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Moonchild Trio - Six Litanies for Heliogabalus CD (album) cover


Moonchild Trio



4.16 | 43 ratings

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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+

1800iareyay | 4/5 |


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