Album Review: The Mountain Goats’ “All Eternals Deck”

Published in Spartanedge on April 11, 2011.

Album Review: The Mountain Goats’ “All Eternals Deck”

By Nicole LaChance

Vampires seem to be everywhere these days. Between “Twilight” and “True Blood,” the pop culture atmosphere is filled with these crushable creatures made for teens and young women. Indie folk-rock band The Mountain Goats are not immune to this craze. However, the opening track of their newest album, “Damn These Vampires,” takes a more traditional look at these soul-suckers, setting the tone for a surprisingly dark album.

The Mountain Goats have been quietly on the scene for 20 years. Front man John Darnielle started performing under the name as a college student and still runs the now three-piece band. Darnielle is known for his powerful songwriting and this album is no different. This time, Darnielle was inspired by a deck of tarot cards to explore the concealed things of life.

“All Eternals Deck” has two sides. The first, more obvious side, takes a dark look at life though the eyes of a cynical narrator who has been hardened by the world. The aforementioned opening track is a slow-paced tale of a wronged man trying desperately to escape from his torment, told in the context of a vampire attack. This part of the album is filled with stories about regrets, like the violin-accented “Age of Kings,” and the fleeting nature of life “Sourdoire Valley Song.”

This is also the side of the album that explores the hidden area of human nature. Darnielle sings of men with masks who “love their twelve 12-year-olds” in the haunting “The Autopsy Garland.”  The best track of “All Eternals Deck’s” more serious side is “Birth of Serpents.” The narrator’s tale of the “young man who dwells inside his body like an uninvited guest” is sad yet memorable.

The second side, which is sometimes hard to spot in the somber shadow of its brother, is more about overcoming trouble than suffering from it. This is most obvious on “Never Quite Free” where Darnielle instructs, “It’s OK to find the faith to saunter forward.” These slightly more upbeat songs peppered throughout, help to pick up the album when it starts to get depressing.

This is not the best album The Mountain Goats have ever released and should not be the one listeners start with. The flow sometimes feels inconsistent, but not so much that it’s distracting. The album will probably not go down as a classic and is certainly not a pick-me-up. All in all, though, “All Eternals Deck” is a good listen that is cynical with a dose of hope.

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