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A Silver Mt. Zion - Horses In The Sky CD (album) cover


A Silver Mt. Zion

Post Rock/Math rock

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3 stars From a year of fantastic albums comes a mediocre release from a usually great band. There are two big problems with it. 1 - essentially the same theme that the band always has; exaggerated socialist ramblings. 2 - the focus is the vocals.... and Efrim is a terrible singer. Less powerful buildups, more intentionally childish often annoying lyrics. On earlier releases the vocals always sounded desperate and frightened, they lose those qualities and just become grating on the ears. Efrim does the equivalent to running his fingernails along a chalkboard for the most part.

Now to focus on the positive sides of the album. The almost choir like backup vocals add an interesting dimension to the music, but not enough to redeem the other vocal failings. Fortunately for A Silver Mt. Zion there is still a heavy leaning on my favorite aspect of previous efforts. Strings, I love the string work on it. Very inspired, it manages to salvage an album that otherwise truly does not do it for me at all.

Song wise the album shows a little more of its strength, the track placement and flow could not have been done better with the material. Of the six tracks the strongest is "God Bless Our Dead Marines" a very powerful song, and the vocals don't drown out the brilliant muscianmanship at all, and the vocal section at the end is the only time on the album it works the way it should. Sends shudders through my body, although the rest of the album fails to uphold such a high standard. The Weakest track is "Teddy Roosevelt's Guns" the best way to describe this track is painful. It turns into a magnification of every fault in the album. The vocals drown out the music, which is only used as support anyhow. The lyrics are stupid, trying to voice Efrims opinions on Canadian culture. When it gets past that section, it moves into a headache inducing movement filled with distortion. The song goes over the same few themes musically and never seems to want to end. I skip this song, and believe me I hardly ever skip songs on albums, and when people do it on albums I don't like I get upset. Its skippable in my opinion and that's saying a lot.

Overall the album is listenable however, its hard for such a strong band to not be. You'll find enough in the album to merit listening to it a couple of times. Although it does not have enough holding power to become one of those albums which forever becomes part of your rotation. If your a fan definitely buy it, haven't heard these guys before there is better places to start but this album shouldn't turn you off from the band. It deserves 3 stars. Its disappointing because the band is capable of much better.

Report this review (#41184)
Posted Monday, August 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 Stars actually

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and tra-la-la Band plays "Horses in the Sky" is the accurate title of this 2005 release. A Silver Mt. Zion is a sideproject of the canadian 9 piece Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Formerly the band was formed to explore music with a smaller ensemble, to release some own ideas. Meanwhile the former trio is made up of 7 musicians, maybe the reason why the appendix Tra-la-la Band was added.

The boys and girls play their very own version of so called post rock. Sometimes quite electric, wild and agitated but most of the time very acoustic, almost chamber rock like. Unlike GY!BE this release features vocals. Sometimes weird, sometimes doleful and with a touch of Peter Gabriel and Comus here and there. The first song, called God Bless Our Dead Marines, features everything the following songs will reveal. Off-key sounding vocals, melancolic vocals, chamber rock, the post rock typical rising and falling structures and some beautiful melodies. The middle section of the song is just fantastic I've to say. Mountains Made of Steam and Teddy Roosevelt's Guns feature parts reminding me of GY!BE whereas the title song Horses in the Sky is a lugubrious ballad accompanied by acoustic guitar, one of my favorite sons on this album. Parallels to Godspeed basically appear when the electric guitar goes wild to create walls of sound. Hang on to Each Other is a sparely orchestrated piece for several voices, maybe a bit too long for my tastes because the same lyrics are repeated over and over. Another favorite of mine is the last track, Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come and Gone), very dark and melancholic. Definitely the one with the strongest parallels to Godspeed.

Horses in the Sky is a good post rock album and definitely worth buying, even though there are definitely better post rock releases. The vocals are not easy to get into, just like the rest of the music but exceptionally the very vocals. If you like post rock, chamber rock or any of the following bands there's no argument against purchasing this album: Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, Sigur Rós, Die anarchistische Abendunterhaltung, Comus (!).

