Zenith Myth – [Album]

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ever wondered what the smaller names in great big bands do while they wait for their more recognizable bandmates to get to work on new material? They don't just sit on their thumbs; everyone's got bills to pay, so musicians will often try and find other things to do which (they hope) will sustain them through the intervening months and/or years between “big artist” releases and tours. Such “extra curricular” endeavors are typified by Zenith Myth and its self-titled debut album; featuring Paul D'Amour (of Tool), Meshell Ndegeocello, Mike Bloom (of Julian Casablancas' solo band), Sam Goldberg (of Broken Social Scene), Melissa Auf Der Maur (ex-Hole and Smashing Pumpkins) and producer Michael Edwards, this band of all-star sidemen has come together and developed something all their own which only bears a passing resemblance to the “other” bands they've been part of.

As some listeners might expect of a band with such a gothic pedigree (Bloom and Goldberg are the exceptions to the rule in that regard), themes of darkness, gloom and doom dominate the presentation of Zenith Myth, but what's interesting is the kaleidoscopic nature of the album. Because different members of the group appear – sometimes just for one song – the focus of the album changes regularly throughout this run-time. At first, Zenith Myth offers a dark, methodical and urbane presentation akin to Depeche Mode as the title track, “Icicle Tryst” and “Ego Fader” slide in smoothly and color their surroundings with slippery unease (think along the lines of Depeche Mode's “Dream On”), but things change dramatically thereafter. As the record progresses, the going gets harder (scan “Surgical Gain,” “Degeneration Blues” and “Hot Sleeper”) before getting positively atmospheric with “Manitou,” “Drifter” and “When All We Had Were Promises.” It's an interesting progression certainly, but listeners will also find it certainly incomprehensible until they begin to scan the album's liner notes for clues on why this album moves the way it does. It's in the liners where everything begins to make sense – at different intervals, musicians appear on the record and change the dynamics of it in doing so; when D'Amour pokes in, that's when things spontaneously get a little darker and more progressive rock-ish (see “Surgical Gain” through “Hot Sleeper”), and the run-time suddenly becomes more atmospheric after he checks out. With that  realization in hand, listeners will begin to notice other more understated changes which happen in Zenith Myth on a song-by-song basis (when Auf Der Maur punches in for “Drifter,” everything turns more “rocky” for a minute) and add a few more layers of ambiance to the album's framework.

With all the motions undertaken by the band's members, there's no arguing that Zenith Myth isn't a complicated record, but it will also a thought-provoking one for those who truly believe that one element can completely change the dynamic of a performance. That it's complicated also leaves the questions of what could possibly be coming next from the band (if anything – it may just be a one-off side-project) wide open; all bets are off and, as this album illustrates, any muse is fair game but also, because of those things, listeners won by this album won't be able to stop themselves from hoping there's more to come.



Zenith Myth is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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