Review Summary: Epic, sprawling, and absolutely essential to those who claim to enjoy music. One of my personal top 5 albums of all time.
There are certain moments I live to hear in music. Some invoke emotions from me that haven’t ever really come out before, or some may just be so outwardly infectious that I just can’t stop listening. A few songs personally stand out: “Non-Objective Portrait of Karma”, “The Decline”, “We Flood Empty Lakes”, and “100 Resolutions” all come to mind immediately. Now imagine one of those moments that you have while listening to your favorite group, and the most subtle detail absolutely takes your breath away. Whatever it is; a certain guitar tone, a drum fill, a vocal flair, or what have you, you just can’t stop listening to it on repeat. Now imagine an album that is filled to the brim with moments like these: Welcome to Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!
, the third release from Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
As far as this album is concerned, band history is really trivial. Their eponymous 1998 debut, F# A# ∞, is heralded as a classic among most who have heard it, and revered by music critics around the world for influencing the genre of post-rock as a whole more than any other album released in the past decade. It frankly sucks then that a quality album like that could be so utterly and completely owned by its proper full-length follow-up.
What Lift Your Skinny Fists…
lacks in obvious influence and outward critical praise, it makes up for in nearly every aspect. Longer, more varied, and better produced that its predecessor, Lift Your Skinny Fists…, excels all around. Each of the four songs, which average a whopping 21 minutes in length all have distinctly different moods, yet never feel disjointed in the slightest. Somehow, the album also flows much better than it’s hour and twenty-seven minute running time would suggest, never dragging at any point throughout.
The album opens with Storm
, setting a hopeful and halcyon atmosphere before suddenly halting like a cartoon character suspended in mid-air during the moment of truth after running off of a cliff, and morphing into a frightening beast. Loud dramatic strings and pounding percussion slams illustrate the tenseness in the air following the initial shimmering hopefulness. Then, on a dime following a short recorded skit, the mood turns eerie, as if the sudden dramatic halt was a nuclear bomb detonating, and this was the lone survivor surveying the devastation around him, with distant atmospheric pianos and a constant static hiss in the foreground. And Storm
is only the beginning of the intense dynamic changes to occur: every song includes at least two of these major shifts, making for one of the most interesting listening experiences in recent memory.
Like I’ve mentioned previously, this album is filled with those awe-inspiring moments that one lives to hear in music. One moment that stands out as probably the most intensely emotional piece of music I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to occurs during Sleep
, the opening track of the second disc and the third track overall. Opening with a spoken word sample regarding the glory days of Coney Island, the listener is soon after transported into a beautiful movement, which brings to mind the image of a beach on a cold and grey afternoon, just following a tremendous storm of sorts. As the piece builds however, the mood turns from somber and dreary to an almost violent, foreboding atmosphere. As the song slowly picks up in intensity, pounding percussion begins to join the lone original guitar, with more layered guitar work, just oozing with reverb and creating a very tense atmosphere. However, it is not until the end of the song, after another hypnotizing section driven by a simple bassline that the pace increases again, this time into one of the most outwardly uplifting moments I’ve ever personally experienced in music. The lush and charging wall of sound created by the group out of seemingly nothing lends the notion that even with every storm, the weather will eventually clear and lead to beauty once again.
Note: This entire album has no vocals and still somehow conveys a message without vocals.
It takes a very skilled group of composers to be able to say so much without any sort of vocalization at all and to be able to convey such a deep, highly metaphorical, and universally adaptable message. Very few groups nowadays are capable of it, and even fewer will ever garner any sort of significant praise in the mainstream. Regardless of industry politics aside, this is a skill that requires both an immense amount of talent and an understanding of human emotions beyond what is normal.
Emotion: the driving force behind this album. Godspeed’s music invokes nearly every emotion that one can think of over the course of this masterpiece. Hope, despair, anger, fear; It’s all there and in droves. From the opening horns of Storm
to the final, epic, and electronic-driven fade-out of Antennas to Heaven
, the album is drooling with emotion. However, it is the moments of pure epic bliss that pervade every track of the album that make this album as nearly flawless as it is. There is not a single part of this album that warrants removing for any reason, and there is not a single element that needs to be added to it at all. While few may criticize the album for its length, and it’s conceivably repetitive style, the album is still nearly flawless, and an album that I consider absolutely breathtaking. If you don’t at least take a chance to listen to this once in your life, you are definitely depriving yourself of one of the greatest listening experiences ever.