Out of sheer coincidence, I happen to be reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. In the book there is a chapter that deals primarily with volcanoes, and there are two pages devoted to the disaster of Mount St. Helens, the volcano that erupted in Washington in 1980. The point Bryson makes in this chapter in that we as humans know astoundingly little about how volcanoes work, and this is very dangerous.
So how does the actual Mount St. Helens relate at all to Mt. St. Helens, the latest release from Wand? Derek Janzen, the man behind Wand, does well in relating the unpredictable volcano to the human condition. We as humans are just as irrational as volcanoes (though usually not nearly as destructive).
Nowhere is this parallel more apparent than in the album’s closing song, “My Heart is Not at Peace Anymore.” It’s a long song (like slightly over half of the songs on the album) that features a melancholy tune from keys alongside a steady drum machine. “My heart is just a volcano,” Janzen sings. Or you could look at “Empty Palaces,” a song that almost seems like reverence. “I saw a darkness, that fiery mountain” is a powerful line in that song.
And just like its namesake, it’s hard to predict what Mt. St. Helens will do. It opens with a 13-minute song, and surprisingly the song doesn’t actually feel like it’s dragging. The beat is fairly steady, combining electric guitars and a drum machine that will be heard often in the album, and features (at least what sounds like) horns and some instrumental chaos around the nine-minute mark.
Other songs are more or less completely electronic, such as the ghostly “We Will Never Write You Off” or “Beach People.” Janzen manages to make the songs completely his own thanks to his rather unique vocals.
First single “There is a Place” employs a sound that could be more generally called “indie rock” thanks to the use of electric guitar, but Janzen keeps the song fresh with the backing of the drum machine to create one of the album’s most stellar tracks.
At 59 minutes, this is certainly lengthy for an album consisting of nine songs, but listeners will find that listening to the whole thing is more than rewarding. As a bit of an aside, Janzen is based in Grand Prairie, Alberta, a place that also hosts plenty of other creative individuals such as Goose Lake, whose EP I reviewed last year.
Reviewed by Michael Thomas of Grayowl Point