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Moonchild Trio


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Moonchild Trio Six Litanies for Heliogabalus album cover
4.16 | 43 ratings | 8 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Litany I (7:53)
2. Litany II (7:06)
3. Litany III (10:36)
4. Litany IV (8:13)
5. Litany V (4:30)
6. Litany VI (6:16)

Total Time 44:34

Line-up / Musicians

- John Zorn / alto sax, composer
- Joey Baron / drums
- Trevor Dunn / bass
- Ikue Mori / electronics
- Mike Patton / voice
- Jamie Saft / organ
- Martha Cluver / voice
- Abby Fischer / voice
- Kirsten Soller / voice

Releases information

CD Tzadik (TZ 7361), Mar 2007

Thanks to Joren for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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MOONCHILD TRIO Six Litanies for Heliogabalus ratings distribution

(43 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

MOONCHILD TRIO Six Litanies for Heliogabalus reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by MikeEnRegalia
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is the third album of the stars/astronomy related trilogy ... and it's my favorite one. It has just the right mix of melodic elements and what I'll call "chaos" in the track reviews - the parts that consist of relatively free improvising, only conducted/guided by Zorn. See the track comments for further details!

Litany 1: The track begins in the "usual" way ... heavy, complex riffs which remind me of Meshuggah, with Patton's insane "vocals" on top. Half way through there is an interruption with subdued harmonic vocal parts, only to be continued with a free-jazz saxophone part and finally near silence with faint whispering and hammond organ bits.

Litany 2: The second track begins much like the first began, but at 0:50 the controlled chaos is suddenly interrupted by a straight beat ... only for a few seconds, then experimental parts continue. This is repeated once, until a calm, melodic part starts (2:30), dominated by Doors-like Hammond organ and cool jazz drums/bass with conversation-like vocals (several voices, much laughter) in the background. That continues for several minutes, with the bass taking the (improvising) helm. But at 6:30 Patton's vocals introduce a return to the controlled chaos.

Litany 3: This begins with organ and bass, followed by slight chaos, then organ and bass again with Patton whispering mystical latin words ("Heliogabalus" among others). At 5:20 there's an outburst of chaos again which totally reminds me of the Fantomas debut. At 6:00 we get something new: Strange angelic choir parts on top of near silence (whispering/breathing and effects). Then at 8:00 it's chaos time again with extreme screams, only to be followed (8:30) by a cool jazz rock part with an organ solo and much bass improvisation.

Litany 4: This track is dominated by Patton's "vocals" ... he does a magnificent job here. It's difficult to describe exactly what he does ... essentially he is describing sceneries/stories with vocal effects. It doesn't include words in the original sense - at least not English words or of any other language. It includes heavy breathing, whispering, screaming, shouting, growling (rarely), whistling, groaning, suffocating, coughing, puking, laughing, giggling ... at one point he's even imitating a gun fight, pigs or police officers (I know, it doesn't make sense). All that sometimes at lightning speed (a bit like scatting), sometimes totally calm and reduced.

Litany 5: This is a bit like the first track, but it also features the angelic choir / organ calm parts, which makes it a bit more interesting to me.

Litany 6: Much like the previous track, and a good combination of all the other litanies.

Review by 1800iareyay
4 stars After reading some glowing recommendations on the forums, I decided to check out John Zorn, and where better to start than with his latest album, Six Litanies For Heliogabalus? The final album fo Zorn's astronomy trilogy, Litanies cracks with all the energy of RIO and Avant-Prog, thanks to Zorn's incredible arrangements and the contributions of Mike Patton and Trevor Dunn from RIO revivalists Mr. Bungle. Litanies is without a doubt the heaviest album of the year, even more so than Devin Townsend's Ziltoid, which is full of ambience to offset some of the metallic onslaught. This sounds like Meshuggah with a saxophone and the craziest vocalist of all time.

Litany I has intricite guitar, bass, and sax riffs over thundering drums, complete with Patton screaming over everything. To call Patton's vocalizations "singing" is generous; he foregoes lyrics and even language itself in order to simply shriek, growl, grunt, and everything else that doesn't involve words. The frantic sound is interuppted by a more mellow section before Zorn leads them to the end with his wild sax. Litany II opens with a crunching bass riff courtesy of Trevor Dunn, the second most talented man in Mr. Bungle. This one is more mellow (with the exception of the first two minutes) with some hammond organ and a more conventional bass and drum beat and some spoken vocals. Patton's entrance shatters the mellowmess with more of his "vocals." Litany III is an avant epic that starts with Hammond and drums, leads into more chaotic avant jazz, gives way to more whispered material, then all hell breaks loose again, before a choir enters made up of the three female vocalists Zorn brought in (I admit this caught me off guard, since it was teh closest thing to "normal" music I'd heard on the album), which ends with more screaming and some great improv from Dunn's distorted bass (often it sounds more like a downtuned guitar than a bass).

