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


A Silver Mt. Zion


Post Rock/Math rock

3.82 | 86 ratings

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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.

TCat | 5/5 |


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