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A Silver Mt. Zion - 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons CD (album) cover


A Silver Mt. Zion

Post Rock/Math rock

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4 stars This album is definitely A Silver Mt. Zion's best work to date. The album is a lot more riff and beat oriented than their previous ones which is probably due to the fact that they got a new drummer, but the newish style doesn't harm the quality or detract from the fact that it is still the same band. The songs all have interesting lyrics, the best of any of their albums and flow extremely well from part to part and song to song. This album just has a great visceral feeling it gives off every time I listen to it that is very hard to describe, but it makes you want to listen to it again once its done. The highlight, in my opinion, is 1,000,000 died to make this sound because of its awesome riffs and eerie chantings. A must for post-rock fans and people looking for something different (that goes for all A Silver Mt. Zion's works)

4.5 stars

Report this review (#159573)
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Album of the year already?

After binging on this album for two straight weeks, I am still astonished that A Silver Mt. Zion managed to exceed my expectations. This album is incredibly focused and beautifully crafted; well worth the wait.

The start on the 13th track seems a bit gimmicky to me and not that original (see Ayreon's THE), but it's not a huge detractor. 1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound starts the album off with a hypnotically repetitive vocal line that is joined in different harmonies by the other members of ASMZ. As soon as Efrim joins in (he's unmistakable), the track really takes off into a much more urgent ride. The strings are noticeably more complex, and Efrim's vocals are excellent as usual. The title track, 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons is one of the standouts on the album and continually strong throughout its 16+ minutes. Black Waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues is IMO the weakest track on the album (although that is only slightly). The track seeps into a tired repetition at points, but does have its bright spots. Blindblindblind is the track I had been waiting for over two years. It is the gorgeous culmination of ASMZ's brilliance, and has kept me enthralled every time I hear it. The brilliant lyrics, excellent vocals, gentle buildup, and glorious finale are everything I love about A Silver Mt. Zion. The perfect way to close an album.

Some final impressions.

While I would refrain from placing the best album yet tag on this, I do believe it can be considered in the same echelon as Born Into Trouble and Horses In The Sky. The album is a stunning success with a flavor all its own. 13 Blues is undeniably rawer, at times truly sounding like one of Godspeed's apocalypse soundtracks. The added distortion is augmented by excellent string work, and Efrim's new delivery. I would liken his current style to Shane MacGowan without the Irish drawl. They are not necessarily punk, but they certainly have a swagger that exudes the confidence some of his earlier vocals lack.

The most defining change on the album IMO are the lyrics. Efrim is one of my favorite lyricists of all time, and though his brilliance continues on this album, the lyrics are decidedly different. ASMZ used to embody a vision (at times anarchic), a hope for the future and belief in the saving qualities of the human race that I adored. The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes asked us when we finally cross the barriers with the angels on our side, when we finally deny all the popular lies, how will it feel?. This hope has slowly faded to a mourning for what could have been. A verse in Blindblindblind really struck me, We want punks in the palace, cause punks got the loveliest dreams. A Silver Mt. Zion used to be those punks; they used to have those dreams. But now that vision has faded to a morose, at times nihilistic, view of the world.

And I guess, as selfish as it is, that is what takes the lone star off of this album, that the dream I loved has died.

Report this review (#160702)
Posted Sunday, February 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars BRILLIANT experimental post rock album. They finally put the connection with Godspeed! behind them and realized no one can do what godspeed does better than them. they found their own sound on this album and it is unique haunting and beautiful all at once. highly recommended.
Report this review (#161909)
Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars First collab to write a review on this album, and the second to write a negative one? Yikes!

Well, for those of you who know me well enough on the forums, it takes me forever to write a review on any album that I get, so you're probably thinking; why is he reviewing the album so early on? Well, it's because there are only three real songs, and all of them are extremely straightforward, and predictable. I feel I'm giving this album an unfair rating, cause this was my first with a silver mount Zion, and I must admit my hopes were high for the former members of Godspeed you!black emperor, I was disappointed.

