Thee Silver Mount Zion
13 Blues for Thirteen Moons


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
May 17th, 2008 | 74 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist


13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, the fifth full length release from Canada’s favorite post rockers, has “pretentious” written all over it. First of all, the post-Godspeed You! Black Emperor collective have elected to call themselves “Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band” this time round, instead of just sticking to “A Silver Mount Zion”, for the sole purpose of pissing the media off. Secondly, the band clutters the start of their album with twelve 5-second tracks of stray noise and sounds that grate the ear rather than welcome. In addition to that, lead singer Efrim Menuck’s increasingly bombastic lyrics lead him into arrogant one-liners such as “YOUR BAND IS BLAND!” and “THE HANGMAN’S GOT A HARD ON!” Every real song stretches to around fifteen minutes, with in your face vocals, repetitive arrangements, and strings that at times sound like they’re included just to boast how “deep” A Silver Mount Zion is.

But 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons makes one thing certain: A Silver Mount Zion can make some pretty kickin’ tunes.

The beginning of 13 Blues suggests a brand new sound for A Silver Mount Zion, one that eschews the vast soundscapes created on their previous records in favor of structure and grit, thus forming a sound light on effect-heavy wanking and strong on actual rock. At the starting gun, A Silver Mount Zion attack with explosive riffs and intricate vocal arrangements. “1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound” kicks off the album with tension filled string plucking and the eerily robotic chanting of the song’s title by the group’s choir before letting all hell break loose with a dynamic cello phrase that, when accompanied with sneering guitar and crash-heavy beats courtesy of new drummer Eric Craven, gives the band some legitimate swagger. The track rages on without stopping, providing fifteen minutes of an unabashed strut. “1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound” hints that 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons won’t be a typical post rock record- that finally, a band with that unfortunate label will make an album with some ***ing attitude. And A Silver Mount Zion delivers. Kinda.

After the consistently climactic- yet never boring- “1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound”, the group, like a man and his comfort lover, starts flirting with their standard noodly, “arty” music. And like that ill-fated relationship, the results are clumsy and awkward at best. This falls largely on the shoulders of leader Efrim Menuck’s increasing confidence (cockiness?) in his vocal talents, which have begun to fall on the irritating side of the unprofessional fence. Both “13 Blues for Thirteen Moons” and “Black Waters Blown/Engine Broke Blues” have Menuck shouting almost tunelessly, the first half of the former containing repeated chants of senseless lyrics like “There's ravens in the gun trees!” and “I just want some action!” Menuck’s never been shy about his anarchistic political beliefs, weaving his ideals into Silver Mount Zion lyrics since he began writing them, but on “13 Blues For Thirteen Moons”, his attempts at emotion come off sounding contrived and predictable. It’s the right attitude- just the incorrect execution. Menuck rants are impassioned enough, but the bare bones instrumentation leaves him sounding completely alone, leaving one of the few weaknesses of A Silver Mount Zion completely naked, and it’s an ugly sight.

Menuck’s voice, for whatever reason inheriting a more and more Scottish inflection with time, isn’t nearly strong enough to carry a track by itself, a fact made clear when Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band utilize the reasons for the ridiculous addendums to their name. The group oozes talent, and tracks that take advantage of each of the member’s assets rather than let Menuck bark away prove the best tracks on the album. Moments such as the chaotic, avant garde opening to “Black Waters Blown” or the gorgeous strings/choral apex of “Blindblindblind” highlight the group’s choral and orchestral talents, so obvious on previous albums like This Is Our Punk Rock and He Has Left Us Alone (respectively). When “Black Water Blown” picks up after its flailing introduction minus a Jonny Rotten-esque Menuck, the band lets loose with an anguished, almost bluesy kind of feel before transitioning into the refreshingly pretty “Engine Broke Blues”. Menuck misses the mark again lyrically (”Feathers In your spokes/ Mother*** these weathered yokes”), but the unreserved, genuine passion of his tone makes his stream-of-consciousness writings immaterial. Menuck’s voice is uncomfortably hit or miss on 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, but when he hits, he can directly cause the most powerful moments on the album.

