Review Summary: Heretic Pride is a stunning, well-rounded piece of music that only The Mountain Goats could pull off.
Lyricists have all the freedom in the world; they can write about their trash bin for a spouse, a requiem for a friend who passed, a personal issue, or whatever is brewing in their minds. But with that, lyricists should know two important things: write to their specific demographics and to be extremely
careful about crossing that invisible, yet controversial line. Luckily the intellectually-stimulated mind of John Darnielle, better under The Mountain Goats, knows exactly who he is writing for, but also writes on topics that are always less than morbid. Take “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” from The Mountain Goats lo-fi gem, All Hail West Texas,
where Darnielle narrates about the issues and troubles that a death metal band went through. It’s sung like your favorite bedtime story, appropriately capitalizing on the classic, sinister undertones that plagued the tales ending with subtle chant, ‘hail Satan/ hail Satan tonight/ hail Satan/ hail, hail.’ With The Mountain Goats latest release, Heretic Pride,
the stories change, but the impact remains, more dramatic than ever.
With each release, The Mountain Goats have been refining their production and sound; Heretic Pride
is no different. The fullness of the sound and words streaming from “Sax Rohmer #1” spill out methodically behind a sweet-and-sour story that is almost heart-wrenching. Behind Darnielle’s bold and demanding vocals comes such an overwhelmingly happy feeling as he shouts, ‘and I am coming home to you/ with my own blood in my mouth/ and I am coming home to you/ if it’s the last thing that I do.’ Beyond the regular ‘band sound’ like in “Sax Rohmer #1,” Heretic Pride
features tracks with elegant string arrangements, like the cozy violin and cello strums in “San Bernardino.” Additionally, the strings resonate with such dramatic and triumph sounds within “In the Craters on the Moon.” In fact, “In the Craters on the Moon” has that orchestrated feeling, hinting a gloomy underlying similar to epic crescendos like that of Gustav Holst’s piece entitled “Mars.” But behind the darkness enveloped within the album, comes “Heretic Pride” shouting his gorgeous message ‘I want to cry out but I don’t scream and I don’t shout/ And I feel so proud to be alive/ And I feel so proud when the reckoning arrives.’ Amen, brother.
Beyond their elegant and poignant songs, The Mountain Goats can also rock out. Pumped full of indie-rock riffs, “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” steers behinds a staccato, yet catchy bass-line and Kayo Dot-esque violins. Darnielle’s eager voice provides an engaging feel leading “Lovecraft in Brooklyn.” The engaging vocals are almost like that of “Michael Myers Resplendent,” but with less theatrics. “Michael Myers Resplendent” is a triumphant ending track, laced with a depression piano behind the duly uttered words ‘everyone loves a winner.’ Past it all, John Darnielle sticks tough to his emotional and personal roots. Songs like “So Desperate” and “Tianchi Lake” are reminiscent of his older lo-fi sound, except without the fuzz from the Casio he was recording on. Both intimate songs are like Darnielle’s flashback to the past that made him someone that you could feel close to. This time Darnielle reminds you that he’s still there for you.
For anyone still unaware, John Darnielle’s lyrics paint some of the clearest pictures and some of most passionate stories to be ever be told. Darnielle takes what he knows about his fans, along with his freedom to talk about topics people can relate to and stand behind. Whether that is soldiers coming back from war or young couples giving birth to a new child with the promise that it'll live a prosperous life, regardless of the couple's financial conditions. The Mountain Goats put out one of their finest records to date in what is the summation of what John Darnielle has been building all along. Heretic Pride
is a stunning, well-rounded piece of music that only The Mountain Goats could pull off.