The first twelve tracks are all between four and seven second of noise, and generally, I thinks it's a great, and fun idea, typical of the progressive spirit. Then track number thirteen comes on, one million died to make this sound. I was really excited to hear Efrims voice for the first time, I was told it was haunting, and even tear jerking, once again I was a bit disappointed, but after a couple more listens, I understand why it gets all of it's praise (especially after hearing horses in the sky), it goes beautifully with the primal/muddy electrics in the background. On this album though, I feel the vocals and music don't really melt together like should, at least until the last song, but I'll get to that later. Anyways, after a couple of minutes of wailing, the strings come in with a memorable riff, then the whole group comes in with a very energetic ans exciting feel, screaming one million died to make this sound. At first I was absolutely blown away, and thought that the former members of godspeed, maybe didn't make a bad choice of leaving. ***ten minutes pass*** OKAY, YOU'VE BEEN SINGING AND PLAYING THE SAME F*CKING THING FOREVER MOVE ON!!! Honestly, a poor kid like me can only take so much muddy guitar riffing, and punk rock wailing for so long. I was thanking God when the song finally climbed down to some simple chanting, I mean I was SERIOUSLY thankful.

Well, the next song is basically the same thing for me, the song structure is horrible and annoying, and Efrims voice is just too much to handle after so long. Not only that, but the song thirteen blues for thirteen moons contains one of my least favorite lyrical subjects ever spawned: politics! So usually I just cant take anymore, and just skip to the next song on the album, also the most listenable, also the last. This song is honestly what saves the album from being a one star, with a feeling of depression while the strings are creating havoc as background noise, Efrims voice and guitar caress through the madness at a very calm and... Godspeedish pace. The first time I listened to the album, I replayed the song twice, just because I was trying to pull something positive from the band, and thankfully I did.

Really, the political aspect of Horses in the sky doesnt really bother me too much, but thirteen blues for thirteen moons was uneven, and concentrated more on the lyrics more than the music, which is good for some serious lyrical bands, with amazing singers. This is not the case for this band, I felt completely overwhelmed by the vocals, and I was ready for some musical relief, instead my head was rammed into the mental wall that is angry lyrics, and underprivileged music. Maybe with time to appreciate the way a silver mount Zion attacks they're music, the alum will grow on me, and I will edit. Until then, 2 stars.

Report this review (#161989)
Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars *Anyone who reads the following review will notice that it doesn't agree with the star rating. Trust the rating if you're willing to listen to this album more than three times even if you don't like it any of the times. Trust the review if you aren't or absolutely hate Efrim's vocals and refuse to get used to them.*

Somebody stop Efrim! He is on the loose and he is lethal! Apparently nobody has convinced this group that they have terrible vocals, because each subsequent album boasts more of them. And boy, do they boast them! At least Isis knows their vocals are weak and so they bury them in the mix. This is such a shame, because musically the band keeps getting better. They have taken their sound to a completely new level - certainly seperating themselves from the inevitable Godspeed comparisons that they have been subject to since their former band's hiatus - and it really is quite awesome. So my feelings about their recent works are very mixed, because on one hand I want to give them praise for their vision and growth, but on the other hand the band should have the deceny to bring a quality vocalist on board. When the band first came about, I found Efrim's vocals strangely fitting for the group's sound. The emotion in "Movie (Never Made)" is so profound. But now the vocals are not solely used for emotional effect. The band has a message and a political agenda, and while they always have, apparently now it is important enough to fill their music with. And I would be fine with that if Efrim was not the only spokesperson. They could at the very least utilize their choir element a bit more, but the best case would be utilizing the choir more and bringing a second lead vocalist to share the parts with Efrim. I can't completely disparage him; he still fits a handful of parts.

