Plumbiferous Media

All Eternals Deck – The Mountain Goats

Mar 6th 2011
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All Eternals Deck - The Mountain GoatsThe Mountain Goats
All Eternals Deck
Score: 86

Two years after releasing their 12th LP, the excellent The Life of the World to Come, The Mountain Goats is releasing its newest album, All Eternals Deck, which comes out later this month. All Eternals Deck doesn’t quite match up to the success of The Life of the World to Come, but that doesn’t stop it from being an impressive album. Above all, All Eternals Deck is certainly more of what Mountain Goats does best – and given their history, that’s nowhere near a bad thing.

The instrumentals are really where All Eternals Deck falls short of the mark The Mountain Goats has set for itself. There is little actually wrong with those of this album, but they’re not quite at that level of excellence they have been in the past. The instruments rarely carry their own melodies on All Eternals Deck instead focusing on supporting the clear focus of the album, the lyrics.

The instrumentals can’t be faulted for forcing out the more curious lines, such as “Damn these vampires…” on the track of that name, but it gets to be disappointing when the instrumentals don’t do much more. They set the mood beautifully, they’re at least somewhat diverse, they sound entirely pleasant, and they don’t do much more. On The Life of the World to Come, the instrumentals would drive tracks, often forcefully, in unique and fascinating directions, and that’s simply not the case here.

As always, John Darnielle’s voice imparts a sort of wistful excitement to every part of All Eternals Deck. Intense at one moment and reminiscent at the next, Darnielle gives All Eternals Deck an emotional backbone that is uniquely his own – never over-wrought or over-subtle, but instead the perfect mix of overture and subtlety to irrevocably weld each image into the listener’s mind. It’s an experience that Darnielle has cultivated now for over two decades, and it’s one that All Eternals Deck wields expertly.

Darnielle matches excellent vocals with equally well-conceived lyrics, filling All Eternals Deck with metaphor and imagery that is simultaneously fantastic and mundane. Even the vampires of “Damn These Vampires” are somehow relatable, less Dracula and more force of nature that they are. That sort of relationship with reality follows through All Eternals Deck, from the image of “Rooms with heat lamps / Where the snakes get born” to the visceral narration: “Rummage through the gutted storehouse now / And lick the sweat from my brow… Feel the prickings of my conscience in my chest every now and then.” As an album, All Eternals Deck never fails to tell enthralling stories.

All Eternals Deck could very well be Darnielle at his best as singer-songwriter, but it’s certainly not The Mountain Goats at its best. As good as the lyrics and vocals are, that’s not all there is to an album, and All Eternals Deck is therefore certainly not perfect. Even still, The Mountain Goats has once again recorded an extremely strong album, and they do deserve quite a bit of praise for it.

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