Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra @ Great American Music Hall 4/28/14 - photo by Nicole L. Browner
Photos by Nicole L. Browner

Led by Efrim Menuck of Godspeed! You Black Emperor fame, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra (SMZ) are one of the last remaining post-rock bands with any relevance after the genre bubble burst, arguably due to its simplicity. Numbskulls with e-bows and penchants for bloated, instrumental songwriting were churning out useless eight minute ‘epics’ at an unsustainable rate in the early 2000s. (I know because I’m describing myself).

But SMZ have stuck around, releasing the poignant and well-received Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything earlier this year, which might represent their last attempt at a strict guitar and violin post-rock formula. Although the band didn’t play anything from it, they released an EP last week that solely includes dance remixes of “Hang on to Each Other” — potentially signaling a complete change of direction for the group.

On Monday night, the band embraced the ‘rock’ in post-rock, locking into revolutionary grooves that buzzed and danced and grew with the foreboding energy of a Pynchon novel, like rockets blazing over the head of a sleepy metropolis; a revolution bottled up in song and lit on fire. Menuck dedicated songs to many disappointing “state of affairs” — poverty, homelessness, mental health, death — and used his yelping delivery to draw out the pain further. His voice sounds like a soldier on the brink of tears, or a child without his mother, or anyone who realizes that what he hopes for is unquestionably lost.

The closing two songs of the show — “All Their Kings Are Dead” & “What We Love Was Not Enough” — brought what had been a quieter and sometimes low energy set back on track. The latter carved out a space for buzzing violins to compete with a downtempo, droning bass line as Menuck cried out, “all our children gonna die”. Ending in a dazzling crescendo and the subsequent fall off into silence, the song ends like we do — love is not enough, we can’t win or beat the end. But if SMZ stand for anything, it’s the unwavering belief that we can still howl and yell and tell everyone to fuck off and lift our skinny fists to the heavens before we die. Or as the song ends, “Kiss it quick and rise again.”