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Ari Honkonen, singer, guitarist and songwriter of Minotauri and Morningstar (and the main guy in Heathen Hoof) is perhaps the least appreciated top-tier singer/songwriter in heavy metal history, and this album, II, is one of the Finnish fellow's finest achievements.
Minotauri music somewhat resembles the grungier, catchier side of Pentagram (Relentless) and the albums Mob Rules and Born Again by Black Sabbath. The album II is economical in terms of song length and arrangements, and the reason it is remarkable is the amazing consistency of the ideas that are presented. Here is an album of seven songs (not including the bonus cuts) in which all seven songs are very good. Every single tune is strong enough to be the A side on a 45.
One of the main reasons that Minotauri is so successful is the personality of the lead singer, Honkonen. He does not mimic the esoteric crooning and bravado of (the amazing) Albert Witchfinder, nor Ozzy, nor the neo-Ozzies in Count Raven, nor the drug-addled madness of Liebling, nor the bluesy introspection of Wino. Honkonen is a Euro-Barbarian, a wandering Neanderthal who inhabits an oppressive, sad and dangerous land. His heavily-accented English only compounds his disenfranchisement. This kind of primitive and emotional singing is more often found in epic metal---bands like Ironsword, Brocas Helm and Hyborian Steel---and is one of the best and most distinguishing features of this band, as well as Honkonen's other outfit, Morningstar (who became good in 2000 on Weight of the Hammer and then got even better).
Lush and dirty chords abound, such as in the great choruses of Kill to Live and Doom on Ice, providing a heavy, somber and rich mood. The oppressive throb of the verse riff in War hammers the lyric home in the best and most obvious way, and it works 100%. Storms of the World swaggers like Sabbath's Country Girl and the middle elaborations on the breaking riff are perfect pounding simplicity along the lines of Manowar's finest moments. And the lyric change of the line "Some people think that I worship the devil..." in the climactic chorus of Under the Cross is more evidence of Honkonen's brilliant, simple and instinctual approach to songwriting. Give this guy a platinum medal.
It doesn't require tons of parts or tons of singing to make great doom metal, just great ideas delivered at a slower pace by people with strong personalities ... and that's exactly what Minotauri do on this essential album.