It was somewhat confusing when Michael Pritzl announced that he was releasing an album as The Gravity Show. When you have a band that is essentially a solo project with a rotating cast of musicians — as has always been the case with Pritzl and The Violet Burning — why exactly do you need a side project? The release of This Is the Moment, Pritzl’s seventh release under the Violet Burning moniker and eighth overall, provides a bit of context that makes his thinking a little clearer.
Pritzl has always been a bit schizophrenic as a writer, alternating between glammy, dense, mood-based offerings and more intimate and spiritual work. When he’s been able to fuse those two sides of himself, as was the case on the utterly stunning self-titled record, the results are simply staggering. But there have always been songs that worked well in one sphere or the other, but not in both. Think of the Gravity Show and Violet Burning monikers as a filing system to handle this problem. Looking for a bit of glam swagger? The Gravity Show is what you want. Looking for a little more introspection? Look to the Violet Burning. Either way, you’re going to come out with one damn fine record as Pritzl has not yet come close to putting out a bad disc.
This time out, Pritzl turns to a band of seasoned players — The Prayer Chain’s Andy Prickett, Stavesacre/Saviour Machine’s Sam West, and his longtime bassist Herb Grimaud — to offer up the most polished and lush disc of his career. Guitars shimmer away into the distance, those Cure-influenced basslines are again in full effect, and Pritzl is in fine voice as always. When Pritzl is on his game, he is a writer able to draw out those swells of unfulfilled longing and spiritual ache most of us don’t have the nerve to speak of out loud, and that is again the case here with the slow burn of tracks like “Slowa,” “Lord, Rescue Me” and “Let It Begin” (which plays out like a b-side from the Prayer Chain’s seminal Mercury album) cresting into a superb emotional catharsis.
Again, as is very often the case with Pritzl’s work, it is very difficult to say whether this is meant to be approached as a rock record or as a worship album — but it’s that ambiguity that provides one of the disc’s greatest strengths. Pritzl moves easily from the “sacred” to the “secular” and back again, and in the process, breaks down the barriers that we tend to erect between the two spheres and lends a breadth of scope and vision to his work that can be staggering at times.
Ironically, if there’s a significant weakness to the disc, it’s that Pritzl seems to have been in a predominantly good mood when he wrote the tracks. While I certainly wouldn’t wish ill on someone for my own gain, Pritzl is most compelling working in minor keys and though the more uptempo work is still solid, it just doesn’t seem to carry the same emotional heft as some of his more difficult work. Yes, tracks like “Lovesick” and “Everywhere I Go” may have catchy hooks and singalong choruses, but they also seem as though they could have been written by any number of people whereas the aforementioned “Slowa” could only have come from Pritzl’s pen. When you’re capable of something that distinctive, then anything else comes off as slightly substandard, no matter how good it would sound in another context or from another performer.
In all, though This Is the Moment may not be a challenger for the top position in the Pritzl discography — that position is still held securely by the self-titled disc — it does stand as further proof that any day Pritzl chooses to bring new material into the world is a good day indeed.
Written by Chris Brown.