As the fifth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center that forever changed millions of lives draws upon us, Timothy Renner presents this nine-part suite (or ?Tribulation Psalm? as he calls it) that can be heard as a concept/tribute album of faith, hope and endurance in the face of unspeakable horror. It is based upon conversations he had with Richard Moult about the bible, prophecy, and the apocalypse, but is also centered around the concept of time ? ending, passing, eternal. Renner, who has also released material under his own name, as well as Stone Breath, Breathe Stone, Mourning Cloak, and The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree, et. al. is accompanied by his Stone Breath partner Sarada on vocals (which somewhat alleviates the strain of bearing up to Renner?s gruff, toneless, occasionally tuneless vocals ? a not always sonorous blend of Gregory Peck and James Coburn) and Shane Speal on bass and the 2-necked bass/guitar cigarbox. Our journey begins, appropriately with a blast from a stem engine whistle as, over ominous, distorted guitars and electronic samples, Renner recites the opening passage of madness and murder, making effective use of his play on words of the phrase ?a murder of crows.? It?s an observation on the passage of time, a theme that will appear throughout.
Some of the passages, such as parts two and three, are fraught with terror as Renner monotonically mumbles incantations about the Earth being alive with ghosts that Renner channels via his lyrics. Nature, via rivers and stones speak to us through him as evidence that the Earth is, indeed, alive. While some may slap it alongside Alice Cooper?s ?I Love The Dead? or Bauhaus? ?Bela Lugosi?s Dead? to form a nice, spooky Halloween trilogy, the purpose of the track is to show us how alive the earth is in spite of all the horrible carnage that man seems to insist to inflict upon her. The banjo-driven third segment (?The Ghosts of The Earth?) is closely related to the musical style Renner employed with the Moonshine Firelfly folks, reiterating one of his central themes that the earth speaks to us through nature and the ghost of the earth that inhabit the fog, mist, falling leaves, flowing streams all illustrate her resiliency in the wake of man?s destructive tendencies.
The fourth segment marries images of Christ?s crucifixion to apocalyptic visions from the Book of Revelation with specific references to the four horsemen of the apocalypse (?Sixteen hooves as cannons sound/They shake the towers to the ground??), perhaps suggesting the destruction of the World Trade Center as a component of an ensuing apocalypse. [Several references in his lyrics to rising smoke also paint the image of the burning towers.] But Renner is hopeful, falling on his knees and praying to Christ, ?O pull the pins! [i.e., crucifixion nails]/Let come again/All Great Things/Upon the Earth.? The fifth segment (?Wrap Your Wings Around Me?), over a delicate guitar backing, acknowledges our aimless wanderings upon the earth as we seek spiritula guidance and comfort: ?I am lost/I am frightened/I am broken/I am lonely/Wrap your wings around me.? Despite apparent signs that the end of days may be near, I have faith and hope that you will protect and comfort me.
Renner dedicates the album to his twin children Gideon and Ursula, who play a key role in the lyrics to several segments. For example, Renner adopts a paternally protective pose on segment 8 ? no matter what cruelty, suffering, death, pain and destruction you witness, I will always be here to protect you: ?Scythe breaks hourglass/Sword breaks bone/But son and daughter/You?re not left alone./Take my body by famine/Fatigue/Plague/War/Or Time/Still/I shall not leave your side.? Be one with nature and accept its life force, for it is perhaps its lack of emotion and claims of righteousness, religious or political, that has caused the restruction in the world, but nature is impervious to the whims of man and stands alone ? neither judging or judged.
So while this is by no means an ?easy listening? experience, perhaps these times do not allow for such luxuries. Renner?s messages of hope and salvation in the face of unspeakable horrors may provide solace to both those who have lost family and friends and help them find salvation and comfort, spiritually and through nature. He seems to suggest that man can learn from the resiliency of nature to continue despite man?s attempts to destroy her through deforestation and destruction of the Everglades and Rain Forests and find the strength and courage and resiliency to go on despite attempts by lunatics to destroy mankind? 7/10 -- Jeff Penczak (21 August, 2006)