The work of Godspeed You! Black Emperor—the Montreal-based collective of which Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra is an offshoot—relies on the epic crawl towards splashdown, the wave caught in slow motion that makes you tense inside as you watch it creep closer to cresting. Silver Mt. Zion has little patience for that now. The band’s mode of late is to kick right to the heart of the musical matter and let the shockwaves of their initial impact resonate for as long as they and the listener can handle.
It wasn’t always this way. Early efforts like 2000’s He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms… and Born Into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward released the next year, help to separate the chamber music core of the band’s parent project, building songs out of austere string melodies and fizzy samples. But as the world has become more fractured and fraught, the group has responded in recent work by losing the build and ramping up the bombast.
To achieve that, the band has maintained the lean approach to instrumentation that they debuted on 2010’s Kollaps Tradixionales. Unlike their previous album, the core is still there—bassist Thierry Amar, guitarist Efrim Menuck, drummer David Payant and violinists Sophie Trudeau and Jessica Moss—but there are no additional players padding out these six songs. Everything has been honed to a razor-sharp edge ready to garrote the next political who proposes austerity measures in a time of economic crisis.
That goes for the Silver Mt. Zion’s stew of lacerating guitar and unforgiving drumming augmented by the swell of Moss and Trudeau’s violin work. And it goes double for the lyrical content here. Each line could be pasted on a protest sign or chanted in the streets during an Occupy rally: “All we want is what we’re owed/we’ve all of us carried this load,” and “Pale man always gets his/pale man always got his/boot on our necks.” The effect is only enhanced by the fact that all five members of the group are often singing in unison, stirring and rousing you to action. Whether that action is storming your local statehouse or just cranking the volume on your stereo, I get the feeling that Silver Mt. Zion will be pleased no matter what.