Report this review (#41836)
Posted Saturday, August 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars ASMZ's fourth album (if you count the EP) is continuing the trend where they are completely incapable of recording more than one record under the exact same name. What this Tralala thing adds to the general feel is a mystery to me since musically speaking not much differs from preceding record. Actually to say that this album is superfluous is probably the understatement of the month, as the music drags on and on, still with the plaintive vocals, and the repetitive nature of some tracks can actually be irksome. However, the artwork sleeve is more complete and delivers more info than all of their previous albums altogether, but the music is still as obscure as previously, sometimes sounding like poor junkies chanting for their next fix. I do not know if this last remark has any ring of truth in it (hopefully for them not) , but the lack of indication of what to make out of the music is pushing the listener to the wildest ramblings, which is probably the ultimate goal ASMZ is trying to achieve.

The least I can say is that I was already not very convinced by the debut, but with this later effort, I can say that this one appears completely useless to this reviewer's eyes even though there are moments of brilliance here and there

Report this review (#55624)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Honestly, I can't imagine how this album is getting such low reviews.

This album, representing the newest effort by seasoned post-rockers A Silver Mt. Zion, contains long, beautiful, shifting arrangements, while having the bollocks to attempt vocals in a usually vocal-less genre. I will agree that the singer's voice is not technically amazing, but that does not seem to be the point: the vocals succeed in complimenting the music well. Just as free jazz contains strange and, often, unsettling, combinations of notes and sounds in order to establish a strong united effect, A Silver Mt. Zion combines its desperate, almost mad, vocals with beautiful, melancholic arrangements. If Horses in the Sky was a painting, I can almost imagine the instrumental musings to represent a shattered wasteland, a sketch of some sort of World War I 'no man's land,' devoid of life and innocence. The vocals, however, represent a lone human presence in said wasteland. Often, this human can't help but break down in the presence of such savagery, but, in the end, its this human that provides the sole hope, the sole light.

"When the world is sick, can no one be well... but I dreamt we was all beautiful and strong."

Nonetheless, some of the tracks certainly lack the strength of the luminescent first track and the equally impressive third and forth tracks. Track two, in particular, has little that will entrap potential listeners. Overall, however, this is an amazing album that all post- rock fans, and, potentially, all prog-rock fans should enjoy.

Report this review (#57028)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I am not one to get caught up in classification of genres etc. I do own the complete Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sigur Ros & Mogwai collection, and it seems that the industry wants to group these bands together, so I guess I'm in a pretty good position to draw comparison between Silver Mt Zion and the aforementioned.

Yes there are similarities between Silver Mt Zion and GYBE but you can argue at face value that all Sigur Ros albums sound the same! (It depends on what you choose to glean from it). The obvious difference between Silver Mt Zion and GYBE is that the former is very much lyric based, and for this album at least, choose not to have significant lulls that (to be honest) get a little tiresome on Lift Your Skinny Fists.

So the album itself? Six relatively lengthy tracks with the first 3 all a standout. After about 3 separate listens to Mountains Made of Steam (Track 2), I got into that zone where I just had to listen to this track about 6-7 times in a row (not bad for a 10 minute track!). To be honest, it was this track alone that inspired me to put this commentary in, cause if something gives me goosebumps, I figured you gotta share it with the world. The self-titled track, while perhaps not ground-breaking, stays true from start to finish. There's a bit of a drop away over the last 3 tracks, but to be fair, I haven't given them so much of a run, having been stuck so far on Tracks 1-3!

I guess the true measure is a) would I recommend this to others and b) will I purchase the rest of Silver Mt Zion's collection. The answer to both is YES! (especially given that other reviews suggest this recording to be weaker than some of their previous stuff).

