In 2009, The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice released Moon Colony Bloodbath. The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle described the nineteen minute EP as a “loose” concept album with a science-fiction theme: “Some of the songs have something to do with a loose rock opera/’concept album’ idea about organ harvesting colonies on the moon and the employees thereof, who spent their off months living in secluded opulence in remote American locations. Concepts like this are actually more fun when you abandon them but leave their traces kicking around, so that’s what we did.”
I discovered Moon Colony Bloodbath from this io9 article, for which I will be forever grateful. After I got ahold of the EP, I must have listened to it on repeat dozens of times in the first week alone (though that’s admittedly easy to do with something just nineteen minutes long). The first song, “Surrounded,” begins with the line “pale white moon shines down on Colorado,” and, at the time, I was in Colorado in winter. With its chilling theme, and Moon Colony Bloodbath was the perfect accompaniment for driving down dark winter roads at night.
The seven tracks trace a haunting theme and the speakers’s descent in probable madness. In the beginning, there are hints of isolation, with the speaker calling “let the world and all its wonders leave me to my toys tonight. . . Let me die. Let me die surrounded by machines.” This dark tone precedes a downwards spiral; the speaker later acknowledging “I’m not all right” and “some things buried deep need to stay that way.” Finally, the last song of the EP, “Emerging,” is chilling in its realization of the speaker’s new state: “I assume my new and dreadful form.” The speaker gives in to his “hunger,” saying “I know that sleeping bodies hide sweet things inside.” Though not explicitly stated, it is implied that the speaker is cannibalizing the human bodies where he works. He does this in secret, sure that he alone knows the extent of his sins: “No one’s ever gonna come and nobody’s gonna know. I will sail home again concealed among the upright walking men to know that sleeping bodies hide sweet things inside.” As io9 summarizes it: “The whole of the record hangs together, then, as a very dark, very strange tale, combining elements of Duncan Jones’s Moon with the stranger, older Gothic tales of satanic rituals, including touches of the story of Charles Manson’s twisted family and the hidden guilt of a Poe story.”
Of course, a summary of the album is nothing in comparison to actually listening to the music. It’s quite good, and something you have to hear for yourself. This EP was only released as a limited vinyl run, with no copies made available in any other format. In order to listen to the EP now, you need to find a ripped digital copy, which is an absolute shame. Moon Colony Bloodbath is an excellent work that I would happily pay for and I’m genuinely disappointed that I can’t.
Also, I must add that the cover art is striking. The art is a collage by Michael Pajon. With a strange figure walking among mountains and trees and a bizarre assortment of things hanging in the sky above, it really matches the feel of the EP. And there’s a host of connections to the songs’ themes: the trees, mountains, factories, a skull, stars, a sign for Route 6 in Colorado, etc. The cover art is another reason I’m disappointed there are no more copies of Moon Colony Bloodbath being sold: I’d love to have a physical copy of this album to get a real good look at this artwork. It’s fantastic.
Some blessed individual uploaded a decently high-resolution scan to the internet, and someone made it into a background. Check it out:
Still nowhere as good as the real thing. Sometimes digital just doesn’t cut it. Here’s to hoping Moon Colony Bloodbath is re-released someday. In the meanwhile, we’ll just have to be content with the rest of The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice’s discographies.