The Crash & The Draw

Written by: AP on 18/05/2015 09:21:34

Many feared the worst when, in 2011, Minsk resigned themselves to an indefinite hiatus after a period of silence one would usually attribute to an ongoing writing process. At the time, the quintet's excellent third album ”With Echoes in the Movement of Stone” had turned two, and given the widespread critical acclaim surrounding that release, the time felt ripe to build upon its success and take the underground stardom for which Minsk was destined. Yet under circumstances that remain unclear, the way forward looked, in the band's own words, insurmountable, and thus they laid their weapons down.

Given the band's moniker is drawn from a city historically renowned for its resilience to invasions, razings and other calamities however, the idea that Minsk would never return felt unlikely. And quite right, 2015 marks the year the five piece returns (in a somewhat revamped configuration which sees Kevin Rendleman replace Ryan Thomas as drummer), with an ambitious new opus entitled "The Crash & The Draw". For readers who are no strangers to Minsk this is perhaps a futile warning, but let it nonetheless be said in the name of full disclosure: this is not an album for the impatient, nor for those seeking the rapid pleasure of defined singles. Clocking in past 75 minutes, of which the opening track "To the Initiate" alone occupies a dizzying 12 minutes and 42 seconds, the album is daunting prospect even for the most hardened connoisseurs of doom and post-metal.

What is surprising though, is that the record successfully avoids the common pitfalls of meandering and stagnating that often plague those genres. The rewards are seldom immediate, but allowed sufficient time to grow and mature, the wealth of ideas underlying the sonic odyssey that is "The Crash & The Draw" is worth the perseverance. The two brains behind Minsk - guitarist Chris Bennett and multi-instrumentalist Tim Mead, both of whom also double on vocals - have a distinct approach to writing music, building layers upon layers of sound in slow, deliberate increments that enable the scintillating guitar leads, washes of keyboard, and strokes of conga drumming to have equal say in developing Minsk's wall of sound. This depth of song-writing renders "The Crash & The Draw" a record best enjoyed in solitude, as to appreciate the myriad of detail iconic producer Sanford Parker (the band's former bassist) has been able to summon forth in the music requires full, undivided attention.

The music of Minsk has never been fodder for a jogging mixtape, and in this respect “The Crash & The Draw” is no exception. Strictly speaking, the album does not play like a single piece of music, but there is nonetheless a unity shared between the eleven tracks. A red chord of perpetual darkness and an overwhelming sense of tension reigns supreme, enabling the dynamic oscillations between haunting ambience, epic doom segments and tribal, atavistic rages best showcased by the four-part, 21-minute mammoth “Onward Procession”, to exist in perfect harmony. That even in its gentler moments, there is an undercurrent of simmering animosity to the album, fosters a kind of frightened enchantment, and in that sense the band’s self-styled genre of psychedelic metal has a ring of truth to it. Songs like the magnificent “The Way is Through” and “To the Garish Remembrance of Failure" are nothing short of hypnotising.

Still, when assessed in context with Minsk’s 2009 outing, “With Echoes in the Movement of Stone”, the reality is that “The Crash & The Draw” suffers from the absence of those truly revelatory moments; the musical epiphanies toward which Minsk have always strived. There is huge ambition here, and the technical execution certainly lacks nothing. The underlying ideas, and the prowess of Bennett, Mead, Rendleman, as well as their two colleagues, guitarist Aaron Austin & bassist Zachary Livingston in bringing them to life, continues to exist on a level which would drive most aspiring musicians to quit and find other interests. Indeed, perhaps the most telling description of “The Crash & The Draw” is that the album is an altogether immersive experience; you emerge from the other side of 75 minutes as if awoken from some dark, abstract dream - yet without remembering whether or not the dream ever reached a climax. It feels a little unresolved.

Download: Onward Procession I: These Longest of Days, The Way is Through, To the Garish Remembrance of Failure, When the Walls Fell
For the fans of: Bossk, Isis, The Ocean, Om
Listen: Facebook

Release date 06.04.2015
Relapse Records

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