Minsk - _The Ritual Fires of Abandonment_
(Relapse, 2007)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (9 out of 10)
Sophomore album for experimentalists Minsk, a band that defies categorisation and seems to thrive under a parapet of mystery and, well, heavy experimentation. As influences, to name drop Neurosis, Isis, Cult of Luna and other fine examples of experimental (there is that word again) hardcore with doomy elements bands, would do Minsk injustice. They are not imitators. They are innovators with a good pedigree.

The six tracks that comprise this album are really three huge tracks that each clock around the fifteen minute mark, with three interludes in between. Those interludes are of course longer than standard tracks from most bands, but the juice and gist will indeed be found in opener "Embers", "The Orphans of Piety" and mighty closer "Ceremony Ek Stasis".

In the course of the hour long journey, Minsk will play with your mind and imagination quite a bit. Tribal drumming and fuzzy, heavy, dissonant guitars form the basis of their sound. At times dirty, other times gentle and warm, the multiple guitar layers will crush and demolish; and soon after, they will calmly raise you up for yet another harsh trip. Synths and samples provide a backdrop for searing melodies, whereas the vocals are almost spiritual in effect. From harsh, distorted, shouted screams, to clean singing and some female vocals, they all work to complement the music and are not put in front of it, but rather weave together in harmony.

To my pleasant surprise, the saxophone appears again in this album at several points. "Wisp of Tow", the closer of their debut _Out of a Center Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive_, was a brilliant song with saxophone parts incorporated in such a way that elevated the song to a very emotional -- yet damn heavy -- result. Unfortunately, _The Ritual Fires of Abandonment_ does not have such a standout track, but these elements are interspersed in all the songs, making it a bit more even than its predecessor.

Minsk's music is indeed provocative and inspiring. It is not for everyone and it will require several listens to break the icy exterior and allow the listener to experience the album in full. And it should be listened in full, not just in individual bite sized tracks -- although each track is a mouthful in itself. I am happy that I was not let down by the expectations that their debut created. The fact that Relapse caught them at this early stage of their career is a hopeful sign that innovative, technical and difficult music is not always shunned by the labels in their search for one hit wonders. Invest in this album, financially and emotionally, and you will not be disappointed.

Contact: http://www.thesoundofminsk.com

(article published 18/2/2007)

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