Litany IV is an 8 minute unaccompanied solo where Patton lets loose. If you thought what he was doing so far was bizarre, just wait until you hear this. He does things with his vocals cords that I've never heard anyone else even consider doing. He gibbers frantically in a manner that reminds me of the wild boy Donny from the 90s animated show The Wild Thornberrys (strangely enough, the gibbering boy was voiced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea). He goes from the high pitched pseudo-scatting to take a moment to catch his breath (nearly thrity seconds, but it's all for effect). He laughs like a hyena, jostles his Adam's Apple to make bizarre noises, imitates a pig's snorts, grunts, shrieks, and all kinds of effects and imitations with his voice. The only thing that can even come close to real singing (on this track or the rest of the album) is at around 4:00 minutes when he breaks into an semi-operatic falsetto. Still no words, but if nothing else it reminds you that Patton can actually sing, he just choose to push teh boundaries of vocal cords (I have no problem with that). Litany V throws the instruments back into the fray for more frantic jazz, complete with another choir section. The album closes with Litany VI, which essentially takes pieces from the previous five tracks and combines them as a nice summary of things.

Zorn might just wind up the Frank Zappa of the 21st century. He is wildly prolific (check out his page here on PA, it justs goes on and on), and he is a master of the avant-garde compositon. Six Litanies is for me the RIO release of the year, even over Sleeytime Gorilla Museum's excellent In Glorious Times. Once again, the partnership between Zorn and Patton pays off well as the two feed off one another as the pioneers and masters of metal in opposition. The only issue I have is that V and VI have a little bit too much in common with teh previous tracks and don't explore new territory like the first four litanies did. They are still masterfully composed however, they just didn't throw me for a loop like the rest of the album. Still, fans of the avant-garde must pick this up as soon as possible.

Grade: B+

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Third in the line of Astronomic-related trilogy, this Moonchild trio's album is the best of all three.

Moonlight Trio is one of the most current John Zorn's project, and even from participating musicians line-up you can expect this project isn't so pleasant and easy listening, as Masada or The Dreamers. Mark Patton on vocals, Trevor Dunn on bass and Joey Baron on drums don't sound as very safe team of musicians, and guests are all the same - radical electronics artist Ikue Mori and Zorn himself, playing hard core free jazz attacking sax, between others.

Album's music than is what you expected - uncontrolled genius' madness. Possibly last time John's music sounded similar on Naked City releases, but there it was mostly punkish avant hard core. There, played by Moonchild trio, the music is eclectic mix of free jazz, brutal rhythms (rare example when even zeuhl influences could be recognised in Zorn's music), radical avant noise, screaming vocals (or just screams), some soundtracks themes, downtown atmosphere - and all mixed in one very theatrical brew!

If you're in mellow well-structured pleasant and comfortable prog for burgers, better leave this album where it is. If you're not very tolerant in what you're listen, and think Bjork music is extremal and almost extremist, better run from this album away. Believe me, most radical Bjork's screams sound as Moon Safari (nowadays Take That) comparing with "Six Litanies...".

This music will wake you up, will push your blood to circulate faster and your brains to work harder. Great album for those who is ready to listen to it!

Review by Neu!mann
4 stars Say the word 'Moonchild' to any Prog Rock fan, and you'll likely conjure images of a delicate elfin girl "...gathering the flowers in a garden / drifting on the echoes of the hours..."

Well, think again. This gut-punching album from John Zorn's Moonchild Trio will completely ruin any associations the word might have shared with Peter Sinfield's benevolent hippie whimsy. The '07 effort marks only my third pit-stop along an unguided, arbitrary weeklong tour through a truly intimidating discography (numbering over 400 albums as a composer and/or collaborator), and it feels like my itinerary was hijacked at gunpoint by a raving maniac with a Mensa IQ.

Of course trying to pin down the music of John Zorn will always be like trying to capture lightning in a bottle: a futile exercise that usually results in shattered glass and third-degree burns. Especially when such an eclectic artist is indulging his more hardcore inclinations, and they don't get much harder (or eclectic) than this.

Here's the man himself, quoted on the back cover of the CD (the emphasis is his): "POWERFUL SECRETS are revealed through INTENSITY and EXTREMITIES of experience". Boy, was he ever not kidding. This project makes even the outer limits of The Mars Volta sound like The Moody Blues...

The original trio (bass guitar, drums and vocals) was expanded here to a sextet, with an additional three-voice female choir adding depth and nuance to a distorted soundstage (Zorn himself, wrestling a demented saxophone, is only a guest at his own party). And the music itself might be described as pyrotechnic modern-art thrash-metal, with the spark in the gunpowder provided by vocalist Mike Patton, a familiar name to fans of the similar but much tamer Avant-Prog Metal ensemble MR. BUNGLE. Listen in amazement while he snorts, gags, coughs up a lungful of bloody phlegm, screams, gasps for breath, and at one point hawks his throat and expectorates all over the studio microphone.

