Mountain Goats at the Wexner Center

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Although he's made a career out of rousing, brainy folk-pop anthems, Mountain Goats mastermind John Darnielle has never been shy about his love for death metal. Still, it was somewhat shocking to learn Hate Eternal's Erik Rutan produced four tracks on the new Mountain Goats album, "All Eternals Deck."

The album doesn't feature any jarring screams or thunderous double-bass rolls, though. Darnielle didn't even pick particularly rocking songs for Rutan to record.

"I wasn't sure how to approach that," Darnielle said in a phone interview last month. "To micromanage too hard is kind of the problem with music right now One thing that's very important to us is to leave room for accidents."

One trait the album shares with Hate Eternal's discography is a sense of dread. Darnielle sings frequently about the horror of the unknown.

"I got Catholic blood, so I'm always dreading what's coming up in some way, hotly anticipating some catastrophic event," Darnielle said. "Towards the end of the record the hidden-ness of the things begins to come out and they become a little less frightening. When you're a child, turn on the light and the shadow isn't really a monster."

Old-school Mountain Goats fans were likely excited that pre-orders of "All Eternals Deck" came with a limited-edition cassette featuring demos for the album. The "All Survivors Pack" tape isn't exactly a return to Darnielle's crackly boombox recordings.

"Old Mountain Goats tapes were recorded into a tape deck, and then all the various tapes that I would work on, I would bump them all down to a single tape for the master, and then the master would undergo another generational transfer to a second master. So you were listening to a fourth- or fifth-generation dub always," Darnielle said. "To me, that was part of the appeal, the degradation."

It was also a matter of convenience. Back then, a cassette deck was all Darnielle had to work with. The material for the "All Survivors Pack" tape was recorded into a laptop "because that's how we do it now."

The band's leap into high fidelity with 2002's "Tallahassee" coincided with a move to venerable indie label 4AD. For this latest album they jumped to another storied indie, Merge, whose offices are literally down the street from Darnielle's Durham, North Carolina, home. Merge released Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," the surprise Album of the Year winner at this year's Grammys.

"It feels like an inevitable march toward a sweep of the Grammys next year," Darnielle said. "The stage has been set for that. So we're all really excited. We're working on our speeches. I'll be carried in a giant, flaming geodesic dome."

In the meantime they'll play the Wexner Center on Monday with Megafaun.

The Mountain Goats

9 p.m. Monday, April 11

Wexner Center for the Arts

1871 N. High St., Campus