Silver Mount Zion Orchestra – 13 Blues for 13 Moons (CST Records) Eric Nielsen 4.8.8
This disc grabbed me and I listened to it over and over until I nearly burned out on the intensity and the passion. The artwork and packaging are stellar and really make you want to open the disc and listen to this very spiritual album. This group has a few members from Godspeed You Black Emperor! and it has much of the same instrumentation as the Godspeed discs. The music has many similarities and the listener travels some of the same paths. You can really hear the strings and the orchestral layered sounds. The music relies on the low-end strings – bow on bass or cello while the guitar sits mostly in the back of the mix. The double bass on this album fucking kicks ass!
The singing is great; it’s raw, repetitive, mantra like enchantment beguiles the listen into magic forming alchemy. The voice is upfront and in a register that demands attention and persists in importance. The back up vocals and chants are equally as impressive.
The album is mastered to run through the first 12 songs in 30 seconds of uninterrupted feedback. Song breaks, dynamics, and the consistent tone of the front vocals hide the fact this disc is but four 13-15 minute songs, the first beginning on track 13 to compliment the album’s title.
At the end of the first song, instruments drop minimally – vocals painfully chant white light with a tint of the occult and whispers. The trance breaks for the next song, which hits rather than builds. “Song title” sets the table for a long movement, the orchestra depicting a sustained tension that rarely lets up.
The only criticism I have of the album is that the vocals, while incredibly powerful, sit in the same range and can become monotonous. Though, I love the lyrics and almost all of the singing. “…one million died to make this sound” in a white light chant, floating on a loop that almost becomes bothersome in its long sustained adrenaline, until the trance takes hold.
The album builds and builds walls of sound (like Godspeed) in long orchestral pieces that are tense, dramatic and keep you on the edge of your seat. You can visualize the conductor whipping up the froth on the players for the audience. The songs are best when not led by the guitar.
This disc reminds me of the best of the 90’s in SD, the Chune and Clikitat Ikatowi noise and passion married to that Canadian over the top notion of giant orchestra meets rock and roll in a messy, feedback driven full body and sound experience. A new world, that while cranked on your loud stereo with eyes closed can drive you to action!