Minus the Bear return with its fifth full-length album for 2012. Infinity Overhead offers ten new songs and a glimpse into the future and maturation of the band as it begins another new journey, and listeners can sit back in awe as it all unfolds again.
Both “Diamond Lightning” and “Steel and Blood” — which the band has already composed a music video for — are the album’s first two singles. The music video and lyrics for “Steel and Blood” evoke a dark feeling as the song presumably details a dysfunctional relationship. Paired with “Lies and Eyes,” the introductory tracks set the newfound tone early. “Lonely Gun” also found its way to the scene before the album’s release, giving a mixed first impression of what was to come.
Though these three songs have already surfaced, the band has kept secret enough of the album to surprise listeners. The cadence takes a turn with “Toska,” its upbeat rhythm encouraging listeners to dance once again. “Listing,” with its lighter feel, is a song to listen to on vacation. “Empty Party Rooms” inherits the same feeling as frontman Jake Snider’s mellow sound emanates a relaxed and content setting, and with this the band can finally break free from the skepticism surrounding 2010’s “Omni” — which produced dubious feelings about a possibly flaky and aging Bear.
Venturing into the quietly attractive “Diamond Lightning” summons a thunderstorm of sound: It rolls in gently, builds intensity and leads to a rhythmic rumble just after the midpoint. Snider, with a comfortable tone and satisfyingly hypnotic effect, belts out the song’s name in one blaring, resonant moment, and a dancing rain of lingering guitars and crashing cymbals follows. A captivating use of both symphony and silence is to be admired, but more importantly this song shows the band’s strength as musicians — and the ability to create a masterpiece of a song.
The use of keyboards is enhanced throughout and perhaps more organized than on any other album, but it seems excessive at times. An otherwise mellifluous sounding “Toska,” with its inside-out, free-flowing guitars and polished melodies, is interrupted by a keyboard riff that by comparison is dull and repetitive considering the song’s potential. And not much has changed in Snider’s vocals — but that is a good thing. It can feel controlled and serene in tracks like “Heaven Is a Ghost Town” and powerfully alive in the demanding “Cold Company.” Paired with guitarist Dave Knudson’s contribution, the album possesses a sharp sense of sophistication, but not so much to say that all experimentation has been compromised — a dichotomy that Minus the Bear balances strategically with each new release.
There is certainly a different feel toward the ending of “Infinity Overhead” and the sound exits with anything but a dull note on the closing track “Cold Company,” which contains lively, aggressive vocals and a heavy sound. Minus the Bear constantly deliver on closing tracks, and it is no different this time around. Knudson again provides an entertaining listen with intricate guitar tones woven throughout, bearing sometimes wild sounding solos and sensational riffs.
Overall the band has chiseled all of its joyful subtleties — Snider’s simple yet inspiring delivery accompanied by harmonized supporting vocals; the outstanding sounds emitted from electric strings and keyboard; and soulfully covert bass lines under solidified, precise percussion — into a sculpture of unchained music. The result is a powerfully calming and contagious sound; something that the band seems to craft fluently with each new release. It is Minus the Bear as fans have come to know. It is Minus the Bear at its most refined.