Review: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
There has been very little “independence” in the world of “indie rock” in recent years. What was once a culture to be proud of (when bands such as Built to Spill, Slint and Pavement trail-blazed for the genre in the early 90’s) has since become a cesspool of overly saccharine, saturated with reverb, trust fund baby bands.
On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal, however, who will be the voices for this generation of musicians? Luckily, Efrim Menuck and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra show that it is still “cool” to say “F*** Off” to the establishment. While the collective’s new album, F*** Off, Get Free, We Pour Light On Everything, may seem apocalyptic, in the end there is a whisper of hope-whether we choose to listen or not.
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The Godspeed You! Black Emperor mastermind (Menuck) is known for being fervently against any establishment ideology or dogma. Just last year, the collective outright rejected the Polaris Prize and $30,000 (for which a statement was released). To anyone who believes this action is pretentious, I would advise you to look directly into the band’s history, studying their core philosophy. This same burning desire to fight bleeds through on Fuck Off, Get Free… and wastes no time being blatantly abrasive.
While a lot of the same elements that are recurrent in GY!BE are found on this LP, they align in different ways. Once obvious difference (for those of you who never listened to Silver Mt. Zion) is the singing by Menuck. What Menuck lacks in technical ability and aesthetic vocal beauty, he more than makes up for in passionate vocal projection and delivery, as well as excellent lyrical songwriting.
The first half of the album is extremely anthemic, with the first three tracks drawing deep from Silver Mt. Zion’s punk, metal and progressive influences. Songs such as “Austerity Blues” are equal parts Led Zeppelin and King Crimson. The burning intensity of these songs seem like a proper continuation of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!; although it does not seem like a direct imitation. This is refreshing, seeing as how most other side projects from prominent frontmen seem like a direct copy and paste.
As the album goes on, the fire begins to burnout, though not in a negative way. The latter half of the album is more subdued than the former, showing what becomes apparent after the smoke clears, revealing a world left in ruin. The quaint piano ballad, “Little Ones Run”, is followed by the powerful, orchestral “What We Loved Is Not Enough”. The suspense-laden crescendos found in GY!BE’s movements are not present this time around, with the band instead opting for a more direct, emotionally moving approach.
With the entire album being a masterpiece up until this point, it is only right that the album ends off with the most potent song on the entire LP. “Rains Thru The Roof At The Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez)” is a beautiful, tear-jerking closer/tribute to Pro Era’s own Captial Steez, who lost his life in late 2012. While the song does manage to suffice on its own, the fact that it is a tribute makes it all the more substantial.
With an entire LP prophesying about riots in malls and burning cities, it is perfect closure when Menuck asks you to “Hold on/Don’t be gone”. For all of its doomsaying and apocalyptic jargon, Fuck Off, Get Free… wants you to get free and still hold on to the speck of hope that you have, for you can change the world or lose your life well before your time. Any tribute could have been written for Capital Steez by any hip-hop artist, however within the album’s context, it holds much more weight. The closer on this LP acts as a crucible, a catalyst for not only a great MC’s legacy but also for an undying spirit to fight against oppression to the last breath.
Favorite Tracks: All
Least Favorite Tracks: None