I was quite surprised when I heard that Minsk were going to release a follow-up full-length to their previous album, With Echoes In The Movement of Stone. Following that album, the band participated in the Hawkwind Triad split alongside US Christmas and Harvestman, before going silent for the next six years. They even officially disbanded in 2011, leaving quite a hole in the post-metal/sludge scene.
Fortunately enough that was not the end for Minsk. Today they return rejuvenated with their latest album The Crash & The Draw. A few changes have occurred, with the most prominent one being the departure of Sanford Parker from the band, but again fortunately enough, Parker still manned the production helm, as he had done for all the previous Minsk full-lengths. The other cool addition to this album is the inclusion of two Cloud Burial members, Aaron Austin and Kevin Rendleman, on guitars and drums respectively, and We The Prey’s Zachary Livingston on bass. The new members seem to have revitalized core members Chris Bennett and Tim Mead, because the quality of The Crash & The Draw reaches the heights of the band’s two most monumental releases,Out of A Center Which Is Neither Dead or Alive and The Ritual Fires of Abandonment.
The core of Minsk’s music is present in this record as well, and it seems to be better than ever. The post-metal aspect of the band has a huge impact on the album, something apparent from subtle moments, as in the opening track and in “Conjunction,” to insane structures in the tetralogy of “Onward Procession” and especially in “Onward Procession I. These Longest of Days.” The unavoidable explosion in “Onward Procession IV. Return, The Heir” showcases in the best way possible how Minsk can so easily turn the tables and explode within their post structures as anticipation rises.
On the other hand of course there are the sludge outbreaks that the band can so masterfully unleash at the right moments and in the appropriate vibe. There are moments when a more direct and groovy approach is needed, something that is apparent in parts of the opening song, “Within and Without” and in a more friendly manner in the final track of the album, “When The Walls Fell.” Since this is Minsk, the sludge of The Crash & The Draw does not have only its more accessible side, and there are moments when the band really takes things to extremes. The more menacing riffs of “Onward Procession II. The Soil Calls” see the band really on a mission to achieve a perfect storm of heavy riffs, while when “Onward Procession I. The Longest of Days” is thrown in, the dystopian nature of sludge comes into perspective with the glacial pace and colossal riffs at large. There are moments when the band will tear down the dreamlike structure of a track, such as “The Way Is Through,” and at other times the more extreme self of Minsk will initiate an experimental investigation, as in “To The Garnish Remembrance of Failure.”
Minsk seem to have a really clear idea about where their songs are going with this album. The progression of all these songs is clearly well-thought out and it has led the band in producing their longest album to date, about seventy-five minutes. The switches of mood in tracks such as “Within and Without” flow in such a natural way, and the overall unfolding of the “Onward Progression” could not have been done much better. Add that ritualistic pace and scenery that the band knows how to set so well, from the amazing slower parts of the opening song to the unbelievable “To You There Is No End” with the inclusion of more percussive elements to further enhance that vibe. When you also throw in the sound effects that the band is implementing in cases such as “When The Walls Fall” you can only stare in awe at what they have been able to accomplish.
What lifts Minsk in this case even further is their alchemical approach to the music. The band is clearly set on creating sonic illusions with the use of psychedelia in order to enhance the experience of The Crash & The Draw. The more straightforward melodies of “Onward Procession III. The Blue Hour” and the dreamlike quality of “The Way Is Through” reveal the lighter side of the band, but when things need to get darker, they do get pretty dark indeed. The ambient effects and trippy vibe of the opening song quickly grabs your attention and sets the tone. The more daring approach in “Within and Without” shows the more adventurous nature of Minsk, while the more mystical and esoteric parts of “When The Walls Fell” find them in an unrecognizable hallucinatory state. The only more extreme aspect of Minsk that you will find in this album is when they start to throw in some noise parts in a couple of occasions, mainly in “Onward Procession III. Blue Hour” and “To The Garnish Remembrance of Failure.”
Even though I absolutely adored all three previous Minsk full-lengths, they were all quite challenging to listen to, in terms of their duration. That is what I found so staggering about The Crash & The Draw. It was actually quite an easy listen, and an album that I have already listened to many times despite its seventy-five minutes duration. Everything that Minsk throw in here seems to turn to gold, with the combination of post-metal, sludge, psychedelia, a few noise and a few blackened parts and their natural tendency of creating such great hooks with their melodies, everything is present here. The band is simply at its best in this case.
8.4 / 10
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