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September Mourning - Volume II

 September Mourning - Volume II

CD Info
Sumerian Records
12 tracks
English lyrics

It’s rare you get to see an act before you hear them. Course, living in the good ol’ US of A, that’s less a possibility than one might imagine. Most of the acts I cover never see these shores so, unless I’m in Europe I’m probably going to hear them first, and, often, never see them. But, that’s not the case with September Mourning. I first saw them in the cow fields of Northern Wisconsin on the Otep tour last year. Didn’t know them at all but that changed rather quickly when vocalist Emily Lazar hit the stage dressed in white on white leather and lace with marginal black trim. And damn, they were REALLY good. I got a lot of video and got a little time to interact with Emily and the band while we all enjoyed life in bovine heaven.

Well, my first impression was that this was one of the most dramatic presentations I’d ever seen. But, the second impression was that the music was more than a little entertaining. I knew a release was upcoming, hoped I’d have a chance to hear it but time went on and not much happened. Now, several other SC writers did have an opportunity to meet and see SM so I did get some familiarity through that. And, as I read up on the concept, especially after the release, things got even more interesting. Seems this is a project that has been in the works for some time. And, it’s not your typical musical project. The idea here is that this is what we’re calling “a transmedia dark culture project”. The concept is delivered through various media: recorded, comic books and live presentations. Now this isn’t the first band to try alternative media but it is certainly one of the first in this genre, and, given the rather remarkable live visual, it’s probably the most radical. Emily presents one of the most dramatic live presentations I’ve ever witnessed.

The core of September Mourning is a story, and it’s a damn good one. The concept pretty much started with the band’s first release, an EP called, interestingly enough, Volume I. At the same time the first comic book, A Murder of Reapers, was released. There was a good response and this year we got part 2, the full CD release under review here and a followup comic book. . . The Hand of Fate. Lazar talked about the relationship, “Everything wraps around the storyline so we do everything to be interwoven into each other.” The story? Well, goes something like this. September is a human-reaper hybrid spending her time between the worlds of the living and the dead. She herself is half human, which suggests that half humans might be pretty hot folks. But, she seems to have a desire to give some souls a second chance. This presents some interesting conflicts and the opportunity for interactions that present some interesting thoughts on the concept of humanity. It’s not often in American music that we take this approach, but then, it’s not often in American music that we get anything worth listening to much less paying attention to the lyrics.

Well, that’s the background. With this release, you’ll want to pay attention to the story, it’s pretty easy to pick up and the music is sufficiently interesting to require multiple listening. You will probably want to listen strictly to the music the first time through; after that, start paying attention. Musically, we get a range of styles: you get the hard pounding metal, you get some slower material that is quite lovely, you get some truly dark, ominous material. And, it’s presented through a variety of musical themes, electronic, vocally challenging, some fine choral work, lots of capability. We begin with The Collection which provides a bit of overview to the story. Something of a “Prolog” that takes us to the second track, Angels to Dust. This one takes us a bit deeper, both lyrically and musically. Lazar is not an operatic vocal but she’s a good one with the capability of going lovely or screaming from the depths. With this track she takes a swipe at each, and adds some spoken word just to sweeten the deal. There’s some electronic work thrown in to make it more entertaining. The track ends with a spoken word from “the evil” one, warning that we might have a problem with our heroine.

Eye of the Storm is one of the biggies on the release, again, excellent production focusing on a pounding drum line and a lot of vocal work, some of it choral, some overlaid lead, crushing guitars thrown in for effect. Before the Fall and Children of Fate continue this direction. The former talks about the seeming hopelessness faced by civilization:

We might be through with our past / But the past isn’t through with us.

The later looks at the horror. There’s some real interesting electronic manipulation of the vocals here to begin the track but it moves forward and becomes an intense description of the hell on earth.

Skin and Bones is another rocker that takes a little different direction. Here we get into the pain of the heroine, and Lazar does this nicely:

I'm breaking up
I've been beaten down, run around, know that I've had enough of the spotlight
You're just a ghost, been on a killing spree, haunting me, eternally
You're not my judge - my jury / You can't walk right through me anymore

My skin and bones, my skin and bones are not what I am / It's all you've known
My skin and bones, my skin and bones stuck in between two prisons
Where do I call home? / It's all you know deep down below / So tell me where do I call home?

The pain continues with the following track, 20 Below. This is more a mid tempo selection but again the production is solid. I remember meeting most of the guys in the band in Wisconsin but can’t remember who was who. The drummer is sure a guy I’d like to meet again, he’s solid on every track, and they make sure he’s heard. Lyrically, we again get an interesting twist on the theme:

Coz I'm so sick of bleeding out / These wounds will heal themselves
Even tho the cuts you've had to make / Sent me to an early grave
Don't you know you've got me 20 below

I'm the light that burns your eyes and blinds you / And every crack you try to hide appears
I'm strong enough to save myself / From faith that I've been dealt

I've had enough of your charade / I'll send you to an early grave.

The 11th track is a reinvention of the old American title, Stand By Me originally recorded by Ben E. King. That song has been recorded more times than just about any song in history, but, trust me, it never got a treatment like this. Don’t know that ol’ Bennie would recognize it. . . .but I like it.

There’s a total of 12 tracks here, some actually come from the previous release. But the way they’re put together here they do a fine job of telling the story. The beauty of the release is that the music actually helps tell the story, it becomes an integral part of the journey.

It’s not often that we get apocalyptical music in this genre, especially something that makes use of multiple artistic delivery systems. I haven't seen the comic books yet, not sure how you come by them, but I suspect they’d be interesting. I also can’t speak to what comes next. Maybe someone from SC needs to do an interview on this one, I suspect it might be an interesting one.