Sound — 8
Minsk formed in 2002, named after the city of Minsk due to the city's history of being razed and destroyed in battles, only to be rebuilt each time. The band has focused on the concept of a phoenix rising from the ashes, or growing stronger through trials, since their inception. The band's first true exposure came from recurring appearances at South By Southwest and Emissions From The Monolith festivals, especially after the release of their first full-length album, "Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive." They signed to Relapse Records and have remained with the label since then. "The Crash & The Draw" is the band's fourth full-length album, and clocks in at a solid 76 minutes. There are 11 tracks, with the single "To the Garish Remembrance of Failure" released in February 2015 and "The Way Is Through" released in early March 2015. Timothy Mead and Christopher Bennett remain as founding members, with new arrivals to fill out the band, all new since 2010: Aaron Austin, Zachary Livingston, and Kevin Rendleman. Despite the extensive changes to the band's lineup, "The Crash & The Draw" ends up being a strong release.
The album opens with the track "To the Initiate," which is nearly 13 minutes long, and is predominantly a slow buildup. The first vocals (which are clean and reminiscent of prog vocals, think ELP or maybe even Yes), don't come into the track until almost 4 minutes in. The vocals get good and "heavy" a few minutes in, and the whole thing stays pretty intense until near the end where the clean vocals come back. "Within and Without" is the second track on the album, opening with some ambient sounds, synthesizer and clean guitar. While "Within and Without" clocks in at just under 8 minutes, it is still a fairly straightforward heavy song in the world of Minsk and their particular take on post-metal. The third track is the first part of a 4 part track, called "Onward Procession," and this first track of the series is subtitled "These Longest of Days." "These Longest of Days" opens up with an interesting melody playing over a pounding syncopated drum and bass part. The vocals are drenched in reverb and have a very creepy vibe running throughout. As the song goes on the clean guitars drop out, just leaving the heavily distorted guitar and bass tones and screaming vocals. "Onward Procession, Part II" is called "The Soil Calls," and it kind of transitions fairly seamlessly from "These Longest of Days." The track stays pretty heavy until the end transitioning to some acoustic strumming with LOTS of reverb and/or tremolo and some almost jazz style drumming, which transitions into the next part of "Onward Procession." "Ownward Procession, Part III" is called "The Blue Hour," and is predominantly built around some freeform drumming, sounding very jazzy at some points and tribal at others, and ambient synths accompanying the guitar. "The Blue Hour" definitely has a lot more psychedelic going on with it than the other parts of "Onward Procession." "Onward Progression, Part IV" is called "Return, The Heir," and opens with a little distorted riff and transitions from there into a cleaner, more progressive sounding passage. The song has several movements, but ends pretty heavy. "Conjunction" is a softer track, with very minimal guitars and primarily built with synths, and is essentially a "chill out" track. "The Way Is Through" is the single from the album, and is a really trippy track with clean vocals for the first half, and the second half is filled with sludge metal riffing and screamed vocals. "To You There Is No End" opens with some intense percussion and a lot of things going on in the background, and is less than 3 minutes long (making it the shortest track on the album). "To the Garish Remembrance of Failure," a single from the album, builds up to be a really intense track with a monologue at the end. "When the Walls Fell" is the closing track from the album, which has a lot of slower riffing and clean vocals doubled with screamed vocals in the background. There is a lot to like about "When the Walls Fell," and primarily what I like about it is that it seems to summarize the entire album very well.
Lyrics — 8
Tim Mead does an excellent job with both the clean and the screamed vocals on the album, and there isn't anything negative I could really say about it. Backing vocals were used fairly sparingly, but to great effect. I really enjoy Minsk's lyrics, which are usually fairly abstract, but deal with interesting concepts. As an example, here are some lyrics from the track, "When the Walls Fell": "Lifeless shells dance to the rhythm of the ego/ Forced into freedom while blind to its wisdom/ The monoliths scream emptiness/ no power held within/ Extract the wrath, the spectre of not fit to be/ Chasing a never ending ending/ neglecting the now/ Lifeless shells dance to the rhythm of the ego/ A seething retreating."
Overall Impression — 8
I am not really sure what happened with the band's lineup since their last release, but I'm glad to hear new music from the band. Tim Mead and Chris Bennett have always been the primary creative force in the band, so I'm glad they have remained. My favorite tracks from the album would have to be "When The Walls Fell," "To You There Is No End," "The Blue Hour" and "To the Initiate." I didn't dislike any tracks from the album. This is a very strong effort by the band.