Two listens.  That’s what it took for me to fall in love with this album.  For those of us who were ecstatic after Ghosts Upon the Earth that one of the most innovative musical groups on the planet was making worship music, there was bound to be a twinge of disappointment upon first listen.  I wasn’t expecting there to be another “Beautiful Things” on this album, but there’s no “Brother Moon” here either.  
In some ways this album is the dark side of Ghosts.  Whereas that album is saturated with hope even in its darker moments, Mountain has to strain to see the light, even in its most optimistic moments.  Listening to Michael and Lisa talk about the album, it’s apparent this is a reflection of where they are at this point of their journey.  What we have to realize is that when we listen to Gungor albums we are eavesdropping on one couple’s conversations about life, faith, doubt, and hope.  The last time out that meant we joined them on an enchanted path unveiling divine sights and sounds all around us.  This time it means walking with them into a dark forest and honestly explaining what we see around us.  There is a kind of disillusionment happening here (see especially “Yesternite”).  The result is that you’re unlikely to find any gems here for corporate worship, save for maybe “Wandering,” which could serve to fill in the lack of available laments in some contexts. 

That’s not to say that Gungor isn’t still having fun along the way.  Incorporating as many musical styles as they can get their highly dexterous fingers on, the group experiments with equal parts Americana (“Wayward and Torn," "God and Country") and synth-pop (“Let It Go”).  The title track appears to begin where Ghosts left off, powerfully stating that we are simultaneously both nothing but dust and everything of stardust – and we constantly live out this contradiction.  In the process they make clear – in case this wasn’t completely evident previously – that they see no conflict between creation and evolution (“Momentary carbon stories/From the ashes/Filled with holy ghost”).  This energetic and accessible track gets you excited for the rest of the album.

“Beat of Her Heart,” a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus ending in tragedy, is then the first indication that this is going to be a different kind of journey, both musically and thematically.  A part of the brutal honesty of the album is a strong socially critical element, which is not new territory for Gungor (see their classic “God is Not a White Man”).  “Long Way Off” is a refreshing evaluation of the myth of human progress - including theological progress, and the scathing “God and Country” leaves nothing to interpretation regarding this often unholy American matrimony (“God we love our God/Oh God we love our guns” and “Those who live by the gun/Die by the gun”).

Ghosts was a glorious journey of an album, and Mountain is no different.  Don’t listen waiting for the next radio hit to come along.  Immerse yourself in it, and be troubled.  Then immerse yourself in it again, and be moved.  The aptly titled “Finally” brings the listener to a place of hopeful resolution, though still not to the point of  “This is Not The End.” They're not going to set you down that easily.  Something to appreciate is the space Gungor allows the listener.  It would be easy for such skilled musicians to fill every space with sound.  But there is a peace in the tension, a peace witnessed again in the closing lament, “Upside Down.” 

So listen with an open mind, and be disappointed.  Then grant the artist freedom to be authentically who they are at the moment of creation, and listen again.  And love it.  


02/01/2014 12:39am

GREAT review!


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