Report this review (#60369)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nevermind those "he's a terrible singer" comments regarding this album. He is singing that way for a reason; a very mellow and perhaps painfull one. In terms of theme, if a band needs to use music as a vehicle for political statements; so be it; the main focus here is still music; good and well executed music. Sad, lonely, and a bit noisy, this album sounds like somehting recorded in a Bar or something; highly elaboratede music compositions, a certain "folk-song" feeling, all elements here are used as raw materials to create a great collage, bringin images to the mind, and succeding in bringing the listener to a state of silence. Admirable, beautifull work; less soundtracky than other projects that are gathered under the label.
Report this review (#84967)
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Latest in the achievements of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and the Tra-La-La Band (yes, that's the proper name alright), Horses In The Sky wears the full characteristics, the omnipresent intentions, the substantial intentions and the chronologic flow consequences and persistence. As, perhaps only by the exception of their most important works, the sonority of Silver Mt. Zion went in a gratitude of vision, still in a less pretentious form of accomplishments. The ideal is the energy of the renown and the brand's monumentality, but - mostly always - discussion could (even in the sense of "being allowed") have been formed - mostly always - as to what is great and what could have been great, what is densely attributed and what is formally motioned, what captivates and what succumbs et caetera. By that, the album can easily be placed in an option's control down the bottom (hate to use the word "lowest"). All I can really tell is that notions are of the abstract fundament and the rules (which aren't rules) are by the vertical principles; little to find eccentrically definitory is to discover; however inside the machine lies some precious details; and that gives to the composition some essential points that worth a listen, worth appreciation, even worth the addiction. That is what to expect.

In a non-conformism that is recognizable (and by that I'm not saying it's not select music appurtenance, actually I'm saying that it is), in the odd melodicism and through the common methods to surprise, to enlighten, to explain, to reveal or to simply play, the composition is very firm, dense, dark colored and of a symbolic orientation. Not to look prototypic all, but things as such presented here have been done, have been done better, have been done wiser. The context is the sole even of attraction (arguable, naturally, on how you like it). The form is malleable entirely towards the interest. The nebulous manifest is open to a response. Hidden is the personal pleasure.

There is a vigorous accent on the vocals and on the tangible chords of the narrative feeling (though it's leit-motif and not spoken words or told fact), but in the same way evolves the instrumental artifact - quite a difference to notice from other albums. Regarding the "lyrics" and the word movement, emotion is superlative and Efrim does art vocal sui generis (this to contradict the voices simply calling him bad singer - after so many occasions, he's really doing something stylistically). There's a pain in his timber, there's a sensibility in his tone, there's full maturity in the desired realization. Regarding the instrumental, it is quite a forceful composition with its uphold moments. From a personal style of lugubrious sound edifications to real exceptions like "godspeedian" climaxed (first one from first piece is amazing!) or intensive deep, profound, cumulated ornamentations. Speaking of special moments, the album's not entirely a force, but the selectiveness brings a gem-like impression. Music is elaborated, on a strong note.

Horses In The Sky is a metaphor, a reality analogy, a phantasmagorical overdone dream, an impossibility, moreover an inaccuracy. For yet another frame, do the artists contemplate, offer to contemplate, demand virulently to be contemplated a view into the unknown, perhaps even in the unwanted. The ideology is rusty and deflagrate, eliminating any casual consideration. It's a visible world of either the cruel reality or the imagined negativism. The tone, cold, unemotional (being emotional), unshaped properly, unavenged naturally, gives scope not from the outside image, but from the heart's vital discontent, where everything is conceived and every theory is convinced as demonstration. And the outside image can just as well be optimistic, fine or undamaged, sunny and clear, warm and intuitively thoughtful, but the voice of shadow wants it trustworthy degrading and virulently admonished. Every ideal is a drama; every feeling is a lamento; upon constant melodicity surpass comes the unresolved sensitive rustle. Seen from the darkness of a basement, the outside image is pointed as something mediocre and something against its nature; decisively it is only the paranoia of an incurable obsession; like so, there lies danger, pain and sadness instead of a too convincing abstinence; there fling guns and threats, instead of silent intentions; there lies the phobia instead of the passionate gesture of help, of smile, of healing hope. It's a situation made worse it's a shout lifted to nobody's hearing. The world is just too old and too sick (both ways of interpretation) to get on working out. Thus horses in the sky will never be seen or heard of. Nihilistically, though everything is divine blend of good and evil, rejected is the satisfaction and forever welcomed is the concern. After the rage and the dark storm comes the extraordinary silence: made defenseless or forced, just the way feared? Installed, in unison and conformism, on one nuance and one chrome is the representation; much to say it isn't But how diverse and how intense can it, ondulatory, movemently, go is quite interesting.