Let's take a quick look at this album: upon first glance, you'll see that the format is much like This Is Our Punk-Rock... in that it has 4 extended pieces (between 13 and 17 minutes here), but the album has 12 tracks of noises leading up to the first song, which in light of the album title takes place on track 13. The music is a continuation in the direction they took on the aforementioned album, and really kind of resembles a mixture of that work and the subsequent Horses in the Sky. The first two tracks are pretty hard-rockin' pieces. The first one focuses a lot on chants, while the second is more of a solo vocal piece. The ideas presented are quite strong, but they suffer from being a bit too repetitive and then the dreadful excessive-Efrim-in-inappropriate-places sydrome that the band has recently come down with. But there is a light that is visible not too far from the end of the second song! After a weak vocal introduction in the third song, the band starts hitting random notes for a bit in a way that sounds like they're getting 'it' of their system. I don't know what exactly that means in this case, but the section is a bit random. Then finally, the band eases up and lets you enjoy their emotional music prowess. The second half has a little climax and everything in true post-rock fashion, and Efrim's vocals work. The last track, "BlindBlindBlind," manages to be the best track. From the softly strummed guitar and bowed strings to the minimalistic pizzacto strings portion in the middle to the mild climactic ending, this is piece makes the most out of the least. Ostensibly, the band put the least thought into this song, but unfortunately most of the thoughts put into the other songs weren't of much value in the end.

The band has the right ideas, but the application of those ideas still needs some work. It would be more worth your while to pick up the two album preceding this to get the proper effect of their recent vision. Hopefully they will get it right next time, because if they do, the result will be stunning.

Report this review (#164942)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm shocked with the amount of criticism latest ZION record receives :(

Seriously, this is their best record since debut (along with magnificent 'Horses in the Sky' surely). The main thing you should do during listening is to distance yourself from what you've already known about ZIONs. After short intro (12 diminutive drones) '1 000 000 Died To Make This Sound' begins, quite 'ZIONly' for few minutes (y'know, all these choirs and violins)...but suddenly it all bursts into Ambient Punk/Noise Grunge/Garage Folk stuff, with riffs thousand times more groovy than any rock'n'roll band EVER tried to play! Efrim shouts an alphabet, near the notes as usual (but never near the PROPER ones, ha-ha!), and you're yelling along, and when the song ends you feel like you've been playing it with them on stage. Good Lord, I've always loved both GY!BE and ASMZ for their subtle, even gentle sense of melody and atmosphere, but this primitive sweating ROCK blows me away! Easily the best track.

Namesake follows, the longest and dare I say the least captivating epic here. Some cute 5/8 playing, but nothing too spectacular (well, lyrics are even more angry and sincere than on any previous record!). 'Black Waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues' is the shortest epic here (13 minutes long!), unjustly considered by many to be the weakest one too. Just listen to this 'we go!' part in the middle - these two minutes are my favourite bit in the whole album! Closing 'Blind Blind Blind' is the most 'ZIONly' track here, with predictable yet haunting climax and ear-friendly-easy-to-hum melody and cute chord progression. I must admit it's the most suitable track to end the whole thing.

Now, re-write your reviews, folks :) I mean it!!! '13 Blues...' needs more patience to get into, it's not your usual 'take this melody and play it till violin cracks' ASMZ stuff. It's VERY different from what they've being doing before, and I love it. My third favourite album from them...even second one, right after 'Horses...'. EXTREMELY RECOMMENDED!!!

Report this review (#168164)
Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think it is one of the most interesting album in 2008. Classic post-rock in four songs plus experimental collage consists 12 5-6 seconds tracks. Long tracks has dense-heavy-slow sound with interresting arrangement. Very goog music for quite-calm hearing. My second album of 2008 year
Report this review (#170138)
Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars At last, a band breaks the mold by re-introducing some real viciousness and spite to their post-rock suspendophonics. A Silver Mt. Zion seem like one of the big names in this smokey area of music and that might be down to the way they shift shapes between albums. ASMZ's previous work has had a gentility to it that has now been subverted - where once their song titles did the preaching and implied their punk stance, 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons models itself on the aesthetic and their singer sloganeers unashamedly.

