From Iceland — Passing the Test

Passing the Test

Published July 27, 2007

Passing the Test

Rumours about the imminent break-up of Mínus, Iceland’s biggest rock act, had circulated for weeks before second guitarist Frosti and bass player Þröstur recently quit the band – citing artistic differences. The three remaining members recruited a new bass player (Sigurður Oddsson, formerly of Future Future) and declared on their site that they would “re-invent the Mínus art machine,” as a four-piece. This was their first real test.

Musically, I think everyone can agree that it was not the band’s best performance to date. But, my feeling is that nobody cared as much about how they sounded as the fact that they were there to play in the first place. The band tore through material from their nine-year career, displaying their early metal core roots from debut album Hey Johnny and their breakthrough Jesus Christ Bobby, as well as the more refined stud rock sound of Halldór Laxness and the newly released The Great Northern Whalekill.

New bassist, the clean-cut Sigurður, is steadily growing into his own as Þröstur’s replacement and will find his footing with the band. As for the guitar situation, there were two tracks where I thought to myself that another guitar would have made a real difference. But eventually, I suspect the band’s image will suffer more for the loss of their former bassist’s menacing presence and hard rock aura than it will musically with the loss of a second guitarist (or Þröstur’s bass playing for that matter)

But the real difference in seeing this band play now and when I last saw them play three months ago had nothing to do with music. There was a moment towards the end of Minus’ show that put their whole night in perspective. Singer Krummi, by now half-naked and heavily perspiring, thanked the audience for coming out to see them with a contagious look of joy on his face. What their performance lacked in the flawless and professional execution Mínus has developed through the years, they more than made up for with sheer joy and enthusiasm.

The choice of venue might have played a part in their transmittable glee. Grand Rokk is the smallest venue this band has played in quite some time. Standing on a stage that is hardly more than a bulge in an otherwise tiny floor area, Mínus was face to face with their fans. The tight conditions in Grand Rokk created immediacy with the audience that the band has lacked when playing bigger stages. I hope I will soon have an opportunity to see them under such conditions again.

The Mínus art machine still runs. It may need a little fine-tuning yet, but after nine years of revving at high rpm and a lot of mileage, it is only natural if some of the parts are worn out and need to be replaced. Once the overhaul is finished, I think the engine may turn out to be just as powerful as it ever was.

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