one might term “retro” but doesn’t seem to grate and it’s a strong opener. It’s followed by another good song and…look out…. Here comes the strangeness – a xylophone appears in the intro of the strangely named “Rubberlegged Man”. Plenty of Hammond organ on offer too, so that’s a couple of the standard prog rock clichés ticked off in one song! The strong pumping opening riff gives way to a laid back mellow section that’s really rather good – evoking thoughts of Pink Floyd (what’s in the water up in Norway – D’Accord seemed to echo “The Floyd” a fair bit as well?). Another good song despite one of my pet hates in music – a whistling section. Towards the end, we even have the appearance of Tubular Bells. “Voodoo” follows and the buzzing bass riff that introduces the song before the keyboards and guitars come in, is really funky. Then the motif seems to turn into the theme tune to ITV’s Poirot (really – have a listen and you’ll see!) but again it hits the spot. I’m really beginning to like this lot. Thomas Grønner on drums is very busy throughout the album but his work seems to be appropriate for this sort of music. He’s definitely not reminiscent of the very understated Nick Mason, then!
Wow – here’s a song title: “Flapping Lips At Ankle Height”!! Despite the odd title it’s an absolute cracker with a superb bouncing bass line. “The Fixed Wheel” opens with an almost Flamenco section – all congas, shakers and percussion before settling down into a more traditional sort of prog rock stomper featuring a sort of discordant keyboard solo which actually works quite well. Again all jolly good! This is followed by “The Giant Fire” – possibly one of the weakest songs here but as a drummer, I’m biased as it features minimal percussion. The acoustic guitar and electric guitar flourishes are pleasant enough and showcases Rolf Edvardsen’s strange but decent vocals – he is also a more than competent guitarist. I’m always impressed by anyone that can sing in a foreign language and not have their accent show through too much. It’s atmospheric but doesn’t really hold my attention that well.
“Sjo & Land” is the longest track on the album, weighing in at a concentrating testing just under 12 and a half minutes. Most prog rock songs essentially stitch 3 or 4 songs together so you don’t get bored but this is a fairly mellow affair all the way through and if you knew that a song was going to groove along on such a laid back theme for that length of time you would be thinking about skipping it after a couple of minutes. I’d suggest you don’t do that as there are enough ideas in here that the time flies by and you definitely don’t get bored by the song and it does seem to build to a crescendo before dropping back down and leaving space for lovely laid back guitar solo. It also includes a spoken word section – essentially the security warning about leaving bags unattended at airports. A bit strange but a most enjoyable song and probably the sort of thing that would go nicely with an alternative cigarette (if you’re into that sort of thing – which we here at MusicMuso, definitely do not condone!).
Closer “This Is The Universe” is another long song (just under 10 minutes) and opens with a gentle intro and gradually builds until bursting into life at the two minute mark with a cracking bass driven riff from (it says here) Biff. The middle section has a cracking shuffle drum beat under a piano solo and some more fuzz bass. The musical journey continues throughout the song and it’s a fine ending to what has been a very enjoyable album.
The whole band are really talented players (the line-up is completed by Øyvind Grønner on organ, piano, mellotron and synthesizers). Their arrangements are tight and don’t seem to stray into sort of jazz noodling that can happen in this sort of genre. Every note and beat has purpose other than just jamming to prove how good they are. All in all a very good album and one that I will listen to again.
The experience of reviewing two similar styled albums in succession was quite revealing to me about musical taste. Whilst I didn’t really take to D’Accord, I liked the Brimstone album so much that I’m going to seek out their previous albums. It shows that music is made up of many things that may or may not touch you and it’s definitely a case of one man’s meat is another man’s poison. What are the things that make the Brimstone album the one I would really recommend you check out if you like this sort of thing? I liked the sound of their record, whilst definitely retro it didn’t seem as dated as D’accord III but possibly it comes down to the most important thing – tunes. If you haven’t got those then all the musical dexterity and complexity in the world just won’t cover it – just ask Yngwie Malmsteen…….
Review by Adrian Grainger