Monday, February 25, 2013

Album Review: "Miracle Temple" by Mount Moriah

Miracle Temple is released on February 26, 2013
on Merge Records
Mount Moriah is a band that can connect with their listeners on a very rudimentary level.  Albums like Miracle Temple and the band's self-titled debut perfectly encapsulate life in the south.  Heather McEntire's vocals are dripping with emotion and packed tight with vivid imagery.  You're likely to be transported back to a blistering summer day in a college town with tracks like "Younger Days" or to a day filled with sporadic thunderstorms and dark clouds with the intensity found in the album's closer "The Telling Hour".

Mount Moriah are capable of exploring a vast array of emotions and textures within their albums, and their full-length debut on Merge Records does so in a way that Mount Moriah has never done before.  While Mount Moriah was filled with just enough sheen and substance to attract fans in droves, Miracle Temple shows the true depth of this talented act by displaying a refined and enriching piece of music.

Within the opening seconds of "Younger Days" we're greeted with a nostalgia-tinged line from McEntire that seems to glide over the crisp guitar-work from Jenks Miller, "You were always wild" croons Heather in a track that laments on the hopelessness that comes with being left behind.  "August is over, so when are you coming back?", it's a reprise found within "Younger Days" that feels so bright texturally, but upon further inspection proves itself to reek of abandonment.  Mount Moriah's music doesn't dwell on this sadness though, but rather embraces the full spectrum of our emotions.  A track like "Younger Days" serves as the perfect opener for Miracle Temple, it's bright and catchy and perfectly transitions into the bouncy, anthemic track "Bright Lights", but even then it's a song that contains multitudes.  Most of Mount Moriah's songs do.  There's the surface aesthetic that a listener can immediately appreciate, but there's also a veil to be peeled back that opens up a possibility to truly connect with this artist.  Miracle Temple is filled with big-town dreams from a small-town perspective, lyrics that are filled with a deep desire to clutch on to some sense of security.

In album standout, "I Built A Town", McEntire leads off with a heartbreaking line, "I built a house behind my eyes/I sewed a veil for you to hide".  Tracks like this one display the very restraint and diversity that make this album the gorgeous masterpiece that it is.  Lush strings fill the song with atmosphere, organs bellow out a powerful foundation and Miller's guitar work fits all of the pieces together with a minimalistic approach that nestles itself into the mix of this beautiful song.  Mount Moriah fires on all cylinders on this album, never before has Heather's vocals sounded as fragile or as robust.  The sheer expansiveness of Miracle Temple is in itself a feat, the album ranges from Dolly Parton-esque ballads to powerful country anthems that feel like they could contemporary hymnal for the broken hearted.  McEntire sings of nostalgia and the darkness that comes with it, summer love stained with the sadness of its eventual end.  Rarely can a vocalist contain such breadth, but Heather McEntire is capable of delivering the most delicate and eviscerating phrases with a sense of ease and sincerity.

Mount Moriah is a beacon of light in a music scene that's driven by its strong sense of community.  On paper one would never imagine a post-punk vocalist and metal guitarist to form one of the most prolific North Carolina country acts, but they've done just that.  Mount Moriah's music is therapeutic, rooted within hearts of every small-town dreamer across the globe.  Dreams of escaping to somewhere with infinite opportunities lie in reach, and Mount Moriah is already well on that road.  The band's Merge debut makes a statement, it's a battle cry to be heard across the nation.  If Mount Moriah was a dip into shallow water then Miracle Temple is a plunge into the deep end.  Miracle Temple is a fulfilling album that displays the massive growth found within this local standout that may not be a hidden gem for much longer.

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