The Million Masks of God
Manchester Orchestra announced their new album The Million Masks of God will be released April 30th, 2021 via Loma Vista Recordings. Check out the video for urgent and sweeping first single, “Bed Head” below, that finds a home haunted by a spectral Andy Hull. “‘Bed Head’ is two old friends existing in two separate realities,” explains Hull. “It’s a conversation about the lives they lived, the consequences of life’s decisions, and finding purpose in trying to be better.”
Produced by Manchester Orchestra’s lead songwriting duo of Hull and Robert McDowell, Catherine Marks (PJ Harvey, The Killers) and Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers), The Million Masks of God presents an even grander scale of the epic and re-focused approach to record-making that the Atlanta, GA-based band has forged in recent years. Their sixth album finds Hull, McDowell, Tim Very (drums), and Andy Prince (bass) relentlessly pushing themselves to create a work that breaks beyond the scope and limits of every previous release in an effort to create their most towering achievement to date, all while sorting through the aftermath of a devastating loss.
The Million Masks of God can be seen, in a way, as the band's sophomore album following a rebirth with Black Mile, and Hull’s early concept for it was a natural extension of the main theme of its predecessor. “If Black Mile was this idea of ‘from birth to death,’ this album would really be more about ‘from birth to beyond, focusing on the highs and lows of life and exploring what could possibly come next,’” he explains.
Manchester Orchestra approached Masks with the intention of creating tightly-woven “movie albums” designed to be listened to in sequence and in a single sitting, with the songs working together to tell a bold, long-form narrative. The Million Masks of God explores the loose story of a man’s encounter with the angel of death as he's shown various scenes from his life in a snapshot-style assemblage. Some moments he witnesses are good, some are bad, some difficult, some commendable—in other words, they depict an entirely normal life. Initially based on a fictitious character, Masks began to process real-time emotions as McDowell’s father entered the toughest part of his fight with cancer, eventually losing the battle in 2019. “It started off really abstract, but as Robert’s dad’s fight with cancer got harder and harder those last couple years, I started making parallels in my mind to what I was actually writing about,” Hull explains. “It became an examination of my own faith. While Robert’s dad’s story certainly influenced this album, it’s equally about me coming to grips with the realness of adulthood and that there’s an expiration date to all of this—and how you’re going to live your life knowing that.”
The Million Masks of God is a testament to the kinship of its songwriting duo—the bond that enables them to take something so tragically personal and turn it into limitless, compassionate, communal, revelatory art. “There’s a decision we’re faced with when experiencing loss and the inevitable grief that follows. Do we let it sink us? Try to ignore it and pretend it’s not there? Or do we search and dig until we find signs of beauty in life and all of its experiences?” explains Hull. “In a way, the grief will always define you but being together and creating something meaningful from all of the hardships has been the most helpful tool I’ve found."