Minsk - With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone
Relapse Records
Atmospheric Doom, Post-Sludge
8 songs (1:03:03)
Release year: 2009
Minsk, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Goat

One of those bands which I've been meaning to check out for a good long time, Minsk actually released their third album back in May 2009, and listening to With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone now eight months later I feel rather silly for having left them this long. The four-piece hail from Illinois, and play a sort of atmospheric Doom/Sludge heavily influenced by Neurosis' tribal stomp, but the band (which includes Buried At Sea/Nachtmystium's Sanford Parker on bass) have a heavy Progressive Doom element to their sound too, and the union makes for an interesting sound. This is certainly aimed at the Cult Of Luna crowd, those who love ten-minute build-and-release epics, and whilst they never quite launch into the psychotic rage of the Swedes' heaviest moments Minsk are more than skilful at creating the sort of hypnotic and psychedelic slabs of Doom so pleasant to space out to.

Of course, the trouble with this sort of music is that it presupposes time and patience on the part of the listener, but assuming you have plenty of both there's little reason that you won't quickly become swallowed by the band's mystical sound. The progressive elements are really put to work, as songs are diverse and intelligent, giving the instruments room to breathe but never becoming boring or irritating, as some of the lesser examples of Post-Sludge are all too capable of. Take Almitra's Premonition for an example, the ten-minute track a real musical journey that stops for some stoner groove towards the middle before turning its gaze to the skies as the song's instrumental second half takes a trip into space. Moments like Means To An End are pleasant interludes as much as songs, vocalist and keyboardist Tim Mead given the chance to practise his conga drums whilst the rest of the band jam softly - if it reminds me of anything, it's the wonderful Negură Bunget and their trips into shamanistic haze - except where the Black Metallers go soaring over the mountains and forests of their native Romania, Minsk seem to travel far back in time, never dipping into sub-Sepultura nonsense but creating a lush soundscape that feels perfectly natural. The comparison I find myself drawn to most often is actually a combination of Dead Can Dance and Melvins; an odd, but strangely fitting pair.

Sludge being Sludge, it's not all niceness, and so Crescent Mirror's ominous heaviness soon arrives to wake up the ones who nodded off during previous, lighter moments. I like that the band mostly avoid the roars and grunts of others in favour of this gritty-yet-more-or-less-clean vocal approach - the lasting impression is that of a more dense and experimental Mastodon, and With Echoes... is certainly more interesting than Crack The Skye in terms of what it tries to do and the extent to which it succeeds. Fans of that ever-so-slightly overrated heavyweight are sure to enjoy Minsk for their vision and ability alone, although the sheer intensity of clattering invocation Pisgah may cause sweat on a few tattooed brows. There's a realness to the likes of Consumed By Horizons, a physical and organic atmosphere which makes the music seem like an epic journey through the rainforest, guitars there for weight and volume as much as riffs - which is completely and utterly a good thing, I can assure you. If you enjoyed Karl Sanders' solo trips into Ancient Egypt, then this is actually a good recommendation as, although the Middle-Eastern elements are absent, the feeling of journeying through a foreign land are very much present, especially in the mostly near-ambient Requiem From Substance To Silence.

With Echoes... is a remarkable find for me, in that the personal effect of the album has been a real surprise. It's actually excellent music to have on whilst reading, the rise and fall of the music hypnotic even when half-concentrated upon, but closed eyes and headphones really bring tracks like The Shore Of Transcendence to life. There's little to criticise, the production being great and the album flows wonderfully, tracks fitting next to each other as close as is possible without actually flowing into each other. I'm more than pleased that I took this leap into Minsk's world and will certainly be giving the band's other two albums a good go in the future, but for the moment With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone will be receiving listens for a while, and has actually earned itself a late spot in my end-of-year list. Minsk are far more than mere clones of the Neur-Isis sound, and deserve attention from all who enjoy an atmospheric wallop with their Sludgy wallowing.

MySpace
Killing Songs :
The Shore Of Transcendence, Almitra's Premonition, Crescent Mirror, Consumed By Horizons, Requiem From Substance To Silence
Goat quoted 88 / 100
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