Before the album’s final piece, 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons comes off angry, bleak, and tense. “Blindblindblind” closes the record with completely different adjectives, however, starting with a sweet delayed guitar riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Gregor Samsa record and Menuck coming as close to a croon as he can, saving his voice for the lung stretching climax to come later. The phrase repeats steadily as the orchestration slowly swells, the violins swooning and sighing to match the dejectedness of the lyrics (”Entire fleets of staggering ships/ Now our ships lie in the floors of the ocean And the oceans bleach on the rich”). The song’s key vocal theme begins to enter, the chorus singing “Some hearts are true…” before dropping out completely for a strictly plucked reprise of the chords. Menuck is left alone and delivers this time round, singing, “Sometimes there’s an abandoned baby who claims to help. Powers the province of impotent pricks. There ain’t no arguing. But sometimes there are policemen in parallel lines.” Slowly, the track begins to grow, the crash cymbals coming, the strings hitting their loudest, and the chorus repeating “Some Hearts Are True!” so beautifully, it’s heart-wrenching. It leaves 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons on an optimistic, powerful note, completely contrasting the tension of the album’s prior material. Overall, 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons shows A Silver Mount Zion at their hardest rocking, their most powerful, and their most irritating. Inconsistent? Yeah, a little bit. Yet as the instruments die out, leaving Menuck and the Silver Mount Zion chorus alone to sing the refrain with an ethereal reverence, it’s not implausible to look back on 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons and see it as Silver Mount Zion at their most enjoyable.



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user ratings (153)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

This comes out March 10th in Europe and March 25th in the States, but Jom gave me the go ahead to submit this now.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Doppelganger
March 8th 2008


3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I pretty much agree with the review, though Menuck has *always sounded like a sheep.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
March 8th 2008


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this review has a bit of "quotes"
Well since I didn't think anyone would review this two weeks and three days before the US release date, regardless if it's out in Europe, I didn't start my review on this. Oh well.

iarescientists
March 8th 2008


5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's too raw and not very musical. Though the vocal arrangements are very cool.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
March 8th 2008


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

what are you talking about

edit: lol I completely remember now.
edit #2: Recommending Slint and that Do Make Say Think album is actually baffling because I see no correlations. I'd the best rec. would be Vic Chesnutt - North Star DeserterThis Message Edited On 03.08.08

Altmer
March 8th 2008


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i need to listen to this band what is best place to start

also good review

Neoteric
March 8th 2008


3243 Comments


go you

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

@ Altmer: This is Our Punk Rock is my favorite release by them, though He Has Left Us Alone is also worth getting if you want more Godspeed-like stuff. Also, that has "Movie, Never Made".This Message Edited On 03.08.08

Altmer
March 8th 2008


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I find Godspeed kinda boring, so I figured I'll just try my hand at this thing considering it's more... rocky as you describe.

Two-Headed Boy
March 8th 2008


4527 Comments


First of all, the post-Godspeed You! Black Emperor collective have elected to call themselves “Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band” this time round, instead of just sticking to “A Silver Mount Zion”, for the sole purpose of pissing the media off.

They've had that name since 2001.

Two-Headed Boy
March 8th 2008


4527 Comments


Good review though, can't wait to get this. Born Into Trouble is probably my favorite post rock album.

Intransit
March 8th 2008


2797 Comments


I ASKED FOR THIS IN THE VOID AND NO ONE SENT IT

PLEASE HOOK ME UP

br3ad_man
Emeritus
March 8th 2008


2125 Comments


My review of this will be up soon, and it will be different because I don't like this as much as you. I'll probably give it a 3.

Also whenever I hear "the hangman's got a hard-on", I cringe so much.

Doppelganger
March 9th 2008


3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That's the 2nd most cringeworthy line, 1st probably being "WE WILL NOT SING AT YOUR DAMN PA-RADE"

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

For me, "YOUR BAND IS BLAND!" wins easily.

iarescientists
March 9th 2008


5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

we were fucking corndogs

br3ad_man
Emeritus
March 9th 2008


2125 Comments


Really good review by the way dude. Forgot to mention that in my first post.

Altmer
March 9th 2008


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

They've had that name since 2001.


nah they changed it up till 2005 though it has been similar to the name they had in 2001

Mendigo
March 9th 2008


2299 Comments


1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound must be the coolest song title ever ;)
cool review, this comes out in Europe tomorrow as far as I know. I don't have anything by A Silver Mt. Zion yet, but I really love Godspeed You! Black Emperor, so I'll check this one out.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Refer to my post to Altmer to find a good starting point for ASMZ.



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