Minus the Bear returns with cohesive fifth album

Minus the Bear is back, and in solid fashion.

The five-piece Seattle rock band, known for their spacey electronic rock riffs, complex time signatures and sprawling guitar loops, recently released their fifth album, “Infinity Overhead,” on Aug. 28.

Since their 2002 debut LP release, “Highly Refined Pirates,” Minus the Bear has rapidly gained a generous following of listeners, mostly due to word of mouth and heavy touring. With their recent release, the band continues to push the rock music envelope with their expansive, technology driven sound.

Comprised of Jake Snider (vocals and guitar), Dave Knudson (lead guitar), Cory Murchy (bass), Alex Rose (synths, backing vocals), and Erin Tate (drums), Minus the Bear has captivated their audience with a palette of songs as diverse as their very sound.

Ranging from hard-hitting alt/metal jams (“Michio’s Death Drive,” “Drilling,” “Knights”) to smooth, melodic ballads (“We Are Not a Football Team,” “Hooray,” “White Mystery,” “Excuses”), the band has a song to offer for any mood.

Minus the Bear’s second and third LP’s, “Menos El Oso” (2005) and “Planet of Ice” (2007) put the band on the map as alternative rock’s new heroes. Sometimes coined as having a “math-rock” sound due to unpredictable beat patterns and oddly placed refrains between verses.

“Planet of Ice” picked up where “Menos” left off by adding new dimensions to the band’s still unpredictable sound. On “Planet,” Minus the Bear relied more heavily on synthesizers to create an exploratory and spacey quality to their songs. The rugged, raw, and adventurous instrumentationbecame more polished and exact.

After Leaving Suicide Squeeze Records following their first three albums and being signed by Dangerbird Records in 2010, Minus the Bear’s 2010 release, “Omni,” delivered an even more synth-based sound. If the band ever wandered off course, it happened here.

Now, the band has jumped back on course with “Infinity Overhead.” Some poppy synth tones still exist, but the wild experimental sound that Minus the Bear is known for is drizzled tastefully throughout the record.

Right off the bat, the album’s opening track, “Steel and Blood” smacks you in the face with a hard, repeating guitar riff that explodes into a tasteful blend of harmony, deep bass, fuzzed synth tones, and off-balance drumming.

The track’s last lyric “over with the silence” fades out and blends naturally into another blasting tune, “Lies and Eyes.”

Knudson is back to form and shreds a guitar solo that soars over another dark riff delivered from Snider’s guitar.

Head-banging is a certainty and the solo ends with more guitar shrills that weave in and out between a confident bass line and stellar drumming.

The album’s fourth track, “Toska,” adds some new flavor by incorporating orchestral sounds behind a boppin’ guitar loop and walking bass.

The chorus feels like a free fall as the bass beat lengthens and the clean effect on both guitars being stuck in unison are magnificent. The seventh track, “Empty Party Rooms,” is the smoothest sound I’ve heard from the band in years.

The eighth track, “Zeros,” opens with that signature staggered guitar chord progression as so many of the tunes did from Minus the Bear’s earlier records.

This song could easily be tucked in the middle of any of these records and still give off that natural, explorative feel.

This song dissolves into the ninth track, “Lonely Gun,” a poppy, synth-backed tune with an aggressive feel and distorted guitar effects.

A mellow chorus and slowed dance backbeat makes this track the most similar to the softer sounds present on Omni, but with hints of a darker synth effect that could be heard on any Daft Punk recording.

One quality holds true with Minus the Bear; they always seem to save the best track for last. The tenth and closing song, “Cold Company,” is by far the hardest and most obscure on the record.

Crazy guitar loops meander through incredible, galactic sounds spewing from Alex Rose’s synthesizer.

This song pounds and screams, but is much more polished than previous Minus the Bear work, which makes me want to believe the band came across this song after misplacing it during the “Planet of Ice” recordings.

Overall, “Infinity Overhead” is a very cohesive record. With influences from all four previous albums scattered throughout, it leaves the listener with a musical portrait that is filled with hues of old and new elements from the band, creating a very collective and artistic feel.

Sure, this is no “Menos El Oso” or “Planet Of Ice,” but what is here is fresh, and paves a solid path for the band’s promising road ahead.

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