The acceptance or rejection of religion is a process that is personal and can often be fraught with turmoil and fear. For many the acceptance of a God is something that is instilled from a young age – they are brought up with the knowledge that their parents believe and therefore so should they. Some find religion at a later age and use it to overcome hardship, grief or troubling times. Some reject their God during their childhood and some come to the realisation later that God is not the all-powerful being they were led to believe and reject those ideas in favour of a different approach, one that eschews religion and takes a more personalised path to self-discovery.
For Portland’s מזמור (written as Mizmor) the process of rejection began later in life and for founder and sole recording member A.L.N. that process was one wracked with pain, guilt and the knowledge that God does not have the answers. The struggle between this and what was promised via religion is one that A.L.N. has documented through the blackened doom lens of Mizmor’s music since its inception seven years ago and the process has never felt more real and intimate than it does on Cairn.
The four tracks featured on Cairn are coloured with exploration of the self and of suffering and the idea that existence is a continual search for meaning…..and that that meaning actually does not exist, that our need to reach for something other than humanity is an absurd journey that is without end. Opening song “Desert of Absurdity” builds on these ideas and the anger than runs underneath the slow, processional, precise strikes of guitar is tangible. A.L.N.’s extremely versatile voice – he can move from high pitched screams to deep, guttural bellows with sublime ease – tells the story of a traveller in the desert, the expanse opening up before them and revealing the surreal notions of searching for something that isn’t there and never was. The metaphors are cradled in clever prose and the songs read like poems when seen written down. A.L.N.’s use of words is one that has long been admirable but on Cairn that shines through even more than on previous works – the production of the record has given his voice much more space to breathe, each word is rendered with care and precision and they are clear and oftentimes left to carry the song into the next movement.
“Cairn To God” is a monumental ode to the extreme reactions one can have when finally coming to the realisation that God is false, and as mentioned in the lyrics, counterfeit. That coming to this point of acceptance is ultimately freeing – you can look back on those times as teaching moments and you can leave them behind in order to create something more profound for yourself. Where previous album Yodh was apt to wallow in misery and suffering, Cairn is more likely to acknowledge those occurrences yet move on from them. Rather than wasting away in the pits of despair, Mizmor is now coming to understand that creating something forward thinking is much more meaningful. That’s not to say that Yodh languished in a metaphorical prison, far from it, but that Mizmor has grown into something new with the passage of time.
The emotional currents that run through Cairn are rendered in wondrous guitar tones that sweep in from seemingly out of nowhere to take you on a journey of heartbreak; those featured during the closing moments of “Cairn to Suicide” paint a picture of supplication, hopelessness and the narrator wanting to give way to a higher power and feel peace at last. However, the tale spun during Cairn is of the resolve of the self to acknowledge that that power is one created by lies and promises that have come undone on myriad occasions. For our story-teller, the monuments of death are laid like pathways (cairns are stacked mounds of rocks that are built as memorials) and left behind – the purpose is to be aware of the past yet move forward, taking your pain and moulding it into something new and resolute.
Cairn can be pre-ordered through Gilead Media.