MINSK- The Ritual Fires of Abandonment (Relapse Records)
Sanford Parker (formerly of the oppressively heavy BURIED AT SEA) has become one of the most renowned producers in sludge metal, having had a hand in some of the biggest and best underground forward-thinking metal albums released in the last 5 years. MINSK are one of those bands he produces, but he has also lent his bass prowess to this Chicago-based band since 2005's acclaimed Out Of A Center Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive
. On their Relapse debut The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment
, MINSK show considerable evolution from that album by further gaining an identity that moves further from the expansive crusty doom of mid-era NEUROSIS towards the more polished and layered approach of latter-day ISIS material. The aforementioned's affect on this wide spanning genre cannot be underestimated, particularly in regards to the drumming (which I predicted would happen after hearing In The Absence Of Truth
by the way). This isn't completely follow-the-leader though, as the roots of tribal-styled drumming in this genre reach back even to the days of such influential albums as Through Silver In Blood
, but the ISIS influence in the percussion on this album just jumped out at me immediately. In fact, that's what really gives The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment
its identity. Parker's masterful production also brings every cymbal and tom out with stunning resonance, the drums just exude this amazing exotic feel throughout that pushes the albums theme of fire to the forefront. Conceptually, as with many bands of this ilk, MINSK do a great job of presenting a theme and taking off with it. From the art concept consisting of fire and snakes and phoenixes, to the rich lyrics inspired by the works of Khalil Gibran, there's just so much to delve into both image-wise and thematically (I also recommend actually buying the CD, they do a neat thing with the cover art or at least the illusion of what the cover seems to be that you can't see unless you have the booklet). MINSK's name also relates to all of this in an interesting way, as they apparently named themselves after a city in Belarus that has been burned to the ground several times only to be consistently rebuilt again ('rising like a phoenix from its ashes' etc.). There is definitely a theme of rebirth here, of cleansing and purification through fire the sins of those who came before us, it all really interests me. Anyways, musically there is definitely a lot going on in terms of different instruments being used. Most of this comes from the wide-range of percussion instruments, but keyboards play a large role as well, and Bruce Lamont from fellow Chicagoans YAKUZA brings his saxophone into the mix on two songs. The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment
is an album that wears its influences on its sleeve, but retains an identity and is ultimately a great listen.
"Embers" opens the album ambitiously in the form of a 13-minute opus, taking its sweet time to build up spaciously and anchored by some stellar drumming that will easily get stuck in your head. "White Walls" is the most immediate song on the album, featuring the best guitar riffs to be found here and some killer vocals. The rest of the album centers around two other major epics in "The Orphans Of Piety" and "Ceremony Ek Stasis", both of which are bolstered by Lamont's passionate saxophone work. From a conceptual standpoint though it's "Circle of Ashes", the short lead in track to "Ceremony Ek Stasis", that really stands out for me. The wandering guitar and bass lines interweave with the drums behind a clip of Robert Oppenheimer's famous "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds" speech. It comes across very poignantly here and is one of my favorite parts of the album, especially right after the talking part ends and the song explodes briefly as if converting to musical form what a nuclear explosion would be like.
You can't be unique without being original, but you can certainly be original without being unique; MINSK illustrate this well with The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment