Catch-Up Reviews #4: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Culted, Sunn O)))/Ulver, Behemoth…

As much as I hate to say it, these reviews will be sloppily done – I’d been building drafts of them for weeks now and I’m just impatient as there’s more stuff I want to do. I guess this will just be round-ups of my opinion on them rather than proper mini-reviews, sorry. I’ll be making up for it in the future, got some exciting stuff in the works!

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra (or if you’re like me: A Silver Mt. Zion) is the ever growing project of Efrim Menuck; multi-instrumentalist and core member of the renowned Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It’s undeniable that while A Silver Mt. Zion hasn’t left as much an impression on post-rock fans as GY!BE, it’s still a project that has its following and seems to be forever evolving. This is the seventh release by the ‘Silver Mt. Zion’ collection.

On a personal note, A Silver Mt. Zion has been a band that I like and dislike at the same time. Their progressiveness and the soothing tone of their overall sound – the project always seems to go for hard-hitting atmospheres that touch your nerves. However, Menuck’s vocals have always irked me after listening to a few tracks in a row and sometimes it did just feel pretentious. “Fuck Off Get Free” sees a significant change for the project though: bigger riffs (and more distortion), more confrontational attitude and a change to the vocals too!

The opening track (and my favourite) Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal) is an instant sign of the change. Menuck’s vocals seem like a constantly changing mix of Damon Albarn and Chuck Moseley, which is bizarre to say the least, and the track just bashfully marches forward – the personal highlight is towards the end when the band fall into a doom rhythm with brooding guitars. If you’re a fan of the band, or just relatively into progressive or experimental indie music, this is an album well worth checking out. Possibly their most engaging yet.

Favourite tracks: Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal), Take Away These Early Grave Blues, What We Loved Was Not Enough.

Culted – Oblique To All Paths

Culted - Oblique To All Paths

Culted are a band that’s new to me and have a very unusual story to them… no tales about being childhood friends or deciding to start a band after a few beers, but knowing each other and writing music through the internet since 2007; the members split between America and Sweden. Unfortunately, the awkwardness of this distance really shows on this album.

Bluntly, “Oblique To All Paths” is a very monotone and recycled album. Nothing feels fresh or exciting, and there’s no power or atmosphere to be found where you feel like you should be feeling it. This seems to be down to two reasons: the mix and the lack of refining ideas. On this album, the drums sound so weak it’s pitiful, while the guitars are bland and passive, and there’s nothing distinguishable about the vocals either. The poor mix really cripples the album for me, and it’s hard to find any enjoyment in it.

As for the refinement of ideas, it’s clearly something they haven’t done… sometimes tracks just feel like a collage of different ideas just thrown together and never thought through – however there are moments (very slight moments) where you can hear potential for something big, but Culted never deliver it, which is unfortunate. It’s a struggle to get past the first track, let alone the whole album.

Favourite tracks: None.

Sunn O)))/Ulver – Terrestrials

Sunn O))) / Ulver - Terrestrials

Hearing about this project excited me, even after hearing that this is basically a recording of improvisation that is several years old between the two bands. Sunn O))) are one of my top bands (especially in drone music) and I’ve always preferred Ulver’s electronic/ambient works as opposed to their black metal/folk/rock stuff – so for these two elements to meet is a dream come true.

“Terrestrials” consists of three tracks (between the 9 and 15-minute marks) which are instrumental apart from the last track, featuring vocals from Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg. The tracks as a whole is a progression through glittering and drone soundscapes, with appearances of horns and strings, always staying on the more ambient side of things – you never really get the infamous Sunn O))) guitars here – and just relaxes you into an almost euphoric state.

My only complaint (and it’s usually my only complaint when it comes to Ulver) is the vocals on the final track Eternal Return. Rygg’s mythical vocals don’t quite fit with the music here and the two sort of jar against each other; but then I’ve always struggled with Rygg’s vocals as a whole (the only exception being Ulver’s last release “Messe I.X-VI.X”).

Favourite tracks: Let There Be Light, Western Horn.

Behemoth – The Satanist

Behemoth - The Satanist

Behemoth are a band that needs no introduction after having laid a path of destruction and fear in their wake for over two decades, thanks to their game-changing version of blackened death metal. Not only that, but vocalist and guitarist Nergal has been focused on with his fight with Leukemia, facing court orders for ripping up Bibles at live performances and even making appearances on television for talk shows and TV series.

It’s criminal that I’m only giving this a short review. “The Satanist” sees Behemoth at their most visceral since their 2004 release “Demigod”. The angst and fury on here is almost suffocating – especially with Nergal’s spitting vocals – and it’s refreshing to hear such raw brutality and frustration. The technicality is still there and so is the impeccable timing and clarity of each instrument. For a band that relies heavily on it’s single sound and having released so many albums for so many years, it’s great that Behemoth somehow manage to avoid even teetering towards being stale. It’s just so fucking good.

The only negative on a personal level is the final track, O Father O Satan O Sun!. While it is a nice finale to the album, and really does shine with a sense of victory and overcoming, I can’t help but just think of how it feels like something that should be on a Rocky soundtrack, especially with it’s suspense and rising guitars. I just imagine Rocky Balboa running up steps while shadowboxing every time. Even then, the track keeps growing on me with each listen.

Just an absolute gem of an album.

Favourite tracks: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, Messe Noir, In The Absence Ov Light.

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