Nathan Lawr, leader of Canadian 12-piece Minaotaurs has downplayed his band’s new album as “political”, but it is hard not to feel energized and a need to be active by New Believers. The messages are often hidden between a diverse mix of brass, guitar riffs and keys, but easily evoked after repeat listens.
While Minotaurs truly have a unique sound, for comparison sake, New Believers comes off like a cross between the eclectic progressive rock nature and brass of Umphrey’s McGee with the harmonies of Local Natives. A quick scan of the other instruments included on the album are vibraphone, organ, synth, and multiple saxophones to name a few. No wonder each song has a rich sound that could fill a city square. The opening and title track utilizes boisterous horns to set the mood while serving as a call and response for Lowr’s omen-filled chants of “there will be new believers in good time”. Later, Lawr’s soothing vocals meld perfectly with Sarah Harmer on “Open The Doors”. The upbeat groove with paced keys and a cascading baseline matches the defensive nature of the tale. Top track “Flashbulb” serves almost as a musical audiobook as fully-toned horns give a sense of urgency as Lowr details a tragic accident like a reporter.
Only one song surpasses the 5 minute mark, but Minotaurs aren’t afraid to jam featuring multiple occasions (“Make Some Noise”, “Strange Fire”) where they give instrumentation it’s proper due. While most of the time, the brass creates a joyful atmosphere, Minotaurs also use swelling effects to darken the mood. “Windchimes In The Evening” features haunting brass and Danger Mouse-like deep keys that could easily soundtrack the next Walking Dead episode before venturing into psych rock and distortion. “Sharper Knife” opens with blasting brass and as Lowr references “white knuckles” and a mysterious feel “you can’t see” while guitar riffs escalate to a breaking point.
New Believers is an excellent lesson in balancing narration with letting the music do the talking. Lyrics have their place on the album to rally and evoke emotion, but the expansive instrumentation tells a persuasive portion of the story. It’s up to the listener to decide if the message is enough to move them toward action.