The last time we heard from The Silver Mt. Zion, they were going by the name Thee Silver Mountain Reveries and had released the somewhat more raw, but excellent The "Pretty Little Lightning Paw" EP. That was just over a year ago and now the group is back as their long-name form with a new full-length that moves away from the smaller-group ensemble and back towards the more vocal-based work that they'd started with on This Is Our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather And Sing. The result is the first album from the group that feels downright tedious to me in places, as well as the first one that feels like they're spinning their wheels a bit.
The group continues to feed off the political climate of the world and there's no doubt they've had plenty of fuel for lyrics during the course of the past couple years or so. Opening strike "God Bless Our Dead Marines" pulls no punches, weaving along with slightly middle-eastern sounding melodic influences while singer Efrim takes front and center before the track turns into a stomping, rollicking sing-along that builds in intensity over the course of twelve minutes. "Mountains Made Of Steam" stretches out to almost ten minutes as well, slowly pulling along for the first half with almost round-like group vocals before dissolving into a beautiful spray of textural guitar that reminds me of the more stripped-down beauty of some of their early work.
"Teddy Roosevelt's Guns" builds much like the opening track on the release, but unlike the opening track never really seems to gain much of the footing that the first track did. When some heavier guitar riffs and crashes of drums smash down during the final couple minutes, it feels like a completely different track instead of much of a payoff, while the following "Hang On To Each Other" lingers for almost seven minutes like a dirging campfire singalong.
The release saves one of the best tracks for last in the epic "Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come And Gone)." Clocking in at almost fifteen minutes, it starts with more of a chamber feel as Efrim sings in his wounded tones before unleashing a smashing section that sounds like the rebirth of GYBE before pulling back to what literally becomes dead silence before moving into an absolutely beautiful final section with piano and vocals that eventually dissolve into a haze of soft noise. All in all, Horses In The Sky is a bit of an uneven effort from a group who sounds like they're not quite sure which direction they want to move in. Although the large vocal workouts have sort of a rough charm, they tend to get stuck in the same sort of rutty feel as one another, and while the group is capable of some grand explosions of sound, they still seem to create their most affecting music when they strip things down to a smaller scope. Horses In The Sky is hardly a bad album, but coming from a group who has done so much excellent work in the past, it feels like a bit of an uneven effort.