Dense. That is maybe the most appropriate way to describe “The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment” by Chicago’s MINSK. This album pours layer over layer of varied musical forms and intensities, creating a wild and challenging experience for the listener.
I will not be the first person to say that “The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment” is an album that immediately invokes a sense of NEUROSIS’ “Enemy Of The Sun” era, where probing experimental music was the flavour of the day. I think that is a fair rating of both albums and one then that puts MINSK’s effort in excellent company. There is something invigorating about the sporadic crunch of atmospheric guitars coupled with the stripped down, almost tribal feeling of the drumming on this album. Again, it creates a rich landscape of sounds that one not only enjoys but demands attention without intrusion of the enjoyment of the music.
This is the band’s second full length release and I have no idea how their first effort sounded, but there is no question “The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment” is a member of the Post-Rock/Post-Metal movement headed by the likes of ISIS, CULT OF LUNA and the aforementioned NEUROSIS. There are meandering intros to songs that lead to staggeringly harsh crescendos, accompanied by raw, throaty vocals. What separates MINSK here is their even further reach by incorporating a female voice in a siren like quality along with slightly heavier synth work and even some use of saxophones in a way that makes you think the instrument should always be included with Metal music; it wailing through a few tracks, both in a cry and a chaotic fusion style. Now there is most definitely a backbone of that caustic, crude Metal that I personally love from this genre; its grating guitar work creating an environment of pure power. MINSK then are willing to take the audience to a place of sheer restlessness invented with intermittent guitar notes and organic percussion. This is brilliantly established in the fourth track “The Orphans Of Piety” where after a period of serene yet claustrophobic instrumental is awakened with a clean but shimmering vocal track that solidifies as the song progresses. One other terrific track is the meditative “Mescaline Sunrise”, incorporating a base note with a tranquil guitar over which almost seems like a great mid-way point for the album
It may be that case to some that the likes of MINSK are the Metal equivalent of alternative jam bands, eschewing a more formal musical structure for a sense of improvising. I think this would be a vast underestimation of the actual organic feeling but present ability of the band to form arrangements out of what is simply a different approach to song composition. I find it completely exhilarating, enjoying the harsh rocking moments in “The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment”, as equally as the sumptuous unorthodoxy contained in the haunting moments on the album. This is one hell of an album in my estimation that has me excited to seek out the band’s previous work. Absolutely tremendous.
(Online May 25, 2007)