The trio of indie rockers from Claremont, California formed by singer-songwriter John Darnielle have returned with their 17th release, All Eternals Deck, bringing in a eclectic ensamble with barbershop style harmonies and an unlikely collaboration with death metal authority Erik Rutan producing a few songs on the album. A stark juxtaposition from 2009’s caliginous The Life of the World to Come, All Eternals Deck is an energetic album overflowing with inflated strings, compelling piano, and musical surprises when you least expect it.
The album launches with “Damn These Vampires,” kicking the album off on a lively note, and setting the pace for the 12 tracks that follow. Darnielle always has a story to sing, a deep rooted dark past with relationships gone array. The impassioned yet maudlin “Age of Kings” is no exception, reflecting back on a past investment in love that went bankrupt.
Throwing surprises into the mix is what makes this album unique. The batty “High Hawk Season” perfectly inhabits that anomalous characteristic, with the highlight being the vocal accompaniment of the North Mountain Singers. Darnielle really hones his singing on this album, daring to go beyond what he’s presented on past albums, adding in layers of frenzied coo’s and boiserous howls which actually adds a level of enjoyment for the listener.
With 17 albums under their thinly-tightened leather belts, the Mountain Goats and Darnielle have finally been able to craft their skills as songwriters and musicians leading into one of their best albums to date.