6 October 2015

Minsk - The Crash & The Draw


Relapse Records, now this is a record label that is always pushing the boundaries of metal; one of their most recent releases is this album by Peoria, Illinois natives Minsk.  This is their fourth or fifth album (depending on if you count their first demo release as part of their discography) and also their first for six years.  The album was mainly recorded in Chicago and it has been getting good press since its release a few months ago (at the time of writing - I have picked up this review a few times, I keep dropping due to other things and I apologise for that).  I will be honest I state from the beginning that Minsk were not a band that I was aware of before I was having a browse of the Relapse Records website, but the cover is very interesting and the description of the band is also intriguing.  So to find out what all the fuss is about, it is time to check out the album.

"To The Initiate" comes into the world with strange ambient sounds swirling around from left to right, the noise builds slowly but surely until the guitars coming.  Firstly in a gentle, shoe gazing way, then like a tone of concrete onto the audience as the song starts to take a dramatic turn as the shoegazing element of the sound continues to involve into a song that could only be rivalled by Neurosis in term of grandeur and scope.  It is a lengthy track, almost thirteen minutes long and with no real let up or rest bite for the audience.  But when you get an album with this sort of cover, from Relapse Records and with these sort of titles - you are not expecting pop diddies about falling in love with the girl next door.  You are expecting dramatic riffs, a bass line that could forge a canyon in the ground and the sound of thunder going off in the background.  It is a fantastic opening to this album, just beautiful which ends to the sound of white noise.  Following straight on is "Within and Without" which goes for that wonderful sound that sounds from sludge/drone/doom metal.  It does come from that similar cloth of Shrinebuilder, A Storm of Light and other bands of that ilk; but it sounds original and startling in every sense of the word.  It is another song which you have to invest in, it is music that demands your attention and cannot be listened to when there are other distractions going on; basically you are immersed into this record and without choice on when you can escape - it is in control.

Now it might seem strange I start the next paragraph after two songs; well the band have made the ordering of this album a little strange by placing a four track odyssey in the middle, all with the link called "Onward Procession".  They go by the following names -”Onward Procession I. These Longest of Days", "Onward Procession II. The Soil Calls", "Onward Procession III. The Blue Horror" & "Onward Procession IV. Return, the Heir".  They all have very distinctive styles for each part, but they all fall under a similar pattern.  The opening is peaks and troughs with plenty of pauses and intense guitar riffs breaking up those low slung bass patterns that feels as if they are heading into war against the rest of the universe.  The second one is the best of the four parts; part drone, part post metal, post titan size riff - all fucking awesome.  The third section is a slow drone piece, all moody noise with low vocals and a siren-like from a female vocalist; it has a natural peak in the middle of it with a strange electronic noise drone/solo, however it is as if it is building towards the final crescendo with happens in the fourth acts of these songs.  It continues the female/male drone for the first half of the song and then pulls the previous three together to end the song with a towering slab of noise.  The only problem I have here is this - why have it in four sections?  It is essentially one song anyway and would have made an epic twenty minute song; but this is just a minor point as it is still an awesome set of tunes.

The next song after the "Onward Procession" we are gently introduced to "Conjunction" which begins with a swirl of jangling guitars and reverb which is the core to this song.  It is a chilling piece that you can lose your own thought to, it is a daydream in musical form and very atmospheric.  After all the metal, it is refreshing to see another side to the band; truly a beautiful and majestic moment on this album.  "The Way Is Through" starts off with the same daydream, but they have added the rest of the band to the song and it has been stretch out for nine minutes.  Whilst it still sounds beautiful, dramatic and as if the angels are being serenaded by demons, it loses something in some places of the number.  It is only when they start add the sludge metal to the mix that sounds majestic and full of energy; it is the beginning of the song where it is building towards that explosion.  The mixture of voices does not quite click with the music and it sounds as if too many people are trying to be heard at once and it feels a little messy.  The music in the background is still stunning, but it does build up to a fantastic ending that sounds like the end of the world is nigh.  "To You There Is No End" is more of an interlude than anything else, a beautiful link to the penultimate track "To the Garnish Remembrance of Failure".  It slowly gets louder and the drums become manic as they launch into "To the Garnish...." and once more, I am left wondering why they did not keep them as one track.  The penultimate song is another beautiful song that swirls like a vortex around the listener and sounds like the storm is close to hand; it is one of the highlights of this album and showcases the best parts of the band.  Ending the album is "When the Walls Fall" and this is the most dynamic song on the album.  It has everything that the band have hinted at throughout the album, it have their post metal/shoegazing section, their sludge riff machine firing out on all cylinders and a massive hook at the end which makes it the most memorable song of the record - a perfect way to end this record.

I have been torn with this album, when it is great - it is truly great.  I love their sound and they sound like the Gods have decided that Armageddon is not enough and that they want to launch Ragnarök, Kali Yuga, Frashokereti & Yawm ad-Dīn at the same time.  There is a few things that confuse me as I have mentioned earlier, it feels like songs are broken up when there was no need for it, the meshing of styles is not as smooth as it could have been in places.   It might not be much, it is just to opinions of a small guy from the North East of England - however, the music itself is top quality and that shines through from beginning to end.  This is my first introduction to this band, I have to say that I am very impressed.  Not totally bowled over, but very impressed.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out.

Top track - When the Walls Fall

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Minsk website here (there is links to their Bandcamp, Facebook and other online accounts here)

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link for you guys and girls

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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