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Hell yeah, The Mountain Goats' new album is a noir about a wizard

Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro (Getty Images)

On the heels of announcing a massive North American tour, The Mountain Goats have announced a nerdy-as-hell new album, In League With Dragons. In line with the album’s D&D-esque themes, the band will live-stream a concert from the headquarters of Wizards Of The Coast, the publisher of Dungeons And Dragons, at 3 p.m. CST on Monday, where they’ll perform some new music and share more details about the album.

Here’s what we know right now: In League With Dragons lands on April 26 via Merge Records, and is said to “luxuriate in a wide swath of sounds, from shades of the ‘80s Athens scene to swathes of outlaw country and a few motorik meditations.” Songwriter John Darnielle recorded it in Nashville with bandmates Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster, and Matt Douglas, as well as engineer Matt Ross-Spang, whose resume includes work with country stars like Jason Isbell, Margo Price, and John Prine. As such, expect it to veer away the piano-driven melancholy of 2017's Goths.

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There’s also a song called “Clemency for the Wizard King,” which we can’t believe wasn’t already a Mountain Goats song.

In a statement, songwriter John Darnielle reveals that the album began as a rock opera, but took on a new shape after he started binging some mystery novels. Read it below.

This album began life as a rock opera about a besieged seaside community called Riversend ruled by a benevolent wizard, for which some five to seven songs were written. When I’m focusing on a project, I always distract myself from the through-line with multiple byways, which are kind of like mini-games within the broader architecture of a long video game. As I worked on the Riversend stuff, weird noir visions started creeping in, probably under the influence of Leonardo Sciascia (a Sicilian author, he wrote mysteries) and Ross MacDonald’s The Zebra-Striped Hearse, which a friend from Port Washington gave me while I was in the thick of the writing. I thought these moods helped complicate the wizards and dragons a little, and, as I thought about my wizard, his health failing, the invasion by sea almost certain to wipe out half his people, I thought about what such a person might look like in the real world: watching a country show at a midwestern casino, or tryout pitching for an American League team years after having lit up the marquees. Finally, I wrote the title track, which felt like a drawing-together of the themes in play: rebellion against irresistible tides, the lush vistas of decay, necessary alliances. I am earnestly hoping that a new genre called “dragon noir” will spring from the forehead of nearly two years’ work on these songs, but, if not, I am content for this to be the sole example of the style.

You can also hear the album’s lead single right now. Called “Younger,” it’s a six-minute stomper that paints a vivid portrait of Darnielle’s fantasy world. 

The livestream can be accessed via the Mountain Goats, Dungeons And Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering Facebook groups. You can also stream it via the D&D and Magic Twitch channels.

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.