It’s been six years since Minsk last released a full length. Now yes, the Peoria, IL-quintet are seasoned vets at their forward-thinking, bleak and heavy craft…but six years is a long time for any band, so the question automatically becomes: does the new stuff hold up and triumph over the past? Short answer: yes. With heavy references to nature and hints of new beginnings, the band’s latest offering, The Crash and The Draw, continues the tones of the past with influence from the poetry of Kahlil Gibran and Hermes Trismegistus. So let’s dive into it, shall we?
This album boasts more than its fair share of few beautiful, stripped-bare passages. We get glimpses of this with the short intro on “To the Initiate,” or the entirety of “Conjunction”—which would easily make Explosions in the Sky jealous with its hushed and eloquent tones. Of course, with any beauty in metal there is always a dark and heavy side, particularly with Minsk. Make no mistake: the whole of this album is precisely heavy. “To the Garish Remembrance of Failure” is the best example, with earth-shattering guitar and bass riffs, gruff, yet deep vocals, and some real lyrical meat about a tortured soul beginning to unravel.
But the four part suite, “Onward Procession,” is the crowning moment of The Crash and The Draw. Part I thunders out of the gate with a mix of doom and black metal bridges, slipping in and out of each so effortlessly that you’ll be left speechless. Throughout the second part, we hear higher pitched clean guitar solos and enormous sounding drums, but then the crushing heaviness comes to a head and we round out the third and final parts of the suite with a slower, quieter tempo enhanced by angelic voices that push the suite to monumental heights.
I’d be remiss not to mention the album and story closer, “When the Walls Fell.” Here, even as death finally comes to fruition, the progression throughout is generally uplifting, with delicate tones and structures during the first half and strong, heavy denser fare reserved for the latter portion. The real achievement with this track is Minsk’s ability to jump between the two while still leaving you with a sense of hope.
With the 76 minute run-time, there’s no doubt some will find The Crash and The Draw difficult to digest. Sure, some tracks can be taken singularly to be marveled at, but in the context of the album as a whole it truly is a remarkable leap forward for Minsk. For me, this is an album that was meant to be consumed in its entirety in front of a record player, gatefold in hand, while being absorbed by the cavalcade of sound and the extent of the journey.