Moody Not Pretty, Thankfully
Without question, and without this being a problem, the singular greatest strength of this album is the powerful vocal of Al Spx. There are fine additions like the arrangements, some brief harmonies as on Old Knives, rollicking drumming, mournful to caustic horn attacks as on opener A Broken Memory, Michael Gira providing a vocal bass line on a couple of tracks like Exit Plan - a slow song where Spx’s voice is superb in its brooding intensity - but it is that vocal which rightly impresses above all.
Closing track A Season of Doubt, the other with Gira providing a spoken vocal undertow, is the perfect vehicle for Spx’s powerful authority, a simple slow piano beat and some overdubbed lamenting horns adding magnificent mournfulness. I’ve read reviews that rue a lack of melodies on the album – and I am a great lover of melodic prettiness and/or memorableness - but it is the moodiness wrapped in such a sublime vocal that does all it needs to.