Manchester Orchestra
The Million Masks of God


4.5
superb

Review

by Knott- EMERITUS
May 2nd, 2021 | 24 replies


Release Date: 04/30/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In the light, you arrive, as the curtain closes.

The Million Masks of God is an album that Manchester Orchestra could never have made until now. Their sixth LP jumps gorgeously out of its shell in much the same way as “Deer” and “The Maze”, with a dense arrangement, lush layered vocals, and a melody that will follow you around for days. But where it goes from there is a quiet revolution in style. By the time the end of penultimate track “Way Back” swells, with its (honestly) Paul Simon-esque harmonies, were it not for Andy Hull’s unmistakeable voice, you could be forgiven for wondering if you’d experienced the right record.

Of course, then “The Internet” crawls its way in and builds, sounding very much like “The Silence” in ominous tone and melody, if not quite stature. The band have made much of this album as a companion piece to A Black Mile To The Surface, but though there are callbacks peppered throughout – both musical and lyrical – this is a million black miles away from Part 2. Maybe the band felt that 2017’s masterpiece started to broaden the band’s palette and Masks continues that. But truth be told, half of the songs here rip the concept of Manchester Orchestra apart at the centre and rebuild it from new inspiration.

I’ve already made the ludicrous Paul Simon reference, so – in for a penny, in for a pound. Other names that spring to mind on close scrutiny include Silversun Pickups (like, everywhere), Coldplay, and Radiohead. Only on lead single “Bed Head” do the band sound undeniably like themselves. Part of this is a fresh application of layered electronics, which form the backbone of tracks like “Keel Timing”. But there is something deeper. “Dinosaur” starts out sounding like the brother to “Pride”, but quickly discovers a groove that this band has honestly never even hinted at before. “Let it Storm” is underpinned by gentle piano and picked guitars, but has the momentum of a persistent stream, unassuming and yet somehow irresistible.

At the centre of these dense new textures is Andy Hull. The performance he puts in here is by all accounts much quieter than at any point in Manchester Orchestra’s career. But it calls to mind the transformation of Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue on Beggars; he grabs vocal clothing he’s donned at times through his career – sinister, whispered, pained, aggressive – and wears them with a confidence and versatility that is genuinely stunning. Even the closer, in its imitation of Black Mile’s swansong, contains an actual Andy Hull falsetto that deserves a mention of its very own. Lyrically, Hull is again a new person, cryptic throughout, burdened as ever by faith and love and responsibility, but more introspective than you’ve ever heard him.

All of these things swirl around each other to create a Manchester Orchestra album unlike any you’ve heard before. It’s degrees of magnitude calmer, more complex, and less immediate than Black Mile, let alone Cope, which is now a distant blip on the radar of the band’s growth into an alternative rock outfit with a truly vast range. If Black Mile took their anthemic, widescreen songwriting to a whole new level, Million Masks looks sideways rather than upwards. The end result is gorgeous, with fewer clenched fists, but more to wrap your arms around. The sunshine, if you will, to the darkness.



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user ratings (317)
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Sowing STAFF (5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
May 2nd 2021


10253 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Been a while, Sput.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2021


45715 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

great write-up, that sideways rather than upwards idea has been helping me get my head around the album too

Digging: Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

nol
May 2nd 2021


9540 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is the Ok Computer of Manchester Orchestra albums.

Minushuman24
May 2nd 2021


4839 Comments


based

parksungjoon
May 2nd 2021


35452 Comments


first review in 9 years wah

Digging: Controlled Bleeding - Distress Signals

Knott-
Emeritus
May 2nd 2021


10253 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I know right, sheesh

parksungjoon
May 2nd 2021


35452 Comments


pretty cool how much a lot of people seem to be loving this!

Jots
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2021


7390 Comments


yeah uh could you ... knott? •̀ᴗ•́

nol
May 2nd 2021


9540 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

good review doe

Snake.
May 2nd 2021


23468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

how is this review not breaking the site

Knott-
Emeritus
May 2nd 2021


10253 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

than Q. weirdly i can see the substance in your OK Computer comparison, even tho i'm not too much of a fan of that record.

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2021


58128 Comments


Noice

Digging: Radwimps - Your Name.

WatchItExplode
May 2nd 2021


9244 Comments


Oh, hello there. Guess I have to read another MO review now.

LeddSledd
May 3rd 2021


5979 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

welcome back! good review too

Project
May 3rd 2021


5140 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

knott is back, never thought I'd see the day, great to see that byline again

Digging: CHVRCHES - Screen Violence

Knott-
Emeritus
May 3rd 2021


10253 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

< 3 y'all, y'all

Masochist
May 3rd 2021


9101 Comments


Wow, Knott! Welcome back man, great to see a review from you. This album is awesome, and the review lives up to the author. I'm very happy you made the Silversun Pickups comparison, because that was the first band that I thought of while listening to this, as well.

I disagree with the comparison of "The Internet" to "The Silence," though--I think it's very "Simple Math"-ish (the song). Still, I enjoyed reading your thoughts into the song and the album, you were always one of my favorite reviewers so it's nice to get at least one more!

Purpl3Spartan
May 3rd 2021


1183 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Insanely good review. Gonna check this

Digging: They Will Fall - On the Depths of Depravity

DDDeftoneDDD
May 3rd 2021


18457 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Amazing review.

Digging: Replicant - Malignant Reality

Project
May 3rd 2021


5140 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Knott I love that your last two reviews are this beautiful work of effusive praise and the classic Mumford parable



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