By his own admittance, John Darnielle has a hard time keeping religion out of his thoughts. That fixation has manifested itself throughout The Mountain Goats’ discography, but has perhaps never been so apparent as the contradictorily-titled EP, Satanic Messiah.
The internet-released four-song EP christens no new ground for John, rather it feels like he picked up right where he left off with this year’s earlier full-length. As such, hard-core fans of the Goats’ earlier homemade recordings will find no relapse here; Satanic Messiah was recorded and produced by Scott Solter, the man behind 2006’s Get Lonely and the aforementioned Heretic Pride, and carries the same production standards.
Lyrically, it’s business as usual; John’s use of imagery to advance his narrative does more to convey feelings than any blunt description of such feelings could. While distinct from each other, there is a definite cohesiveness between the tracks. This is partially due to the hauntingly mellow piano played throughout save the stand-out song ‘Wizard Buys a Hat’. This unity of sound between the songs at first makes one almost mistakenly write the EP off as indulgently introspective, cheaply playing itself off as emotional. Upon first listen, for example, the EP suffers from being a bit front-heavy – The latter half doesn’t seem to be hardly as engaging as it should be. Further inspection reveals, however, that the deceivingly sleepy title track actually turns to be one of the strongest of any The Mountain Goats have put out since 2005’s The Sunset Tree. The same can be said for the release as a whole; the instrumentation, while minimal, proves to be quite captivating, and the imagery some of the strongest we’ve seen from Darnielle in years. All in all, both long-time Mountain Goats fans and newcomers alike will find enough in Satanic Messiah to keep the disc spinning play after play.
1. Sarcofago Live
2. Wizard Buys a Hat
3. Satanic Messiah
4. Gojam Province 1968