Album Review: Minx’s “The Cloistered Order” — A Captivating Blend of Tempos and Dynamics
By Jason M. Rubin
Like Thin Lizzy, Minx marries metallic thunder with melodic structures and lyrics worth listening to.
CDs are sent to me to review all the time. Most are sent by labels or publicists. That’s fine; that’s the way an entertainment industry operates. Good press builds awareness, which can lead to sales. But at the same time, and especially in metro Boston and all of Massachusetts, where musicians are everywhere and they’re all trying to make their art—and a buck—artists face an uphill struggle to garner attention. That’s why I like to occasionally review indie recordings from local bands that you might not otherwise learn about or hear.
Minx is a hard rock power trio that recently dropped its second CD, The Cloistered Order, which it will be featuring at a record release party at The Porch restaurant in Medford on Saturday, June 10 at 9 p.m. ($10 cover). Formed six years ago, Minx indeed rocks with power, but anyone assuming their music is just a fast, hard sonic slugfest will be happy to be proven wrong. The band’s influences, according to guitarist/vocalist Colin Dwyer, cover a fairly broad terrain: Judas Priest, Meat Loaf, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Aerosmith, blues, and glam rock. (In fact, Dwyer hosts a weekly blues jam, Sundays from 1-4 p.m., at The Porch, where he churns out potent blues licks that remind one that all the early hard rockers were blues aficionados.)
Dwyer’s comrades in arms are Thomas Lada (bass, piano, organ, background vocals), and Stephen Hart (drums, percussion, background vocals). They make a big sound for a trio, yet what stands out isn’t the volume or the pyrotechnics, it’s the multitude of textures and tempos. Behind the menacing cover art and stage makeup, these guys have technique and taste to spare. Like Thin Lizzy, they marry metallic thunder with melodic structures and lyrics worth listening to.
The Cloistered Order is in fact is a rock-opera-style concept album; the songs—all composed by Dwyer, except one co-written with Tony Savarino, another talented guitarist on the local scene—tell a story colored by inventive arrangements and the band’s versatile musicianship. Dwyer explains the concept:
The rock opera concept ostensibly is a story of a secret society that manipulates the goings on around them. This was inspired by video games, comic books, historical fiction, and some nonfiction books as well. But all of that is just a metaphor for something much more general (and, hopefully, relatable), which is how people act like they have your best interest at heart when nothing could be further from the truth, and how you have to navigate your way past their coercion and bad advice to hopefully come out the other side. Each track is a specific example of those types of scenarios, but the album overall does have a chronology to it, so it is in essence like a linear story.
Clocking in at just over an hour, the 14-song release is a captivating blend of tempos and dynamics that shift not only song by song, but within each tune as well. You’re banging your head one minute and made to think the next. The album opens convincingly, with a churning guitar riff soon supported by the machine-like rhythm section and Dwyer’s muscular vocals. After a couple of verses, the volume drops and a soft solo guitar figure leads to a speedy instrumental section in which each musician plays an essential part. The tempo then shifts on a dime back to the original groove and Dwyer’s solo continues.
That is followed by the short but speedy “Fall Guy,” featuring thundering bass, and one of the album’s highlights, “Native Sunn.” Its stark sparseness reminds one of AC/DC, but then there are unexpected vocal harmonies and in the last minute of the song, it turns into an uptempo country-rock jam! It’s these out-of-left-field musical surprises that make The Cloistered Order such an engaging listen.
A funky bass riff and drum groove opens “(In the Clutches of the) Sirens,” which also features a tempo-changing instrumental section with some jazz guitar chords. Once again, the listener is kept on his toes. “All the Time in the World” is a short solo guitar piece recorded at such low volume that it seems as if it’s coming from another room. Up next is the bluesiest song, “No Time For Livin’,” which features instrumental support from saxophonist Jack Younger, while Lada adds piano.
Other highlights on the disc include the hard-rocking “Knuckle Under,” where the trio is firing on all cylinders; the title track, which opens with acoustic guitar and includes some psychedelic touches before taking off; the super-fast “The Horde,” featuring a riff that sounds like Tony Iommi on speed; the spacey ballad “Ronin;” the Lizzy-ish “Pendulum Swings;” and the nearly eight-minute “Sounding Off,” a sensitive ballad that concludes with a long, Skynyrd-like instrumental jam.
The digital release of The Cloistered Order is available on all streaming platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Bandcamp. Good old-fashioned physical CDs can be ordered from Amazon and CD Baby, as well as at the June 10 record release party.
Jason M. Rubin has been a professional writer for nearly 40 years, more than half of those as senior creative lead at Libretto Inc., a Boston-based strategic communications agency, where he has won awards for his copywriting. He has written for Arts Fuse since 2012. Jason’s first novel, The Grave & The Gay, based on a 17th-century English folk ballad, was published in September 2012. Ancient Tales Newly Told, released in March 2019, includes an updated version of his first novel along with a new work of historical fiction, King of Kings, about King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. His latest book, Villainy Ever After (2022), is a collection of classic fairy tales told from the point of view of the villains. Jason is a member of the New England Indie Authors Collective and holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. jasonmrubin.com.