originally written by Jim Brandon
Shimmer, and shine. Lengthen, and volumize. Target, and utterly destroy: these are the blueprints for the basic Neur-Isis sound that has birthed dozens of ebb and flow enthusiasts of various musical persuasions. Chicago/Peoria, Illinois area doomsters Minsk is among the heaviest of these bands, as well as one of the more eclectic in sonic personality, but this new landscape has taken a turn for something that may require a bit more listening in order to fully grasp this time around on With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone. Not so much in aesthetic, nor progression, but in structure, and when it suddenly dawns upon you what the change is thatMinsk has undertaken, the subtle shift becomes very clear.
They’ve written an entire album full of great songs, and not just an hour of great music.
The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment was a brilliant example of flow, while still making each track stand out from each other, yet the connective thread was never really severed throughout. The same can be said of their debut Out Of A Center, Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive, but this time around Minsk has instead concentrated on making each track into its own main event, and although it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, it makes for a curiously easy listen. Be warned, it’s still damn crushing. What follows is an exercise in expansive accessibility, as the songs each follow their own vibe, and in a way, they’ve traded in both extremes of light and heavy for songwriting that avoids being too airy, mountainous, or smothering. As a listener, the payoff isn’t as exhausting of a task because it’s all in front of you from the start, so you can easily observe and decide what is tastiest with relatively little effort.
With the opening explosion of “Three Moons”, Minsk once again begins their newest album in a totally different way than the one before it, this time opting for a full-on battering with this abrupt smasher of a tune. The graceful construction of “The Shore Of Transcendence” (possibly their best song yet) is another early highlight with its meticulously sweeping buildup, as “Means To An End” along with “Crescent Mirror” and “Pisgah” each robustly and thunderously bulk up the midsection with dynamic cascading riffs, thick with reverb and lumbering in strident groove. “Consumed By Horizons Of Fire” brings forth a restrained menace by using rippling, burning rhythms not unlike those found on their debut, but with a blunter feel. “Almitra’s Premonition” injects additional crunch and the barest bit of uptempo speed into the mix, and this all leads to the massive closer “Requiem: From Substance To Silence”, the time when Minsk gives this beast its slow death. Awash with spacious sound effects and exhausted power chords trading off with oddly gentle vocals, the quartet sounds almost unsure and uncomfortable with a warbled delivery, ending things with a feeling of having slowly dismantled themselves, leaving a curious feeling of uncertainty in its wake.
This emphasis on independent strengths within separate songs is not without compromise. The tones are smoother, the deep blackened screams are all but totally gone, the unorthodox drumming is easier to follow and identify, and even though it may well be the heaviest endeavor the band has embarked upon, the overall effect is far less abrasive than previous outings. This is their brooding Aenima, but not their “Black Album”, and that’s a good thing. With Echoes… will separate their die-hards from the moderately interested, and might draw in new fans that couldn’t follow their earlier efforts, since the altering of their sound is just enough to shed new light on their work as a whole.
Above and beyond all else, this is a very good, compelling record from start to finish, and it doesn’t waste much time with filler, which is still Minsk’s strongest suit to this day. Strongly emotional and heavily lyrical, no shortcuts have been taken despite their more direct approach. They have purpose, they focus, and they deliver. It’s a case of less-is-more where they don’t overdo it on the less part, and their newfound individualistic qualities shows this talented and still maturing act turning yet another impressive and alluring corner on their dismal road. While not quite as unexpected as their exceptional previous albums, With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone is still one of the finest Relapse releases this year, and establishes Minsk as a band that truly deserves its own spotlight in this quickly overcrowded scene. Strongly recommended.