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Silver Mt. Zion - Live 5/25/10
It's interesting how your perception of a show can change over time. I actually would be completely unaware of it were it not for the fact that I have this blog spelling out my thoughts from five years ago in my own writing. Rereading my review of my first Silver Mt. Zion show makes it seem like it was a pretty good concert, and all, but it could have been better. If you were to ask me now, I'd put it in the top five shows I've ever seen, which is saying something. It completely rearranged my perspective on the band, and more importantly, flipped my opinion of their at-the-time new, vocals-focused sound from seething hatred to bright-eyed adoration. You really can't expect to experience a band's performances again in the same way you did when you saw them for the first time; once they've completely remade your impression of them, it's almost impossible for it to happen again. A Silver Mt. Zion hasn't managed to repeat that perception-altering feat - not when I saw them on the tour for 13 Blues, nor when I caught them a few nights ago - but they have managed to consistently put on an incredible show that always deepens my respect for them, even if it doesn't serve as a revelation every time.

When Silver Mt. Zion took the stage, the first thing I noticed was that they were down two members from the last time I had seen them live; it appears they've lost their cellist and second guitarist. Permanently or temporarily, who knows - the band has seen almost as many lineup changes as albums (more on that later). I think it affected the sound a bit, but honestly, it was pretty hard to tell. When they're going full tilt, they still rock incredibly hard, as they proved with their opener, I Built Myself a Metal Bird, I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds. Sophie starts with the opening violin line, all distorted and surprisingly aggressive for what is normally a "pretty" instrument, and then the rest of the band hits, and they hit hard. They are, overall, and particularly in Metal Bird, an incredibly heavy band when they want to be. Not like Metallica or Dethklok or modern heavy metal, but more like Black Sabbath or Mono or... someone. Thiery's upright bass can produce this incredible, low growl, particularly when he pulls the bow across the open low E string, and the bass drum was hitting me like a thump to the chest with every kick.

Silver Mt. Zion probably rocked harder - and I mean they were harder and heavier, not necessarily better - this time than any previous time I've seen them. The songs have changed as the band has changed, something that was most notable on God Bless Our Dead Marines, the evening's second to last song, which I also heard the first time I saw them, when the band had a different drummer, another guitarist, and a cellist. There was more drumming, and harder drumming, and, if I'm not mistaken, a few extra lyrical lines. It was a bit more aggressive on the whole. Of course, Zion does quieter music just as well, as There is a Light adequately displayed. They followed the Metal Bird suite with There is a Light, their most uplifting song, and one with an almost gospel inflection to it. After that came the Collapse Traditional suite, and then God Bless Our Dead Marines, and then 1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound. I think God Bless was my favorite of the night, and one of my favorite songs of theirs, as well, but Metal Bird was right behind it. The crushing opening of Metal Bird and the row at the end of God Bless were both concert highlights.

In between songs Efrim actively fielded questions from the audience. In the past he's always been willing to answer shouted questions and chat in general, but this time he actually said, "does anyone have any questions?" and then spent a solid five to ten minutes between each song answering them. At least half were inane and possibly drunken, but there some were good questions that yielded extremely interesting answers. One guy asked about the possibility of Godspeed You! Black Emperor playing All Tomorrows Parties, and, as I knew would happen, Efrim replied that he wasn't interesting in answering GY!BE questions at a Silver Mt. Zion show. Asked what prompted them to change from a "post-rocky sound to a rock-rocky sound," something that I've always wondered without actually wondering it, Efrim replied that they were playing shows in bars and playing these quiet little piano pieces - "plunk....... plunk......." - and it felt very silly. And, for the record, they don't consider themselves a "post-rock" band, as it is a bullshit term. He kind of shrugged and rolled his eyes to "rock-rock" or "full-on rock", too. It's the artists' dilemma, which I agree with and understand; you hate being given a label and having your music thrown into a box; you don't write your music with the intent of being put in a box, but people need words to describe things, so you get labeled. Can't blame them for using words to describe things, but you don't have to like it, either.

Someone asked why they changed their name on every album - they don't, as Efrim pointed out, just often - which was an excellent question as well, and the answer was that they change their name whenever a member joins or leaves. What had seemed pretentious and sort of art-snobby now seems cool in my eyes; they have respect for every member of the band, and don't pretend like they're completely the same when members change. Someone else asked if they would, in fact, release a live album - news that I hadn't heard - to which they replied that they were indeed working on one. I'm now looking forward to that quite a bit. The evening's most interesting question and reply came from the balcony, though: what's the overarching theme of Silver Mt. Zion's music? This isn't an exact quote, as memory may have bent a few of Efrim's words in reply, but I'm pretty positive about the first two parts, and the third is pretty close. His answer, which I think really does sum up Silver Mt. Zion's music pretty well, was, "that people are basically good, that the world we live in is basically evil, and that your only option is to take care of the people that you love as best you can."

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