Album review: Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks of God

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Pre-Pandemic, I would often describe a peaceful quiet moment of a show that followed a loud grandiose one as “post-apocalyptic.”  For some reason, it was one of my go-to adjectives, as if I had any idea what that was actually like!  Well, 13 months into a Pandemic, and life is actually starting to feel a little like that, that we are over the worst of it, this apocalyptic period in modern history.  Our beloved live music is creeping back onto our calendars in the Fall, and it’s starting to feel like life may be heading back toward some semblance of normality.  

On their 6th full-length record The Million Masks of God, Atlanta 4-piece Manchester Orchestra seem to have captured all of these emotions in 46 perfect minutes.  Frontman Andy Hull has stated that the record would be “focusing on the highs and lows of life and exploring what could possibly come next,” and that’s exactly how it’s structured.  Things start with a soft, delicate Inaudible that sounds almost choral, verging on acapella, the calm before the storm that follows.  A twinkling guitar riff melds this into Angel Of Death, as ominously as the title suggests.  Keel Timing immediately follows and takes things to another cacophonous level, culminating in a guitar outro that sounds almost metal in its ferocity, before blending into Bed Head at breakneck pace.  It’s an incredible furious start to the record, and definitely one of the ‘highs’ Andy was talking about!

Annie affords a moment of silence to finally catch one’s breath, slowly rolling into life with a simple strum, then booting the record into life once more.  Telepath is by far the most mellow moment of the record so far and is followed by Let It Storm, so grandiose and uplifting it almost feels like a religious experience, perfect in its composition.  Dinosaur follows a similar thunderous trajectory, taking us to another of those highs Andy promised, before the record gradually winds down with Obstacle, to the mellow strums of Way Back, and finally, fading out to a finish on The Internet.  It’s a stellar return for Manchester Orchestra all-in-all, the perfect soundtrack for 2021 so far, and unquestionably an early frontrunner for record of the year.


Simon Williams

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