The sixth album from the many-monikered incarnations of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra (with another slight name change) offers a renewed sense of purpose in the studio after personnel changes pared the group down to a quintet. Along with founding members guitarist/lead vocalist Efrim Menuck, violinist Sophie Trudeau, and contrabassist Thierry Amar, are Dave Payant on drums, organ, and piano, and violinist Jessica Moss. Longtime fans are in for a shock on “There Is a Light,” the 15-minute opening track. Menuck's quavering vocals are looser, less concerned with pitch than ever before. It begins as a slow, mournful balladic waltz with electric guitar, and strings lilting underneath his voice. (For some reason, though we’ve heard it before, it takes some getting used to for a couple of minutes here.) It feels like a hymn, and his lyrics exhort even as they grieve; they're punctuated at the three-minute mark with horns; then, at four minutes, the tune begins its lift-off, becoming a dramatic, expansive rock paean with TSMZMO's trademark dynamics and complex textures rising and falling numerous times before the song concludes with everyone singing as a choir, unfettered. “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” is a full-on Stooges-like rocker, with raging guitars, drums, and Menuck's vocal swaggering on the front edge. It’s followed by “I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds,” a six-minute coda that begins haltingly and then explodes into full-on prog rock dynamism. The title track -- with three different title variations -- is a three-part, 13-minute suite that ranges from faltering experimentalism to a punishing, transcendent, rockist power play by its finale. The set closes with the 14-minute monolith “’Piphany Rambler,” that ushers itself in as a droning, mutant slide guitar and organ blues before beginning the first of its many mutations (some of them with horns), eventually ending as a blown-out, wasted anthemic elegy. This is another chapter in the sonic evolution that began with the name A Silver Mt. Zion, and contains many more dimensions, layers, and textures. It pushes harder and further with much less, yet comes across as no less raggedly and poetically majestic.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek