Album Reviews

Minus – Halldór Laxness

(Victory) UK release date: 9 February 2004

Minus - Halldór Laxness Iceland: not just a crap supermarket but the land of desolate landscapes, hot geysers and English types who think they’re cool visiting on “alternative” holidays (hello Damon Albarn). For an isolated country, it has contributed to the musical map more than one might expect, with legendary ’80s indie band Sugacubes, its legacy in Björk and Einar Örn, and those eldritch types Sigur Rós.

That’s all well and good but none of the above really rock, and for a nation choc-full of the craggy stuff, that’s an oversight. Enter Minus (pronounced “mee-nus”, apparently). Already with a bit of a cult following after two albums of uncompromising hardcore, their third opus sees them moving into a more full-on heavy metal direction that should accelerate their progress further.

Opening track Boys Of Winter does a good job of speaking for the whole album and if the song title is a dig at Don Henley‘s nasty global smash hit of a few years back (Boys Of Summer) then even better.

There are a few Icelandic voices in a bar, which are quickly ushered out of the way by some monstrous, discordant guitar riffs that scythe their way through the fields of calm. Meanwhile, Krummi’s vocals are anything but, instead revealing a hitherto unheard melodic quality. Time signatures bend and change (yes this lot are a bit prog); there’s a bridge into a borrowed Black Rebel Motorcycle Club lyric (“spread your love like a fever”); and it finishes with a fantastic Alice In Chains-meets-stoner metal ending. Yep, this lot pack a lot into their songs, but then they probably have to make sure they don’t sit still for too long. After all, it’s cold up north.

The bulk of the album treads a similar path, with heads down thrashing (Who’s Hobo), semi-psychedelic metal (Romantic Exorcism), sludge-tastic riffing (Angel In Disguise) and so on. If these hit-’em-where-it-hurts bolts do get a little samey after a while, then there are three tracks to mix things up a little.

The Long Face is less metal, more rhythmic and, dare I say it, almost pleasant; I Go Vertigo is almost Queens Of The Ice Age, I mean Stone Age; while closer Last Leaf Upon The Tree is a beaut. Featuring the beguiling guest vocals of ex-Daisy Chainsaw frontwoman, Katie Jane Garside, over all manner of distorted guitars and effects, it manages to retain a laid-back, late night vibe and comes on like Portishead jamming with Nirvana at their most obtuse – quite an achievement!

Halldór Laxness, named after Iceland’s only Nobel Prize-winning author incidentally, is heavy and rockin’, but a tad psychedelic, progressive and left-field at the same time. As such, Minus don’t live up to their English translation because they’re a welcome addition to the rock scene.

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