Considerably emotional and illustrative, tempestly relaxed and silently insinuated, effectively glanced and curiously to perceive, Horses In The Sky is a good album in which the essentials go indubitable and the credit can credit acknowledgement viewpoints. Behind all said and all left to say, besides the glitches and the things making your doubt exteriorize and between marginalization and contemplations, the artists do their unbreakable habit of demanding a special look instead of a normal one. A fixed relation desired finished; a reality turned upside-down. Even for a moment. Even for a short chance. Even for that dying breath.

Report this review (#89466)
Posted Tuesday, September 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Well, if you are a fan of experimental music than you shouldn’t complain when the artists actually experiment, I suppose. And that’s what is going on with this latest release from the Silver Mt. Zion Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Tra la la Band with Canadian Mounties, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days.

The use of vocals has been growing with each succeeding album since their debut. On this album there are vocals on every track; in fact, vocals are at the forefront of every track. This is new. Also, the lyrical themes seem to be taking on a more coherent form, although on close reflection there are certainly many subjective layers of interpretation to most of the words.

And Efrim Menuck’s singing seems to have actually improved somewhat. I don’t know if he has taken a cue from a marketing focus group or something (‘though I seriously doubt it), but he appears to be actually making a conscious attempt to focus on articulation and at least keeping within the general scope of the key in which each song is set, so that’s a plus.

Musically this is a considerably better effort than the band’s previous two albums, with complex, layered arrangements that bring the focus back to what made this an interesting band in the first place – the strings, and to a certain extent Menuck’s oddly- constructed guitar riffs as well.

The first few times I heard “God Bless Our Dead Marines” I took it for a generic anti-war song. But I think there’s a bit more to the message than that – the lyrics actually speak rather bitterly to a general attitude of apathy on the part of the mass public, with vignettes about friends lost to drug addiction, suicide, and bad living. The words are bitter, but the music has a certain defiant tone to it that reminds me of some of the post-punk works of social commentators like Ani DiFranco and Jim Carroll. Not the same type of music certainly, but in that vein for sure. The rhythm seems to be somewhat akin to Jewish klezmer music with its ‘oom-pa-pa’ lumbering and stark, moody piano. This is a track that can grow on you over time, but sets the tone for an album that is only vaguely associated with most post-rock music. This is quite a bit closer to indie rock than it is to experimental music.

The pervading theme of “Mountains Made of Steam” just seems to be despair about the general condition of our world from a social awareness standpoint. This has another of those oddly harmonic chorale sections that the band seems to be making a part of their overall sound the past few years, but also includes a rather torrid though brief climax in the middle with cacophonic strings and drums mashing wildly, followed by a long stretch of mumbled vocals and subdued strings that seem to project a sense of resigned acceptance, but not despair. This one has a great mood to it, but is not for those who suffer from clinical depression for sure.

The title track appears to represent a kind of message of cautious hope and a prayer for a safe future to a child, or perhaps a lover. I actually like it when Mt. Zion include acoustic guitar in building the mood of their songs, although this is the only time I can recall that and entire composition is centered around that instrument. This is clearly meant to be a reflective and emotional song, and it hits the mark beautifully.

“Teddy Roosevelt's Guns” is rather weak compared to the rest of the album, but the very slowly-building sonic quality is pure Mile End stuff, and could have belonged to any number of bands out of that family of musicians. There seems to be little real point to the lyrics, or if there is then it is Canuck-centric enough to be los on the general public. But the music is more what we’ve come to expect of Mt Zion – a slowly building but not ever really climaxing string and rhythm arrangement that works better as background mood music than it does on the front-burner of our consciousness.

The lyrics for “Hang on to Each Other” remind me of that old cartoon that shows a frog stuck inside the mouth of a crane who is desperately reaching up with both hands around the crane’s neck trying to choke him. The caption reads “never, ever, ever give up”. That’s the message here. Look up the lyrics, they’re awkwardly inspiring in a post- rock kind of way. The music isn’t anything special since the emphasis is the chanting “hang on to each other” refrain, but this is the song that probably captures the overall social message of Mt. Zion better than any other. There’s nothing progressive about it though – this is yet another composition that pushes the band closer to the more traditional indie genre than it does post-rock, but who’s to quibble?