That's not good news for you if you're a rock centrist because this album promises extremism both in politik and in form - ASMZ run free, letting their songs spill over in length, delighting in repetition and chants, not questioning the amount of fuzz and tension in the guitar tones, unhurried and unconcerned with pruning or regimenting their music. Still it's this meander that sets their music apart from that of the indie-punk kid legion. They also understand that rawness in spirit and in technique don't have to translate into aggression or harshness and so a lot of the music here soothes (or insinuates itself into) the senses.

Aside from the opening composition-in-feedback, every song on Thirteen Moons is full of Efram's riot-calling voice (not quite Jello Biafra, not quite that guy from the Pogues, but possessing qualities of both) which can be divisive and has no doubt damaged the album's rating on this very site more than it should have done. It's certainly an indulgence but fiery, unpolished music demands a singer with those same traits, and because of these happy imperfections, when you've listened to the album in its entirety you won't feel like you've been eating plastic - it's a reviewing standby, but ASMZ's music is strongly _organic_. =P

My advice to people who wish for the return of legitimate anger and concern to music, for people who are sick of the recording studio being every band's frontman and for people who can keep their eyes closed for an hour without falling asleep: go get this one.

Report this review (#171456)
Posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars You know, I’ve been listening to this one for a while now waiting for it to click. So far that hasn’t happened. Unlike most of the other releases from A Silver Mt. Zion and Antiestablishment Glee Club Mounted Reveries Dog Mushing Cult, or whatever their handle is today, this one just doesn’t stand up and demand that you pay attention to it. I’d compare it to ‘This is our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing’ in terms of its lack of advancement of the Silver Mt Zion sound. But while that one was at least experimental in many ways, here Menuck relies very heavily on his trademark drone- riff guitar and affected vocals, sometimes at the expense of the contributions of the other band members. The longstanding string section of Thierry Amar, Sophie Trudeau, Jessica Moss and Rebecca Foon almost get buried at times, and there are few of the beautifully haunting string-laced crescendos or extended forays that made the band so distinctive in the early part of this century.

I didn’t even know these guys were still together until I saw a video of a 2007 concert recently, so when this one released I was actually caught a bit by surprise. The opening title “1,000,000 Died to Make this Song” sounded promising enough, but except for a couple minutes in the latter part of the song where Trudeau and Moss can be heard fiddling furiously despite every effort by Menuck to drown them out, I found the track to be wholly uninspiring both musically and lyrically. It seems perhaps Menuck has been angry for so long that he may have forgotten what for, and in some ways risks become a self- caricature if he doesn’t find a more articulate way of expressing exactly what it is that pisses him off (or inspires him, whichever).

The title track is much better musically with undulating percussive rhythm and crisp sound, but the numerous extended refrains of Menuck rambling behind his guitar with little else but gentle snare drums and bass make the thing seem way too long, which it probably is. It reminds me of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s much too long swan-songs on ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’, where it also appeared Menuck was losing interest in the project even before the group called it quits. One has to wonder if that’s what is happening here as well.

That said, “Black Waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues” is the one song where the group clicks, but only because they seem to have recaptured almost exactly the same sound they had on 2001’s ‘Born Into Trouble…’. I have to say though that resurrecting a seven year old sound is not what I would call blazing new musical ground.

“Blindblindblind” sounds quite self-indulgent and gratuitous by comparison, much in the same way the opening track on ‘This is our Punk-Rock…’ did. That song ruined that album right off the bat in my opinion; while this one, coming at the end and somewhat offset by a lively closing four minutes simply fails to add anything to an already lackluster release.

One thing about post-rock is that the people who listen to this music are looking for something out-of- the-ordinary. That not only means artists who blaze a trail for themselves well apart from the musical mainstream, but ones who also continually reinvent themselves. A Silver Mt Zion hasn’t done that here, despite having had three years to make the attempt. They are still better than most of the music that’s out there today, but for them this is just average stuff, and I for one had expected better. Three stars.


