A SILVER MT. ZION – Kollaps Tradixionales (Constellation)

I must admit that the last A Silver Mt. Zion album that I bought was way back in 2002, when at the time they were always considered the poor cousins to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and then subsequently were overtaken by Arcade Fire, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that they were still going, and that they had a new album out. The second surprise was to hear just how much the band had changed since I last heard them. ‘There Is A Light’ bursts from the speakers in the sort of frenzy that I have never heard from them before, and although it is also tempered with some quieter violin and horn passages during its fifteen minutes, there is still a power there that I was not expecting. Just in case I thought that it was a one-off ‘I Built Myself A Metal Bird’ is even heavier, with riffing guitars and a punk attitude that gives this six minute gem a real presence. The violin is used especially well, counterpointing the guitars and filling in the gaps to give the whole song a really dense feel. This sort of song is also a gift for vocalist Efrim Menuck, as his usual straining delivery - which can be something of an acquired taste – is replaced with a deeper, chanting style buried deep in the mix, which is a lot easier on the ear. With ‘I Fed My Metal Bird The Wings Of Other Metal Birds’ you can start to see a theme running through this album, but it is really just a coda to the previous track, starting out with an ambient soundscape of crashing cymbals and ethereal violin, over which the guitar gradually intrudes, until both it and the violin end up duelling in a superb instrumental finale. The (almost) title track ‘Kollapz Tradixional’ is more how I remember the band, being a sparse bluesy song, with the strings much more prominent and Menuck’s vocals as indecipherable as ever. The second part of the title track trilogy is ‘Collapse Traditional’, and is really just a ninety second link to the third part ‘Kollaps Tradicional’, where the melody stolen from ‘Scarborough Fair’ is bludgeoned under a barrage of guitar and violin, in the midst of which they manage to produce another powerful piece of music. Menuck’s vocals are at their most manic, and the violin is really given its head on this one, holding the song together superbly. ‘’Piphany Rambler’ closes the album with another lengthy track, stretched out so much that at times it is just Menuck and the violin gently winding their way through the song. There is some nice fuzz guitar about five minutes in, and this prompts the rest of the band to up the ante and build to a thrilling crescendo, before they pull back and the song winds down to just voice, violin and drums again, with the band making a reappearance for the last five minutes. Despite being somewhat shocked at the change in style (although this has apparently been ongoing for a while now, so not so much of a surprise for some people) I still really enjoyed this album, and I am glad to find that the band are still going and producing their unique style of music.
I Built Myself A Metal Bird