Mount Moriah - Mount Moriah
Record Label: Holiday For Quince Records
Release Date: April 12th, 2011
Temporarily rewinding ever so slightly back to 2005, Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller, the two integral components of Mount Moriah, met while working at a local record store in North Carolina. Sharing a mutual love for music, the two would later concentrate wholeheartedly on their own musical careers and endeavors - McEntire partaking in the post-punk outfit Bellafea and Miller in the predominantly heavy metal project Horseback. The pair then later decided to collaborate together soon after under the moniker Un Deux Trois, and in 2007 this subsequently led to both McEntire and Miller unanimously deciding to focus their efforts on a full-time basis to the newly renamed and revamped Mount Moriah. Gone are the heavy metal riffs and solos, and absent are the distinct punk influences of McEntire's previous musical aspirations, but instead Mount Moriah serves as a stark departure with it's elegant acoustic vibes and dark, moody lyrical textures and themes, with the album itself effortlessly propelled by McEntire's lovely vocal delivery, evoking themes of utmost vulnerability and candidness.
Album opener, "The Only Way Out" paints an accurate representation as to what you as a listener should expect to stumble across during Mount Moriah's eight-track, forty minute duration. The track is simple yet striking and wonderfully well written, the arrangement and song structure certainly aren't anything overly complex or sophisticated, but what it does manage to achieve is the profound ability to showcase McEntire's vocal prowess and the musicianship of guitarist and co-founding member Jenks Miller. The melodies are plentiful, rising high over rhythmic snare beats and classy touches of cello, sweeping strings and lavish organs. The lyrics also have a storytelling element surrounding them as the theme fluctuates between reflection ("If you would've stayed, I would've stayed / but the only way to love you now is to walk away") and helplessness and entrapment ("I can't seem to throw away the letters or the pictures for some kind of proof or truth that all of this really happened").
"Social Wedding Rings" proves to be arguably the catchiest and most accessible number on the record with its sing-along verses and succulent melodies. Once again the lyrics choose to focus predominantly on the relatable topic of love and loss, but whilst it may be deemed the most original of themes, McEntire effortlessly employs copious amounts of detail and imagery with such ease that suggests she's relaying distillations from her own life and past experiences. Her words have poetic flair while being unmistakably direct and confronting. "I sat in the living room and watched your girlfriend pack her things to move away from you" McEntire confesses, her voice shaking slightly before going into further detail in the following verse. "The next time we would meet would be a train wreck of nerves and sexless sleep; mistakes made into hymns".
If you're looking for a one-two punch that best exemplifies all that is Mount Moriah, you needn't look much further than the graceful and elegant two and a half minute stunner, "Lament" sitting alongside the near six minute captivating and immeasurably powerful, "Old Gowns". "Lament" in particular is an absorbing tune that features the welcome addition of shakers, tambourines, and melancholic inducing guitar notes and tones. The vast amount of unpredictable instrumentation successfully creates a gorgeous musical soundscape to McEntire's irresistibly warm vocal delivery as she sings without a faltering flicker of remorse or hesitation, "If this will be anything, then let it be disaster / a mouthful of bees couldn't stop me from whispering "I don't know you". The previously aforementioned "Old Gowns" is a sparse, haunting and slow-tempo gem that must surely be a contender for not only one of the finest moments on Mount Moriah, but it's also arguably one of the loveliest and vulnerably delivered tracks for 2011 thus far. The song utilizes finger picking guitar techniques, lingering violin chords and tip-toeing piano notes to seamless effect behind high rising, dual layered vocal harmonies. Towards the latter portion of the track, any semblance of restraint threatens to momentarily evaporate and vanish due to what appears to be close to a dozen vocal layers piled swiftly on top of one another. It's certainly a breathtaking moment amidst the heartache, somberness, and sorrow the lyrics and instrumentation assist in capturing and evoking.
The album closes just as intimately and invitingly as it began with yet another stirring six minutes, culminating in an escalation of built up unrelenting emotion in the form of "The Hail, The Lightning". McEntire asserts herself once more by putting her fragile and pained vocals on display for all to hear as her shouts soar with conviction, "Let me feel, let me heal, let me go" as the accompanying string section wanes on the brink of an overwhelming collapse - a rare moment of spontaneity between the strict structures and requited restraint the band typically implements and incorporates in their recordings. It must be said that some may find negatives and criticism in the forty minutes it takes to progress through the eight track duration found here, but fortunately the album is a beautiful and luscious listen. "Planes" is perhaps the only negative here for it lacks a distinct chorus, hook or melody to pull the listener in, utterly captivate them and as such, although not unlikeable and unlistenable, there isn't a redeeming quality about it. Put simply, Mount Moriah is a compelling debut full of candidness, thoughtfully well crafted and relatable lyrics, beautiful vocals with the ability to mesmerizing, and dare I say it, already an aura and element of timelessness destined to surround it.