Words by Simon Russell-White
It seems strange referring to the year that was 2004 as “a while ago”.
In the scheme of time itself it really is not but in the music world it most certainly is! A bands longevity gifts the punter with wrapped presents of content to debate with fellow heavy heads about what album was the hottest, which era was the most pure and which members/ members stood the test of time.
But….what if the band just “stops”? What if the band literally pauses. Does it kill off the intensity of the band’s presence in an ever-changing music scene? Sure, it could, how should a band respond after such a long absence? So many questions! More on this later…..
Released in 2004 was Brisbane symphonic metal masters Minus Life debut album entitled Eternal Urban Megacide. Around (and after) that release Minus Life were becoming a major player in the South East Queensland music scene with the inclusion of smashing out their debut for all to see and hear across Australia with some pretty damn impressive support slots, the likes of Slayer, Mastodon, Nevermore, Arch Enemy and Testament to name a (fair) few.
Fast-forward to 2021, the now four piece have secured their place within the local music with selected (sold out may I add) shows in and around Brisbane. With their fan base and live show firmly intact, it was with hope that Minus Life would return to the studio to lay down another full-length release. The then quintet gave us a sample of what may come to fruition with the release of a two-track single entitled Manipulation of the Masses in April 2019.
Now at the actual beginning of October 2021 after 17 years Minus Life are set to release Contorted Reality which is an 8-track pack of pure symphonic fury…. so let us break it down!
Opener and title track Contorted Reality takes all of 15 seconds to depart into a classic tempo of true riff fury, with the rhythm sections adding the boom of patterned stability. The chorus vocal melodies and layers by Scott Moss (Vocals) that are present create a real air of presence that lift the track into an almost beautiful atmosphere, of course the essence of the track is blistering, but it is most certainly accompanied by a dark beauty. Creating a mood is a feat, maintaining it is even harder. Both have been achieved in this opener.
Keeping the link in the chain is track two, Manipulation of the Masses. For those playing at home, this is the 2019 single track that was originally released in 2019. It has been re-recorded and partially different arrangement…..but do not worry, not only does it still pack a walloping it has somehow been enhanced within the latest offering! I kinda get the feeling this was the vision and intention of this track all along, and now it is here in all of its audible casing for all to enjoy.
With a more stripped back layered guitar by Ryan O’Connell (Guitar) track three The Bled Unbroken soon drops back into second gear and launches into another aerial anthem. Adding to the track and the album in general are the subtle samples, keys and ambient sounds produced by the band and handled by Travis Henderson (Drums & Samples) in a live setting, this being a change after parting ways with their keyboardist. Do not be deterred though, the now four piece still manage to bring the absolute thunder in a live setting. The Bled Unbroken will transpire well live, and I personally really look forward to screaming “we’ll see how that plays out” right back at the band! Certain vocal lines sound amazing throughout this album, and this is an example of one of them!
Not only does Henderson handle sample duties, but he too pounds the drum kit into oblivion, keeping the groove and ferocity in check The Hypnotist kicks back into progression after almighty progression with impressive time signatures and precise changes. This track also features impressive bass lines by Chrisgaar (Bass) in the bridge section. Proving not to be a one trick (hell) pony, Minus Life offer a different chorus style on this track and there is just something about it that is intransigent.
Death’s Architect could easily sit in a filmed Nordic action series, its structure being one that pours imagery onto the mind’s pallet. Apart from slamming like its predecessors Death’s Architect is an intelligent track, being later in the track listing this was a wise placement for the new release, well played.
Fun fact, Minus Life released their debut film clip in mid-September 2021!!. You read right; Order Disorder is officially the band’s first ever film clip. Similar to Contorted Reality the chorus offers a dark beauty as Moss launches into layers of clean vocals topped with just enough fry/ screams to serve as a square meal! Be sure to check out the film clip as it pays respect to the technical aspects of the bridge and later arrangements of this track……..you’ve been warned.
Track seven Negative Thought Process is one of those tracks that requires the trusty old headphones to help the listener appreciate…. wait, enhance the appreciation of how much is going on within this tasty track, I do not swear often during albums reviews but this track fucking slams! It is a real credit to a band when later tracks stand tall at the back of an album, and this is one of the finest I have heard in a long while!
What better way to finish off a comeback release then to pay respect to a track that helped pave fruitful beginnings for the band itself all the way back in the early 2000s. Enter Bodies On Fire (2021) a re- recording of the classic opening track from the band’s debut album Eternal Urban Megacide. Punters and long-time ML fans brace yourselves, just when you thought this track could not pound any harder….. think again!
Minus Life are a class act with yet another class album under their belts, Contorted Reality will hold up for many years to come, impressive does not even come close!