Minsk, Echoes, Stones and a Horizon of Fire

Dude. Orion Landau rules.If you’ve ever heard a Minsk album, then you know the Chicago post-metal four-piece don’t do anything without it being packed tight. They slam more sounds into their songs than ever on their third full-length (second for Relapse), With Echoes in the Movement of Stone, offering a more varied take on the rich and darkly psychedelic crushing ambience that has become their signature sound over the course of these last several years and albums The Ritual Fires of Abandonment (2007) and Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive (2005).

Change can be felt particularly in the vocals of guitarist Christopher Bennett, who works more than isolated Here they are in 2007. (Photo by Rob Rush)shouting into his arsenal on songs like opener “Three Moons” and later cut “Crescent Mirror.” Timothy Mead‘s keyboard work is also higher in the mix, lending a progressive dynamism to “The Shore of Transcendence,” which at 9:59 and with a plethora of mood and tempo changes, is practically an album in itself. Bassist/vocalist Sanford Parker, who has produced all three of Minsk‘s LPs (as well as records for Pelican when they were good, Yakuza, Nachtmystium and half of the Windy City), outdoes himself in both performance and in capturing the nuances in these songs. The building of tension has never been more confidently accomplished by the band as it is here.

Drummer Tony Wyioming is a big part of that accomplishment, taking his heralded tribal rhythms to new levels of complexity, speed and precision. In “The Shore of Transcendence,” beneath the chanting multi-part vocal harmonies, he makes his home jumping from tom to tom stopping only to crash a cymbal or five and propel the song forward. With Echoes in the Movement of Stone shows more emotional diversity than anything Minsk has done before, as the rumbling, feedbacking undercurrent of “Almira’s Premonition” demonstrates. Less visceral than past outings, but with more depth, the album is a crucial moment for the band and genre alike, definitively stating there’s more to this sound than just pulling a “lather, rinse, repeat” on IsisOceanic or Through Silver in Blood by Neurosis.

Wyioming gets transcendental. (Photo by Rob Rush)“Means to an End” is quieter, shorter and proves that the vocals of Bennett and Parker are now as important to Minsk as the instruments, where in the past they might have been an afterthought. There was clear work done on the singing, and it pays off in the shifts of “Crescent Mirror,” which pays clear homage to Al Cisneros‘ work in Om. An odd-time part leads into an acoustic passage with the fluid ease only possible for a band secure in their craft and “Pisgah” — named for the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina — at 4:07, is the shortest track on With Echoes in the Movement of Stone, but also one of the darkest, with a rigid structure, rougher vocals, stomping drums and a chorus that might be catchy if it wasn’t terrifying.

Since it happens so rarely, a straightforward, driving rhythm like that in “Consumed by Horizons of Fire” is all the more effective for its scarcity, and while the guitar and keys run up and down minor scales in a motion echoing a segment in “The Shore of Transcendence” earlier, Wyioming (whose The Cedars of Lebanon and Gypsy Gypsy Gypsy solo projects are not to be missed) administers another landmark beating. Closer “Requiem: from Substance to Silence” features a violin but makes a doomy start and takes its time unfolding. There are several quiet/loud shifts, most notably the one following a long drums-only minimalist part that creeps into the finale of the album. All 11:18 of the run time is used as Minsk remind once more that they have become an entity unto themselves, comparable only to themselves.

Gorgeous and horrific, With Echoes in the Movement of Stone is the very essence of what heavy metal at its best can achieve. Must-hear doom.

Minsk on MySpace

Relapse Records

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