Minus The Bear "Planet of Ice" Review

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on August 22nd, 2007.

Is the bear named minus, or is a bear being subtracted from something? We may never know. But regardless of meaningless name origins, these Seattle natives have made the best record of their career, and possibly the year.

Simply put, “Planet of Ice” is epic. Monstrously epic. Even the album’s title and album cover are indicative of this. Full of angular guitar riffs, low-key vocals, constantly changing time signatures and 70’s style synthesizers, Minus The Bear has taken what made their previous records so great, improved upon it, and then multiplied it by 10.

Not only does this record have a much larger scale than previous releases, but it’s also far more mature. Gone are the ridiculous song titles and awkward sound effects that littered previous releases.

Each of the band members are Seattle-scene veterans. Guitarist Dave Knudson played with metal-core legends Botch, vocalist Jake Snyder held the mic for Sharks Keep Moving and drummer Erin Tate played for Kill Sadie. Though impressive, their past accomplishments are a bit irrelevant because at this point, Minus The Bear is obviously it’s own unique thing.

This is the band’s first album without keyboardist Matt Bayles (Bayles still produces the disc), though his absence is hardly noticed. Bayles left the band last year to focus full time on producing. Bayles’s replacement, Alex Rose, brings in more of a focus on synthesizers that blend perfectly with Knudson’s guitar taps. Rose’s presence is most noticeable on the monstrous “Lotus.”

While the vocals aren’t exactly at the forefront on this record, they certainly aren’t in the background either. Snyder sings about everything from one of his (seemingly) numerous sexual encounters (”Throwin’ Shapes”) to his reluctance to join the corporate world (”Dr. L’lling”) all in his usual laid back style.

The songs on “Planet of Ice” run together to form one long journey, yet still manage to have their own unique identities. The driving opener “Burying Luck” serves as a perfect introduction and gives the listener a good idea of what’s in store with the rest of the album. “Ice Monster” starts off slow, but eventually builds up to a hand-clap breakdown as Snyder sings “It’s come to this,” over and over that’s almost impossible to not clap and sing along with. The 7-minute “Dr. L’lling” serves as the record’s centerpiece and is where guitarist Knudson really shines. This song features more riffage than any other Minus The Bear song to date, and would be killer on Guitar Hero. And finally, the closer “Lotus” features a nearly 9-minute running time and crosses into 70’s prog territory yet never gets too indulgent . While not catchy in the traditional pop sense, these songs will almost undoubtedly get stuck in your head.