As an avid fan of post-rock I've listened to a fair bit of it in my time. Like many people, Godspeed You! Black Emperor were one of the first bands I encountered and came to love in the genre. I think GY!BE produce untouchable and flawless music and thus my excitement shot through the roof when I first heard about A Silver Mt Zion, who are an offshoot of the band, containing several members of GY!BE.
My first experience with ASMZ was not all fantastic. At first I was exclusively opposed to the somewhat scratchy and whiny lyrics I heard in their most recent album Horses in the sky. I kept the faith and attained their debut album He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms... and it was a significant improvement, but still it did not match the heights of anything I'd heard from Godspeed. Finally I uncovered Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward and I think I can safely say that no other post-rock album has made such a lasting impression on me from the first listen. This album is beautiful.
With eight tracks and weighing in at approximately 50 minutes there are no epic, thirty minute songs but instead just some extremely melodic and captivating tracks. The album starts with Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky which mysteriously ambles along quietly until some powerful strings come in and turn the track into a masterpiece. Then comes the piano which adds yet another dimension to the song. What I particularly appreciate about this album is the reliance on strong string elements and very little vocals. This song is easily one of the most haunting and beautiful post-rock tracks I've ever heard.
After this epic opener comes a track which acts as a foil, somewhat calming things down a tad. An earth-shattering bass can be heard during this track which reminds me of Esmerine. This can only be a good thing.
The third track on the album begins with a monologue recited by a schoolgirl who is somewhat upset with how things are in the world. I don't find this sample particularly annoying or detestable, despite it being a common trick to try and play on the senses of the listener. In fact, I think it's a masterstroke! She has the attitude and tone of voice which suggests that people will not stand for how things are anymore. Go forth and stand up for yourself little girl! You have all the weight of a thunderous seven-piece mini-orchestra behind you!
Once the third track is said and done, the album takes a turn towards the more angry and violent. The forth track subjects us to the vocals of Efrim Menuck and as usual, they are more scratchy then the 'dirty-violins' which sound behind him. They are entirely tolerable however adding much to the passion of the track. Following this agitated aural assault comes the epic Could've moved mountains. This track could quite easily pass off as a Godspeed track. It slowly builds up into a beautiful song, not quite reaching the epic crescendo you might expect, but still managing to maintain interest throughout. It's what I have been looking for in a hundred or so post-rock acts!
I think the album peaks here and then maintains an extremely high standard throughout the remaining three tracks where the mood manages to change from sinister to angry to sombre as you approach the finale of the album. As with most post-rock albums from this group there is an overwhelming feeling of unhappiness with the establishment, yet from the ultra-doom, there are specs of hope and happiness which you only begin to discover after an extraordinary amount of listens.
The final track - A triumph of our tired eyes is only the second track to incorporate vocals and once again, they do not impede on your enjoyment of the song.
This album is definitely one of the heavyweights of the post-rock genre. It is littered with beautiful and thought provoking songs, despite the obvious message that the band are not happy. If all Silver Mt. Zion albums sounded this good, I'd have no trouble professing them as my favourite band of all time. I would definitely recommend this album to any fans of the genre who haven't heard it yet.