Report this review (#172626)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This should be the album that finally does it. 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons should finally sever the link in audiences minds between ASMZ and GY!BE. Here we hear before our ears a band reaching maturity, no longer to be regarded as a spin-off or some poor man's Godspeed.

After some short tracks of feedback to introduce the album, 1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound begins with some typical post-rock playing and typical ASMZ chanting, then the track and the album as a whole explodes revealing something different about this record. This thing is heavy. Heavy Apocalyptica style cello lines, distorted, muddy, riffing guitars, and tons of punkish energy. This may be the most alive and biting post-rock album you hear. ASMZ sounds more akin to a rock band with an orchestra than a GY!BE side project.

The high musicianship, great writing, etc things we expect from the band are present, but with a newer sound and higher energy. The differentiate between tracks really gets me excited about the album. People often complain about post-rock having songs that blend together, certainly not an issue here. All songs have their own sound and identity, but as a testament to the bands talent all fit the feel of the album. Additionally, Efrim's vocals really hit a high point here. Those who fail to grasp his singing will probably be upset as they are featured here more prominently than any previous release, but the album could hardly work without them. His voice: abrasive, frail, and haunting all at the same time which pierces right through the music and touches you.

Really not many complaints about this outing. The title track drags on at some points but still remains very listenable. Good introduction and good pick-up for fans.

Report this review (#175894)
Posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Whereas the preceding Horses In the Sky had found A Silver Mt. Zion indulging their catchier, more song-oriented side, 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons sees them tackle another dimension of their sound - their knack for ramshackle, threadbare, falling apart at the seams soundscapes. In fact, not since their first two albums have they got this avant-garde; possibly they were emboldened by positive reactions on the live tour they undertook to develop this material. (I saw them on this tour and they were on excellent form - and are much more cheerful in person than you'd expect). It's not quite their Lift Your Skinny Fists, but with the four major compositions all exceeding 13 minutes they're getting there.
Report this review (#730646)
Posted Monday, April 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rough, Ragged, but a Beautiful Closing Track.

Silver Mt Zion (SMZ) once again change direction with 13 Blues. Mostly jettisoning the more structured folky approach of 'Horses in the Sky', here they go for the jugular, opening with a full-on onslaught of sonic and lyrical heaviness. If on 'Horses' it seemed the band wanted everyone to hug ('Hold on to each other'), here they are in a more rough and tumble mood, probably the most rough of all of their albums. Perhaps they thought 'Horses' sounded too safe, or something, or perhaps they found themselves angered and discouraged. At the very least, such tension can be creatively productive, although on this album I am not sure it is channelled as well as it could have been on every track. Hence the roughness. The opener, '1,000,000 died to make this sound' is the most rough. Like a school teacher trying to get the class'es attention by dropping a garbage can or chair in the middle of the room, it opens with loud intermittent (drum) bangs, which then morph into a tortured slow, but loud and grungy, guitar-based theme full of distortion. The lyrics sound like a cry for help. It gets your attention - it MAKES you pay attention - although I don't find this first piece (all 14 minutes of it) very musical. The two middle pieces improve on this one. Although still ragged, they don't seem as drenched in anger, and are able to conjure up some evocative imagery and landscapes. The third track, ('Black Waters Bowed/Engine Broke Blues') is the better of these. Indeed, while 'Horses' began with its best tune (with the musical quality mostly decreasing with each subsequent tune), '13 Blues' gets better with each subsequent song. And the closing track, 'Blind Blind Blind', is excellent. Still very ragged and tortured, here this is really well channelled into the music and lyrics so the audience really feels it. Softer, and soulful, but hurt, it ends with a rousing repeated sing-along chorus whose melody sticks in your head. Very emotional and musical. On the whole, I find this album harder to take that any other SMZ album, although with the brilliant closing track it is better than 'Born into Trouble' (which really has no stand-out tracks). I give this one 6.7 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1706980)
Posted Friday, March 31, 2017 | Review Permalink

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