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

Eleven years on from its third album “This Is Our Punk-Rock,” Thee Rusted Satellites Gather+Sing, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra has thankfully lost none of its punk spirit as clearly evidenced by the defiance fueling the attack of its latest set of 21st-century protest music Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything. As seen through Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra's eyes, the world remains a bleak zone of greed, injustice, and corruption, one which makes it harder and harder to cling to some micro-thin thread of hope.

The band might now be a slimmer outfit of five players but it roars today with no less politically-charged passion than it did when Efrim Menuck, along with Thierry Amar and Sophie Trudeau, established it in 1999 as a largely instrumental trio. If anything, the current lineup of guitarist Menuck, drummer David Payant, contrabassist Amar, and violinists Jessica Moss and Trudeau gives the band's delivery more focus and allows it to move with greater stealth and mobility. Throughout the fifty-minute album, the band works up a glorious noise, with all five members contributing vocals, sometimes in the form of a collective chant, to the six songs.

“Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)” stokes a defiant fireball of guitar roar and vocal chanting, the latter almost drowned out by an opaque instrumental mass of guitars and strings. It's a powerful opening salvo for sure, but it's as memorable for the even heavier turn the band takes seven minutes into the track. No letup in intensity or passion occurs in the transition to the second piece, “Austerity Blues,” the album's fourteen-minute centerpiece, with once again, the music barreling forth as an hellacious, high-decibel howl, strings sawing furiously and guitars wailing.

There are moments, such as during the bruising “Take Away These Early Grave Blues,” when the music, bolstered by the strings' attack, wails with a seething prog-metal ferocity reminiscent of King Crimson's Red, even if stylistically Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra has more in common with a punk outfit than one associated, even if tangentially, with prog-rock (though Menuck does play mellotron on the recording).

Leavening the album's oft-aggressive pitch is the gentle lullaby “Little Ones Run,” whose comforting instrumental tone is belied by lyrics such as “Wake up, darling, the moon is gone / The sky's a mess and falling down,” and “What We Loved Was Not Enough,” an emotional epic whose plaintive sing-song lilt reaches an especially affecting level in the heartfelt vocal delivery and violin playing. Certain lyrics notwithstanding (e.g., “The day has come when we no longer feel”), theirs is not a music dragged down by defeat and surrender but one empowered by clear-headed hope and determination. As the group sings in the album's opening song, “But there's fire in our dreams,” and we hope that said fire will long continue to burn.

January 2014