It's an astonishing performance, but don't call it singing. Patton begins at a point where even Damo Suzuki might have hesitated ("Peking O", anyone?), and then leaps headlong into an exhilarating performance-art freefall. If your tolerance for unhinged guttural gymnastics is limited (and no one would blame you, if so), be advised to skip "Litany IV" altogether, which is entirely Patton, unaccompanied for eight alarming minutes and sounding not unlike the old Loony Tunes Tasmanian Devil in the middle of an existential crisis.

A few islands of relative sanity can be found within the roiling oceans of chaos: a groovy Neo-Krautrock organ jam in "Litany II" (shades of ELECTRIC ORANGE), and several interludes of ghostly pagan atmospherics, not inappropriate for an album named after a decadent 3rd century Roman Emperor. And a musicologist might be able to further dissect the mayhem with a clean intellectual scalpel. But doing so would kill the patient, and miss half the fun. The album isn't a thesis project: it's a musical judo exhibition, and that grey area between your ears is the block of wood waiting to be split in two by a well-timed kick.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars John Zorn's "Moonchild Trio" is a project of extreme contrasts. What else could you expect when the trio is made up of Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn and Joey Baron? To make this the most enjoyable and craziest music out there, Zorn was the only thing missing. His compositions always stretch the limits, but this group of extremely talented musicians stretch it to the breaking point. The question is, will it be the music or your head that will break first?

This is what I consider the best of the Moonchild Trio albums; "Six Litanies for Heliogabalus". These six kaleidoscopic tracks make up some of the most dynamic music out there, ranging from frantic bits of screaming and loud chaos to soft and almost sensual passages within each track. The thing that makes this one the best of the projects in their discography is that it is the most dynamic and variant of all of them.

You probably already know that Mike Patton can do amazing things with his voice and that there simply is no match for his vocalizations, same as you know that he and Trevor Dunn worked together in Mr. Bungle, and that Dunn's bass is some of the most amazing bass put on record anywhere, and that is proven here on this album over and over again. But Joey Baron, who has worked in another project called Electric Masada also along with Dunn is probably the least known of the three, but with his crazy drumming skills, he should be on a level with the other two.

Besides those three, on this album, Zorn plays the sax like a madman, and at times even can make you think they have captured a frantic squealing pig, that Patton is trying to mimic that pig as they torture it with an onslaught of pounding bass, and, of course, the excellent swashes of organ by Jamie Saft and further electronics of Ikue Mori. Add three other vocalists (Martha Cluver, Abby Fishcer, and Kirsten Soller) that come in with choir parts and other sounds, and you have the best and most concise of the Moonchild Trio albums.

Yes there are plenty of outbursts of mayhem and chaos, as you would expect, but in this case, there are also plenty of contrasts to that too. The harmonies done by the 3 other singers give you a feeling of peace and tranquility, yet underlying their sound is a feeling of unease, and when Zorn adds his sax to the choir with the twinkling of dissonant electronics and Patton's heavy breathing, (I'm talking about "Litany Pt. 3" specifically here), the unease just can't be denied. But get ready, Patton is about to let out the most hair-raising scream you've probably ever heard, and then the music melts into a heavy rock cavalcade of organ, wild bass and frantic drums in an amazing instrumental showcase. This is just an example of what to expect here, the most unpredictable music most people will ever hear, and most of them probably won't tolerate it.

The question is, are you prepared for this? I'll tell you now, you have never heard anyone scat like Patton does at the beginning of Pt. 4. The man is crazy. It you are curious and ready for anything, this is the album to hear out of all of their albums. Easily their best as a trio, and one of the best of any output by any of them. Notice I say one of the best as each one of them have had some amazing albums. Just know that this is avant-garde craziness. You'll laugh, cry, and run away in a panic at Patton's antics, but the fact that everyone else involved is just as amazing will either make your head explode or your speakers melt, and now we've come around full circle, the question is, are you ready for this?

Latest members reviews

4 stars Rating: A If you don't know what a litany is, there's no shame in that. I didn't either when I first picked up John Zorn's Six Litanies for Heliogabalus. Finally, though, I cracked open my dictionary and discovered that litany has two meanings: 1. a prayer consisting of a series of supplic ... (read more)

Report this review (#162402) | Posted by Pnoom! | Friday, February 22, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Probably the best possible review for this gem are these simple two words: Very loud! But, to keep my honour as a reviewer, I must offer this masterpiece a full review. This is the third production from the Moonchild/Astronome line-up, with Trevor Dunn, Joey Baron, and Mike Patton at its core. Zo ... (read more)

Report this review (#159462) | Posted by Shakespeare | Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Since I began listening to John Zorn I felt that his rock trio affair of Astronome and Moonchild rested near the bottom tier of his works. They were still very entertaining and well composed, but overall I felt they contain about the same elements of his superior works without the great variety of ... (read more)

Report this review (#142117) | Posted by Equality 7-2521 | Thursday, October 4, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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