Review Summary: Continuing in their own path, as they always have, Minsk proves themselves to still be a force to be reckoned with in the modern post-metal scene.
Is it cliche to open up a post-rock/metal album talking about the state of the subgenre" Maybe, but indulge me. It's true that writers love to either lament that post has gotten stale, or lament that other writers are lamenting that post has gotten stale, but it's not hard to understand why. Any genre that's built upon transcending its style is going to run into grumpy fans as the years go by and the sound solidifies into its own trappings. But that's judging it on terms other than the music itself, which is as strong as it's ever been, even if it's significantly less fresh than it may have been ten or fifteen years ago.
That brings us to Minsk, a band who has been kicking around for over a decade now and who burst onto the scene with Out of a Center Which Is Neither Dead nor Alive, making a name for themselves with a unique blend of post, doom, and tribal elements. The first two make up the lion's share of Minsk's sound, with the tribal influence acting more as spice to the meaty, riffy heaviness to separate them from the league of bands around them. After dropping three excellent albums, the band went on hiatus, only to return in grand fashion with The Crash and the Draw, an album as big and powerful as anything else they've done.
First of all, The Crash is a big album in terms of length. Clocking in at over seventy-five minutes with an opener and closer that are each over ten, this isn't something to put on during a drive to the grocery store or while you're walking the dog. Constructed like a symphony more than a collection of tracks, songs weave into each other, making the album a true album experience. Even in the realm of post this has become somewhat of a rare feat, where bands are often more interested in making distinct long tracks that each follow the same progressions but lack cohesion from one to the next.
Second of all, it's big in terms of sound. From the massive production to the monolithic compositions, The Crash screams epic from the onset. Opener To the Initiate sets the mood, starting with a slow, ambient intro before an enormous stomp of a riff kicks in, followed by Minsk's signature tom-heavy drum riffage (yes, you can use "riff" for drums as well). The vocals at this point are ethereal, dreamlike and heavily layered. A moment later they explode into deep, throaty howls and the song kicks into double time, shifting and changing several times for the remainder of its playtime. A whole album's worth of progression and songcraft is packed into those dozen minutes, and the album still has an hour to go.
As is often the case with post and doom metal, technical wizardry isn't the focus so much as textures and layering, the execution of individual notes over necessarily what those notes are. You'll be hard pressed to clearly remember too many riffs out of The Crash, though each one is plenty groovy and heavy. This isn't necessarily bad, but it can leave the listener leaving the album remembering how they felt about the songs, but not quite what those songs sounded like. One exception, oddly enough, is the shortest track on the album, To You There is no End. At under three minutes, with no vocals and almost nothing but furious drums, the frenzy and urgency of that track as it led into the next was enough to warrant several repeats, at least for me. Finally, the album finishes with When the Walls Fell, the most melodic of the lot and an album highlight, one of the sections of The Crash that will etch itself firmly in your memory. It's always a joy when a band has their strongest track at the end, because it gives you a reason to listen in full and leaves you with a good taste in your mouth. Would that more bands could learn this lesson rather than ending with a by-the-numbers ambient track.
Aside from having a completely throwaway ambient track in the middle, the chiefest complaint of The Crash is, perhaps, its lack of truly standout features, at least amongst Minsk's own discography. Yes, it's heavy, it's epic, those tribal drums are delicious and each song is that kind of "eyes rolling into the back of your head as you headbang in a trance" way, but is it an experience you can't get from their others" Maybe not, but I don't see this as a negative. The sound, from front to back, is undeniably Minsk. You will not mistake Minsk for any other band, and even a simple continuation and refinement of that sound is more than worthy of a place in anyone's collection. The Crash is everything Minsk has built up to this point, made bigger and meaner, and that's all it needs to be.