By Laina Dawes
After months of listening to vocalists whose penchant for grunts, shrieks, and tortured groans led me to wonder if my straining to comprehend their lyrics was perhaps a fruitless and unnecessary pursuit – and doubting the time and effort it took in doing so –Minsk’s latest offering, With Echoes in the Movement of Stone appeared in the mail. Adorned in imaginary ribbons and bows, butterflies and sunshine (okay, that’s a bit of a stretch) the atmospheric yet doom-laden disc was surprisingly invigorating and a welcome respite.
Unfortunately, there are only a few metal bands that in addition to writing lyrics that create a story that serves as narration for the album’s overall theme, also provide a visual landscape for the listener. Interwoven through all of Minsk’s albums are underlying themes of survival, perseverance and a triumph over physical, societal and /or personal challenges, but instead of a Rollins-style “DIY or you’re a pussy” self-help ethos, Minsk provides an introspective narrative that investigates the feelings of frustration, loss, and perhaps finally, redemption.
The Peoria / Chicago-based quartet begins their third full-length with the post-apocalyptic “Three Moons” and guitarist / vocalist Christopher Bennett is standing on top of a mountain, overlooking the ruins of a charred city, but when he exuberantly proclaims “we will dive into vast unknowns” he is filled with confidence that despite their travails, they will make it through. This introduction to With Echoes not only sets the pace for the rest of the album that this is going to be an enjoyable sprint to the finish. Bennett’s trademark boisterous shout rides on top of drummer Tony Wyioming’s tribal drumming that provides a solid base for his flurry of precision and lightening percussion, matching the heaviness of Bennett’s. Fellow guitarist Timothy Mead’s rapid guitar riffage and blackened-monotone vocals, heard in the ominous, yet melodic chorus also mark a significant change, as the quartet seems to have raised the mix of their vocals than in their previous offerings.
After their full-length debut, 2005’s Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead or Alive, Sanford Parker joined as a bassist / vocalist, in addition to continuing his production duties (he recently produced Lord Mantis’s most excellent Spawning the Nephilim and previously worked with Nachtmystium, Pelican and Yakuza). His presence is felt by the obvious care in making the textures ‘pop’ – from the gentle application of dense and textured sounds – sometimes with simply a slight, delicate touch of electronic sampling or with a prolonged sense of tension-filled silence – is most felt on “Consumed By Horizons of Fire” and “Requiem From Substance to Silence” which satisfyingly concludes the 8-track mini-opus. There is a delicious urgency in With Echoes in the Movement and Stone, but through this urgency Minsk sees the future, and the future is bright.