On “Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come and Gone)” the band puts forward some sort of pleading message about all of us just getting along, or focusing on the important things in life, or something with a similarly-focused magnanimous theme. Unfortunately, even though all the lyrics are clear, the message isn’t, so I can’t really rally behind whatever it is the band is trying to rally toward, if anything. Musically this is more of the same, and I suspect there’s a powerful message here, I just don’t get it. That actually makes it an very appropriate ending to this album.

There seems to be something of a theme that runs like a thread through this album, and the message speaks to being alive and aware and probably many other things as well. It’s much too focused and opinionated to fit neatly into the genre this band is generally cast in, but in some ways that’s a good thing since as fans we claim to be interested in musical experimentation. So like I said at the outset, the band has clearly experimented here. And nothing falls flat like it did on their “This is our punk rock…” album, so I would recommend giving this album a try if you are into the Mile End type of bands, experimental music in general, or just feel like getting your blood pressure up for a little while. Four stars.


Report this review (#96153)
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars An absolutely infectious album, after one go 'round I was hooked. Beautiful music, beautiful lyrics, and beautiful everything else, a silver mount Zion really proves their genius with this album. Blending haunting vocals, Godspeed strings, and post rock electrics together to create an emotional roller coaster. Going from vulgar hate, to soft laments, mostly about the state of the world, and how terrible it is, you may get the impression that this is a weird punk rock band, and in reality, it kind of is, and though punk rock is one of the most disgusting forms of music out there, very little music has impacted me lyrically as this one.

The songs on this album range from six to thirteen minutes long, all of them filled with Efrims haunting voice and lyrics. Most are driven by a string section, while the guitarists strum away on simple chords with weird effects. If you are into prog music for speed, intensity, and technicality, this is, in no way the band for you. All the songs are at a slow pace, yet build and speed up a bit, but not to the point their former band, Godspeed you! Black emperor would have gone. I think the reason for the lack of more intense music is because this band is a vocal band, one of the few post rock bands who follow this banner, therefore the music... supports... the... vocals... IT EXISTS IN PROGRESSIVE MUSIC... and I love it. I cant really put my finger on whats so great about the music, but there's an eeriness that consumes it that makes it so beautiful, organic, and original.

What sets A silver Mount Zion apart from punk rock bands is that there is a kind of raw emotion there that you will never be able to tap with blinding speeds and nagging vocals. What sets A sliver Mount Zion apart from other post rock outfits is that they're much more frontal with the music, instead of starting out incredibly slow, and build to an ear splitting climax, the music is led by the Efrims intense vocals, and while the guitars are on doing they're own thing with arpeggios and semi sludgy effects, the strings usually mimic the darkness the lyrics are trying to show you. In songs like God Bless our dead marines, and hang on to each other, the message is clear The worlds a mess, and so are we, with wailing and ranting in Efrims ever more unstable voice. Though in songs like Horses in the sky and and ring them bells of freedom, the same message is still being sung, but in a much more bleak and desperate sound, with mumbled and extremely sad vocals, these songs are the ones that really get my emotions going, and at the end of the last song, you feel absolutely heartbroken by what Efrims said, and you may even feel convinced by what he's said.

Explaining this album is near impossible, and I hope what I've written will possibly spark your interest in this band. This outfit, and especially this album are extremely underrated, and that is an understatement worthy of a trophy. This music is just powerful, and shows you dont need to be a technical wizard to make impacting and mind blowing music. Really this album actually got me to listen and understand the lyrics, something a quit doing since I started listening to Yes, and lets be serious, lyrics are not very good in prog music, but this band can pull out some of the most emotive lyrics you may ever hear. And like I said earlier, this group is not for everyone, hell, it probably isn't for some of the more hardcore fans of Godspeed you! Black emperor, but for those of you looking for some extremely emotional, and gut wrenching music, I recommend this album all the way. 5 stars!

Report this review (#162899)
Posted Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've always thought of ZIONs as GY!BE's offshot, nothing more. Hence I found their debut rather enjoyable (it sounded like LYSFLATH b-sides if there could have been ones!), but the farther I go the least satisfying material I heard. Blank and annoying apocalyptic preaching with some good music on the backs. Seriously, I'd rather make a compilation from ZIONs' 2001-2004 albums, because they had less than an hour of great material from those years. When I heard of 2005' release called 'Horses in the Sky', I've checked ratings and thought like uh, even worse. I'm glad to say I've been self-fooled! A friend of mine shared this CD with me saying that it's their best and for him ZIONs' mission was to create exactly this one album. One hour later since I've heard (for the first time) opening bass notes and crooked Efrim's voice I was completely agree, that 'Horses...' is indeed their best.

