Minus the Bear
VOIDS


3.5
great

Review

by Sebastian USER (53 Reviews)
March 4th, 2017 | 64 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Minus the Bear release a Minus the Bear record. This is a good thing.

I’m only a recent fan of Minus the Bear. I was far too young when the band reached their peak popularity and creativity, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating both Menos el Oso and Planet of Ice. What I like to refer to as “Plus the Layers”, these two albums are the epitome of Minus the Bear; layers of guitar, vocals, electronics, you name it. Both albums are so beautifully crafted that the landscapes they both paint are just a thought away. But, sadly, the magic founded in both these albums were lost in follow-ups Omni and Infinity Overhead; both albums lacked the finesse that was the main draw for the band, resulting in bland, run of the mill songs with some electronics sprinkled in. And now we reach VOIDS, an album five years in the making. Is it the return to form we all so desperately want, or is it the band finding themselves losing relevancy once more?

In short, MTB have rediscovered some of the magic that was previously thought to have disappeared forever; VOIDS welcomes back the much loved guitar focus, along with a more engrossing vocal performance and tighter song writing. The way the strings push forward opener ‘Last Kiss’ allows for a more open and expansive song, with the vocals of Jake Snider providing a surprising amount of groove to an already, well, groovy song. Though his pair of lungs have never been the standout for the five-piece, they’ve always provided a certain backbone to much of their discography, and this latest outing is no different. The way the chorus picks up by layering his vocals allows for a certain depth their previous two outings lacked. The same can be said for ‘Call The Cops’; his melodic tone fading in and out ever so slightly, dancing around the measured guitar lines.

Speaking of guitars, both Snider and Dave Knudson provide a fantastic, albeit disappointing performance for the 46-minute runtime. It’s not that the guitars are lacking in any specific aspect; if anything, they carry the album in strides, always staying just mellow enough to work their way in without overpowering the other members of the band. The issue, however, lies with the lack of surprise; Planet of Ice created this amazing landscape through purely the guitar work and its ability to work around the rest of the band. However, on VOIDS, the band find themselves drifting off during songs, playing the same riff and never straying too far from it. The best example of this is ‘What About the Boat?’. The song begins to drag only mid-way through, and seems more like a reprieve than an actual complete track. Additionally, the bass line, although never a particularly noticeable asset for the band, lacks depth throughout the runtime to be given a positive comment. Despite this, the album gladly does tend to have a Planet of Ice vibe to it at times; ‘Invisible’ brings back the tapping strings we know and love, and plays a simple but atmospheric electronic line throughout.

And despite a rather tame front end, VOIDS has plenty left to offer on the back end. The slight post-rock tone to ‘Silver’ allows for the guitars to play at their own pace, with the other instrumentals happy to sit back and let the guitars push forward. ‘Robotic Heart’ also provides a nice tempo change for the album, playing a little faster than the previous songs and allows new drummer Kiefer Matthias to show his ability to play just the right tempo without overwhelming both the song and the listener. The most exciting track, however, is the most appreciative of Minus the Bear’s past; ‘Lighthouse’ is the perfect closer and wouldn’t sound out of place on Planet of Ice. The way the track starts slow, and picks up ever so slightly as the song progresses, letting the relaxed vibe of Snider hover over the entire track. And as the song picks up towards the end, it provides a great space for every instrument to close out the album exactly how they want.

Although it may seem worrying that the band’s best tracks on VOIDS are those most similar to their previous efforts, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After a couple of lackluster outings, Minus the Bear combine old with new, and provide an album worth praising for being, well, a Minus the Bear record. The band, despite coming up on nearly fifteen years together, are still top of the game when it comes to guitar-laden, indie-leaning math-rock. And if VOIDS is anything to go by, perhaps the five-piece are still able to pull one out of the metaphorical bag.

Recommended songs: Last Kiss, Invisible, Robotic Heart, Lighthouse



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user ratings (113)
Chart.
3
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Drubbi
March 4th 2017


188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely enjoyed the album, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last we hear of Minus the Bear.

Digging: Emarosa - 131 Reimagined

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 4th 2017


24799 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice job with this review. I have always been a fair-weather Minus the Bear fan so I'm checking this out now.



One small edit: "or is it the band finding themselves lose relevancy once more?" change lose to losing



Also you make pretty liberal use of semicolons, I'd just separate some of them into new sentences.

Digging: St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION

AdolfChrist
March 4th 2017


12164 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Not expecting much but ill check. Nice review.

Digging: Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent

Drubbi
March 4th 2017


188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Sowing yeah I've been trying to move away from semi-colon abuse. I was careful with the Within the Ruins review since that was written after this one, so I fixed it there, but will keep an eye on it, thanks for the feedback.

StarsDie
March 4th 2017


60 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

A smidge better than Infinity Overhead. I can see myself coming back to Silver, Lighthouse and Robotic Heart years from now. But probably not any of the other tracks.

AdolfChrist
March 4th 2017


12164 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

personally id take Infinity Overhead over this.

bloc
March 4th 2017


43457 Comments


Thought this was very bland. I actually liked IO quite a bit too, although I haven't heard it in years.

Digging: Venenum - Trance of Death

lechium3
March 4th 2017


98 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

This album is the definition of a dad album.

Demon of the Fall
March 4th 2017


2386 Comments


Are these guys bad now then? I liked Highly Refined Pirates & Planet of Ice.

Digging: Autechre - LP5

JWT155
March 4th 2017


13561 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

They're not bad, just a band with very little sparks of energy and have been phoning it in for years. Invisible is a great track along with Silver.

StarsDie
March 4th 2017


60 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I can't help but think that if Minus the Bear had never existed and some random band named "The Bears" or something released this album (or any of these last 3 albums) as their debut, people would be much more positive in their views of the actual music being recorded.



But because we have expectations, it gets in the way of truly enjoying it optimally.



I don't like that much indie rock, and I'm very very picky on the kind of rock music I listen to. And this band ends up constantly releasing stuff that I enjoy at least to a degree. So I think they're good, and this album is good.



But because they teased everyone as being the next prog rock gods with lots of tapping and technical guitar playing, only to ditch a good amount of it for more pop-oriented playing... It's hard for them to do anything other than disappoint their core fanbase.

SnakeDelilah
March 4th 2017


19820 Comments


congrats on the feature

pos

Digging: Petal - Comfort

AdolfChrist
March 4th 2017


12164 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

for them to be prog rock gods, they would have to play prog rock.

EyesWideShut
March 4th 2017


4522 Comments


yawn

0GuyMan0
March 4th 2017


861 Comments


Yawn / Blah / Boring is exactly how they have sounded since Planet of Ice. Just uninspired. Uninteresting.

Shame.

PickleVai17
March 5th 2017


194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A little bit more of a pop vibe in my opinion but its still very good. Not planet of ice status though. I dont think theyll ever top that album.

Crawl
March 6th 2017


2336 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Only heard this one and the previous one and I seem to like this one a bit more. Will give it a few more spins for sure, Invisible is catchy as hell.

jtswope
March 7th 2017


5603 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Better than Infinity Overhead.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
March 7th 2017


19013 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

slightly ya

AdolfChrist
March 7th 2017


12164 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@crawl you really need to jam their first 3. The last three aint shit compared to those.



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