Beacon Features: The Mountain Goats get Biblical

By Samone Davis
Contributing Writer

A new album from a secular group is drawing attention for its Biblically-inspired lyrics.

The Mountain Goats have been in the music industry for 18 years. From Durham, N.C., the band has released 17 albums.


The Mountain Goats

Photo Courtesy of the Mountain Goats

The band had its first television appearance on “The Colbert Report” on Oct. 6, the date they released their newest album: “The Life of the World to Come.”

Though the Mountain Goats don’t claim to be a Christian band, all 12 songs from their new album are named after and inspired by Bible verses. John Darnielle’s lyrics interpret the verses to provide the listener with a more personal experience.

On every record, the band bases its songs on different situations in life, from relationship experiences to the mundane.

According to Darnielle, each song is a representation of life lessons he learned over the past years. Drawing inspiration from the Bible and Christian music, Darnielle learned from his struggles and transformed pain into music. He used his sordid past, which includes a battle with drug abuse, to give each song a deeper, human touch.

The song “1 Samuel 15:23” is drawn from the verse that says, “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

It is this rebellion that Darnielle utilizes to create the song. Accompanied by the brooding sounds of an acoustic guitar, the lyrics tell of a false healer: “I became a crystal healer and my ministry was to the sick … I sold self-help tapes.”

Perhaps one of the most effective interpretations comes from the song “Psalms 40:2.” The original verse says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Darnielle’s version of the Psalm is jubilant and rebellious. He describes experiences of drug abuse, saying, “He has fixed his sign in the sky / He has raised me from the pit and set me high.” The song is troubled and resolves itself is a conclusion that, like the rest of the songs on “The Life of the World to Come,” is inspired without feeling contrived.

The song “Genesis 3:23” interprets the verse to create a feeling of distance: “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken” is turned into a narrative about returning to a home long abandoned.

Darnielle talks about the old house, singing that he “picked the lock on the front door.” He follows this by speaking of the new inhabitants: “See how the people here live now / Hope they’re better at it than I was / I used to live here.”

Bass player Peter Hughes and drummer Jon Wruster accompany Darnielle on the album.

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