Some bands age like cognac, in terms of which the designation XO on the label refers to having aged for the minimum of 10 years. Of course, it comes down to your personal preference which is better, XO or VSOP, but the older stuff is usually considered superior. MINUTIAN are a Finnish prog-metal outfit that has been brewing their modern progressive sound since 2010 and in March 2021, the band released their third studio album, “Magical Thinking,” via Inverse Records. The distilled sound on the new outing took 5 years to mature and, judging by the first few spin-throughs, it was time very well spent. These prog-tricksters have a knack for tinkering seemingly straightforward riff constructions that prove rather tricky on closer inspection. In this respect, MINUTIAN is a kindred spirit of bands such as KARNIVOOL, VOLA, and RUSH. Their initial determination to traverse the Neverland of prog with a distinct song-first approach has really paid off. After all, it is a rather noble trait to make all those off-kilter riffs sound like the most natural thing on earth, if not diabolically catchy even.
The American hard-rock outfit, ALTER BRIDGE, is not exactly the first band to associate with progressive rock or metal. The album opener, “Alien Reflection,” however, paints a sonic picture reminiscent of this post-grunge line-up as though sounding off into the prog realms. Maybe the impression is due to the fact that one of the two vocalists in MINUTIAN triggers a subtle Myles Kennedy flashback every now and then. The use of two distinctively different vocalists is one of the key features that set the band apart, adding color and flavor to the mind-bending riff-origami. With this in mind, the band’s choice of mixing and mastering engineer, Mikko Herranen, could not have been better: the guy is a small legend when it comes to layering vocals and punchy guitars.
While the opening track could serve as a gentle introduction to the sonic empire of MINUTIAN, the following track, “Suspicious Minds,” throws in nothing short of a curveball of a riff-a-thon, bouncing to and fro in an oddball time signature. The song has TOOL and HAKEN written all over it, but in the sense of mentors rather than a rip-off. It is no small feat, considering the number of wannabe-TOOL outfits in the world of prog these days. The band seems confident enough not to resort to the exploitation of the dad-prog of yesteryear nor to the use of Fibonacci sequence or linear algebra as a song template. Having flown under the mainstream radar for a decade, the band has developed a proficiency at songwriting in secret, further proving that direction is so much more important than speed.
This selection of eight new songs clocks barely over 45 minutes, echoing the condensed and concise album lengths of the vinyl era. Moreover, MINUTIAN keeps the vinyl tradition of placing the best song on the third album track (on side A) alive. There you can find the pinnacle track, “Doublespeak,” which refers to the concept derived from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, suggesting language that is inherently obscure and misleading. In terms of music, the track is not obscure at all, plunging into the deep end of modern prog with subtle hints of Aussie proggers such as KARNIVOOL, CHAOS DIVINE, and THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. “Supersymmetry” explores this prog realm even a bit further, gearing up on the atmospheric. When the layered backing vocals step in, I cannot escape the instant PINK FLOYD flashback. So there you have it: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
Cross-referencing the new album with the band’s older material, it becomes quite obvious that MINUTIAN has started to cultivate a voice of their own – and it is a voice worth lending your ear to, especially if your musical diet consists mainly of progressive rock and metal with pristine execution and unique characteristics. The past 10 years have done the band some good. The new album qualifies for the VSOP prog label, hands down, whereas the band itself is worthy of the Napoléon quality grade and XO, even. That is to say, “Magical Thinking” is perfect music for the odd occasion of getting elegantly wasted on music.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Alien Reflection
- Suspicious Smiles
- Magical Thinking
- Vacant Eyes
- The Grand Scheme
Mikko Heino – vocals
Pekka Loponen – guitars, vocals
Jesper Johnson – guitars
Jouni Mikkola – bass
Antti Ruokola – drums, percussion, synths