The album is divided into two sides, each having a 3-part epic ('God Bless...' and 'Ring them Bells'), an acoustic (eponymous one and 'Hang on to each other') and a track that has both features ('Mountains...' and '...Guns'). Mirroring each other, both sides sound absolutely stunning, and while I was a bit cold towards acoustics at first, now I love them sincerely. 'God Bless Our Dead Marines' has wonderful mid-part with one of the strongest lyrics I ever heard from Efrim, and breath-taking closing sing-along coda (''when the world is sick...''). 'Mountains made of Steam' is my second fave, with heart- breaking back-voices and stunning climax. Closing 'Ring them Bells (Freedom has come and gone)' also features some mindblowing moments (mid-climax and coda especially). The band has immensely matured in songwriting and arranging, each song and movement sound fresh and carry the special mood of the record, the melancholy that you can FEEL or even TOUCH by yourself. This is simply awesome.

Few words about Efrim's singing. Yes, it's out-of-tune, unprofessional and more like weeping. On the other side, can you imagine ANY OTHER KIND OF VOCALS HERE? James La Brie? Peter Hammil? Tarja Turunen? C'mon, it's perfect for ZIONs, and dare I say 'Horses...' is simply the best album in Post- Rock-with-vocals imaginary sub-genre, and one of the best in whole Post-Rock for sure. Highly recommended!!!

Report this review (#163532)
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a treat, this album is.

I first heard A Silver Mt. Zion (now a much larger name) on their debut album. Horses In The Sky was my next listen. This album is very emotional with help from Efrim Menuck's vocals which I love and I find fit the mood of the album perfectly. The lyrics on this album are unlike anything I've heard and nothing could compliment Efrim's vocals more. . . except maybe how musically rich this album is. Never overpowering, the music flows soft and strong from the beginning to end of Horses In The Sky.

Horses In The Sky is the kind of album that keeps the listener captivated throughout, and when its over demands another listen.

One of the more enjoyed albums I have come across. Easy five.

Report this review (#282102)
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Horses In the Sky finds A Silver Mt. Zion succeeding at the experiment they'd been working towards over their last few albums, which was to create a song-oriented version of the fragile, ramshackle post-rock sound cooked up by the Godspeed You Black Emperor/Silver Mt. Zion collective. In particular, they prove to have a knack for writing incredibly catchy songs about completely depressing things - I can't help but sing along to the "I love my dog and she loves me" section of God Bless Our Dead Marines, for instance. On the whole, it's a very successful breakout into uncharted territory for the band.
Report this review (#680894)
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars This is the first SMZ album that has singing on every track. It is also, for the most part, the most subdued of the albums. It seems that it might have been a tough one for the fans to get at first, but it is a grower, and a lot of that has to do with the vocals. That is the biggest issue for the band, but in my opinion, the vocals match the music perfectly. SMZ's biggest attraction for me is their vulnerability that not only exists in the shaky vocals, but also in the orchestration of the instruments. There is always a slight hesitation in the delivery, or so it always seems, especially noticeable on this album because it is softer. Don't get me wrong though, there are bursts of dynamics throughout. You still get the builds on some of the songs. But other tracks don't build much at all, as in the title track.

"God Bless Our Dead Marines" is the opener and a great highlight in the band's career. It is a multi movement epic track with several melodies that vary in dynamics and tone. This is a beauty of a song and it ebbs and flows and eventually the vocals interweave around each other into a round of sorts. Next is another excellent track called "Mountains Made of Steam" which is based around a more focused theme, but still caries a lot of variation in it. This eventually builds to a harsh climax that utilizes dynamics and dissonance quite beautifully. "Horses in the Sky" is a more acoustic endeavor and remains quiet and thoughtful throughout, but is no less powerful. Eventually, some ambient texturing joins in, but never really takes over the intimacy of the track.

