Review Summary: This album brings new elements to the Minus the Bear sound while still maintaining their fun, catchy sound.
I’m going to be ignorant for a second here. I know Minus the Bear’s name came from an inside joke between the band, but let’s be serious for once in our lives, because Minus the Bear mean business on Planet of Ice. What would Minus the Bear be if they added “the bear” into the equation? In mythology, the bear represents strength, seriousness, and bravery. Planet of Ice
embodies all of these components and finds the band truly evolving into a sound that finds their hardcore roots coming out in more and more subtle ways. If all their previous releases were The Big Dipper, then Planet of Ice
is Ursa Major. Want proof of the band’s newfound earnestness? Look at the song titles. Gone are “I’m Totally Not Down with Rob’s Alien” and “This Ain’t A Surfin Movie!” Instead, we have “Knights” and “When We Escape.” The album title is a change of pace for the band, the ones who previously released They Make Beer Commercials Like This
and This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic
. Even the album cover looks much more meaningful and imposing.
Still, at its core, Planet of Ice
is the same as every other Minus the Bear record - infectious grooves, two handed guitar tapping, and catchy riffs. Often times, the lyrics refer to sex blatantly, with lines like “I need to feel your body moving on me.” However, other things have changed and all for the better. Obviously, the band hired new keyboardist Alex Rose in place of their original member, Matt Bayles, who left to focus on a producing career. He stayed around, fittingly, to produce Planet of Ice
. Rose makes a better keyboardist, with much more varied styles and tones. At times, he sounds jazzy and makes a whole different atmosphere for their ballads like “White Mystery” while in others he makes the main melodic core of the song like in “Knights.” Sometimes, he simply plays accompaniment for the rest of the band, such as “When We Escape.” Whatever role Rose finds himself in, he plays brilliantly. Vocalist Jake Snider also finds a change, or maybe more fittingly, an evolution. His singing is much more confident and powerful on the album compared to his previous work. When he belts out “What’ve you done?” on opening track “Burying Luck,” he sounds so much more mature. His performance throughout the album is perfect, staying calm when needed but giving a whole new dynamic to his vocal range.
Everything else is just Minus the Bear taken to a whole new level. The guitar work is faster and more virtuosic than ever. In the middle of “Knights”, the song breaks into one of the simplest but coolest riffs on the album broken up by five seconds of serious shredding, for lack of a better word. This makes a reappearance at the end of “Lotus” (excluding the hidden track) as the band jams into washy ambience that transitions to the aforementioned hidden song, a dreamy keyboard-led jam. “When We Escape” features an instrumental chorus of distortion and heavy drums that plays a foil to the organ-backed verses, and even they have great guitar work. Snider and lead guitarist Dave Knudson utilize interplay better than ever. Yet even they push their limits on “Part 2”, which brings acoustic guitar to the table in a more dynamic, varied song than the band has ever done to this point. The song slowly transitions from acoustic guitar to a huge wall of sound as if nothing happened. Although they have never done anything like this before, Minus the Bear executes perfectly, as goes for nearly the entire album.
If Planet of Ice
possesses a weak track, it would be “Throwin’ Shapes” simply because it offers nothing new to the table. It sounds much more like a Menos El Oso
song than a Planet of Ice
song. This album brings new elements to the Minus the Bear sound while still maintaining their fun, catchy sound displayed on their other albums. The droning ambience found on “Dr L’ling” and “Lotus” makes the album sound much more epic than normal and works to connect it together. Each song has a sense of growth throughout it, from the cutesy melodies in “Ice Monster” that become huge, powerful guitar strums by its end or the perfect progression of “Dr L’ling” and “Part 2.” This is what the band can do when they sit down and really think about their album. It is easily one the band’s best album and possibly the best album of the year.