John Zorn

Templars: In Sacred Blood

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The sixth installment in John Zorn's Moonchild series centers around the mysterious, monastic cult of warriors known as the Knights Templar, who were established and recognized by the Catholic Church somewhere near 1128 and were excommunicated by Pope Clement V in 1312 for heresy (allegedly for overtly worshipping Baphomet, i.e. Satan). While the Moonchild trio has been a constant -- vocalist Mike Patton, drummer Joey Baron, and bassist Trevor Dunn -- they have been augmented from time to time. Here, John Medeski's organ makes them a quartet and it's a nice touch; Zorn's music for this cycle, while full of dynamic bursts of rock, jazz, and avant power, also evokes Roman Catholic liturgical music to great effect. Medeski's presence here paints moods and themes (check "Prophetic Souls") beautifully as Baron and Dunn create necessary architectures of dynamic tension and drama. Patton, however, has never been better than he is here. From taut spoken word narratives, hair-raising screaming, baritone murmurs, whispers, and even layered Gregorian chants ("Murder of the Magicians," which melds it to Morricone-esque spaghetti western music); he is a formidable catalyst for these proceedings. Another example is "Libera Me," where he uses a rather astonishing array of skills in one track. As such, of all the Moonchild releases, Templars: In Sacred Blood, is easily the most accessible, although relatively dark, it's a hell of a lot of fun. Even Zorn's lyrics are among the most poetic he's ever written; they follow a loose trajectory of historical and spiritual themes and still offer nods to his acidic sense of humor. His compositions are tight; they rarely give into the excesses that some of the other Moonchild projects have almost gleefully wallowed in. Templars: In Sacred Blood is a blast from top to bottom.

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