Minsk – The Crash and The Draw (2015 spotlight) – After a long time of waiting, the first album from these Illinois post-metallers since 2009’s With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone has finally been conjured forth. And I do say that with all meaning, as this record is definitely one fierce in ritualism in addition to rampant heaviness. It even tinges on what feels like a sort of death or black metal, which is a little unexpected for the act, even though it shows them turning over a new leaf in so far as style is concerned. This record burns with a fiery passion that is a complete manifestation of the desires from these five gentlemen, from Chris Bennett’s venomous vocal roars, to Tim Mead’s softer clean approaches, to Aaron Austin’s fiery leads that seem to deal a double dose of damage when paired up with Bennett’s. Zachary Livingston’s bass is also utilized tremendously and he seems to provide most of the earthquake as Kevin Rendleman’s drumming works to balance the whole thing out and add more fuel to this voracious fire. “To The Initiate 12:42” begins essentially what sounds like a fiery ritual, complete with animalistic shouts and sheer moments of intangible fury. Yet there are also some moments of atmosphere in it as well, which make me think of one thing in particular. Being a magician myself, I am somewhat reminded of the original nature of a ritual, in which one must shout with vehemence, force and a sense of will in order to manifest a certain desire. The magician must be sure of himself as weaklings are usually devoured by their own uncertainty. A slight wind, or whirl passes us by as “Within and Without 7:57” atmospherically proceeds to bash our heads in, in a most un-ritualistic manner (but perhaps in early sacrifices, the bashing of the head was necessary) as a sense of anger that I haven’t heard from these guys before seems to erupt. I used to listen to Minsk while I wrote books due to their atmospheric and ritualistic qualities, but this sludgy beast sounds like a more venomous style of the act, making me think that the wolves on the front cover are set to devour the listener whole. But let’s not be hasty, as there are certainly moments in which the atmosphere and clean vocal are observed, dulling the blade just a little. I will add that the final note of this piece is a vocal one, and the frontman sounds awfully sure of himself while implementing it. That’s a rather lengthy howl, which feels like it’s coming from a man who truly feels the scope and nature of the record. In other words, it’s how a man emotionally conceptualizes something of which he has a deep passion. As the “Onward Procession I-V 21:00” begins, this same amount of primal fury rages through two complete sections, leaving the third one to a deeper sense of atmosphere and a definite sense of incantation, or possibly simply affirmation. But whatever the case, it should work, especially in a format that will digitally distributed to hundreds of thousands of people, possibly even millions. There’s no telling how many of them are all going to be listening to The Crash and The Draw at the same time, but if we imagine all of these echoing manifestations reverberating throughout the whole world, then certainly that has to conduct some kind of energy. Humans are essentially batteries in that respect, so one might expect the energy, will, and desire put forth in this music to homogenize with the energies of the human who is being exposed to it. This can essentially change several things, like brainwave patterns and even the way that the body functions. As we move forward from the pulverizing nature of the aforementioned procession, a moment of clarity befalls us in the form of “Conjunction 4:53.” It’s essentially soft and meditative, as crystalline and calmative as the ocean and it feels like the watery balance to the fires that have been raging since the record began. These waters continue to flow as “The Way Is Through 9:23” brings in lighter melodies, cleaner vocals and a more atmospheric rock approach. I’m quite happy about it too, because it shows that Minsk have the ability to offer the best of both worlds. But don’t think that this is a completely lighter side of the act as thunders begin to rage and the fire comes roaring back in full force to dry up the water completely. After the fire has burned away everything in its path, the ritual drums break in with “To You There Is No End 2:48” and a sound that feels like it’s come from the pagan circles of old makes itself known. “To The Garish Remembrance Of Failure 6:22” throws some more wood back into the fire, but it utilizes more oblong riff melodies and even some touches of clean vocal. The frontman does manage to envelop himself in fire completely near the end of the track, as the wind takes this piece into a completely different world. The disc ends with “When The Walls Fell 10:26” which seems to combine the watery melody and airy atmospheres of previous cuts with the earthen thunder and harsh fires that initiated the album. It ultimately feels like a combination of the four elements, if one can indeed say that all of them have been captured in certain areas of the release. I can say in no uncertain terms that The Crash and The Draw is certainly one of Minsk’s heaviest releases to date and it’s definitely what fans of post-metal crave. This is a ritual that you’ll certainly be coming back to, as it’s both heavy as hell and light as a feather. But more often than not, that feather seems to seems to spark up and ignite, which seems a good metaphor for the album. Get your flaming feather today!
(11 Tracks, 75:00)