Minor Stars: Through Pinholes in the Sky
[Self-released; Oct. 25]
Release show: Saturday, Oct. 26,
9 p.m., Local 506
With the release of its 2010 debut, The Death of the Sun in the Silver Sea, the Chapel Hill psych-rock band Minor Stars had its sights set on big stages and a career playing rock music. But soon after the album’s release, the original lineup shifted, with new recruits—drummer Iain Watt and bassist Joe Mazzitelli—stepping in to keep the group rolling, before life interrupted in other ways, too. Nine years later, Minor Stars is looking for a second chance with Through Pinholes in the Sky. “This record almost didn’t get made,” the band says in its press materials. “Death, loss, and mundane everyday life all conspired against its completion.”
The disillusionment of false starts and setbacks is palpable in the first lines of the opening track, “So Many Years Ago.” “Time is not on our side anymore,” Eric Wallen sings. “What was once open road is another detour. Now it’s dark and I don’t know the way.”
But that disillusionment, combined with a defiant tenacity, propels the band’s delayed follow-up to the musical heights its predecessor aspired to reach.
Minor Stars has always had a knack for layering pop melodies on heavy riffs that showed off its Black Sabbath roots. On songs like “Cavepainter,” they prove they haven’t lost heft, with a fuzz-dragging riff that feels akin to Swedish doomsters Monolord.
But Pinholes also pushes the band’s stadium-rock influences into the foreground. Lead single “As You Climb from Your Bed,” soars with guitar vamps that sound more like Brian May than Tony Iommi, while Wallen declares, “The sun has finally broken through the dark clouds hanging over you.”
Throughout, the band shifts easily from heavy grit to airy, crystalline pop, suggesting the ethos of heavy-rock shapeshifters like Birds of Avalon or Boris and never settling into a one-dimensional groove. In this fusion of indie-pop and vintage hard rock, heavy psych, and hazy shoegaze, Minor Stars successfully avoids an easy RIYL tag. It’s telling that the band has drawn comparisons as disparate as The Melvins, T. Rex, Mastodon, and Dinosaur Jr.—all powerful guitar-centric bands, but each fundamentally different.
Even the band’s decision to record with indie-rock impresario Mitch Easter (Polvo, R.E.M., Pavement) plays against heavy-rock clichés. In the sessions with Easter, spread over four years, Minor Stars summoned a powerful album shaded by heavy metal and heavy circumstances but girded by irrepressible determination. It feels less like a comeback than a fresh start.
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