"Teddy Roosevelt's Guns" is follows a typical post rock formula and builds slowly to a final climax and a repeated line. "Hang on to Each Other" was actually recorded by the band around a campfire. You can hear the flames crackling in the background. Talk about a feeling of intimate music. You can close your eyes and picture yourself there listening to the band. The song starts out soft and the vocals build as other vocal lines are added, some wordless vocals and the repeating of the title while Effrim sings the verses. All the while, strings are played in the background to a structured tune. This eventually even drops out leaving the band singing their parts a cappella. The last track is another epic of beauty and dynamics, again with changing melodies and rhythms.

The vinyl is a piece of art, as is the case with most of SMZ's (and Godspeed You! Black Emperor's vinyl) and this is why I prefer to get their recordings in vinyl. On this one, there are only 3 recorded sides which contain all of the tracks. Instead of leaving the 4th side blank however, they commissioned an artist to do an etching into the vinyl. It is artwork of a bird and some branches. This is another way of expressing their artistry and intimacy with their listeners. It really gives the record a personal feeling between the listener and the band. Even though I know the band doesn't know me over any of their other listeners, but these things make me feel like they do, and the unique things they add to their albums make me feel a personal closeness to their music like no other band can do.

Many complain about Effrim's vocals being hard to listen to, but they have always been one of the things about the band that attracts me to them. He sounds like he is singing right to you, in your living room as you listen. He is a very passionate singer too, and the limitations of his voice can show through when he is the most passionate. These things make me love the music even more.

It's true that this band isn't for everyone, but everyone should at least give them a fair chance before deciding whether they like the music or not. The best music always takes time to grow on you, and I find my favorite albums are usually the ones I didn't understand at first, or they took time to grow on me. This is one of those albums. I think it's a masterpiece, not only of music, but of art in general. The lyrics are poetry, the music is original and dynamic, and the medium is taken to it's furthest to portray other forms of artistry, the album covers, the inserts, the little surprises that are included. It all works as a whole on this album, a those things make it the masterpiece that it is. 5 stars.

Report this review (#1420532)
Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Critical Anti-War Folk-Tinged Post-Rock.

Silver Mt Zion (SMZ) have always been political, as have Godspeed You Black Emperor. However, while previous SMZ albums drew more on ethereal, classical and avant-garde musical styles, here they veer in the direction of a more traditional American (in both senses, i.e. both continental and US) anti-war folk styles. The pieces are more structured, and use more traditional chord changes, and indeed, evoke (if just a touch) the ghosts of Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs in terms of their use of clever lyrical phrases and repeated sing-along choruses. The opening piece here, 'God Bless Our Dead Marines', is simply amazing, and the best on the album (and among the very best ever SMZ songs). It has a very clear three-part structure musically, while the lyrics provide some of the most direct and hard-hitting anti-war criticism of SMZ's entire catalogue. Here, Efrim has written lyrics that do the job of the various radio spots, street chatter and sound effects found on early Godspeed albums, and they do it very well. Killer track (literally). The song lasts almost 12 minutes, but the live version (you can find them on youtube) lasts upwards of 17 minutes. Really excellent music and lyrics, if perhaps necessarily US-centric (Canada, the home of SMZ, does not have a marine corps). The rest of the album doesn't quite live up to this fantastic opener though. The next strongest tunes follow right after the opener. The title track, 'Horses in the Sky', is to my mind the second-best track on the album, again (for me) harkening back to some of the classic American anti-war folk troubadours, and 'Mountains Made of Steam' is the third-best track. These are, after many years of listens now, usually the only ones I listen to, as the last three songs are just not as musical. 'Hang on to each other' is similar in style and format to 'Horses', but not quite as clever or emotive, so it feels a bit whiney, as does 'Ring them bells'. However, I think it is wonderful that SMZ took it upon themselves to stretch out beyond their usual comfort zone into more a folky vernacular, as the exercise produced three really great songs. Especially, 'God Bless Our Dead Marines' remains for me among the top five songs ever written by Efrim and SMZ/GYBE - it sends chills up my spine every time I listen to it. Given the whole album is mixed, I give this 7.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

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Posted Friday, March 31, 2017 | Review Permalink

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