Review Summary: Legendary Canadian post-rock outfit's most consistent release.Do you think the end of the world is coming?
The preacher man says it's the end of time...He says that America’s rivers are going dry. The interest is up, the stock market's down. You guys have to be careful walking around here this late at night...this...this is the perfect place to get jumped.
But do you think the end of the world is coming?
No. So says the preacher man, but... I don't go by what he says.
That exchange is the first glimpse into the psyche of Blaise Bailey Finnegan III given to us by legendary Canadian post rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor on their apocalyptic debut, F#A# (Infinity)
. Among the most important records of the modern era, F#A#
heavily influences what post rock sounds like today: dark, expansive, climactic, and epic. The record instrumentally is beautiful; violins swoon, cymbals swell, periods of blackness slowly grow into monstrous, glorious apexes, but what sets it apart is the texture. Grim visions of the future spattered with spoken word snippets of North American culture make F#A#
(and Godspeed You Black Emperor!) so unique and heartbreaking. Need proof? Listen to the opening monologue of "The Dead Flag Blues" and try not to shiver. F#A# (Infinity)
shows you the future, scares you to death, and may just bring you to your knees. Making the follow up to F#A#
equally impressive without stretching the proverbial Armageddon butter too thin sounds like an impossible task for GY!BE, right? Well if the formula works, why tweak it? Their very next release opens nearly the exact same way as F#A#
does: Pedal tone double bass sets the same ominous feel, kicking off Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
, one of the most powerful listens to be had for a long time.
Covered with Hebrew text that loosely translates to "and lo, it was waste and void", this two song EP takes the sound F#A#
created and compacts it into a thirty minute suite of beauty. Immediately, Slow Riot
proves itself void of the apocalype concept with “Moya”. “Moya” doesn’t have any talking samples, and opens the record with a reserved tension. The strings are allowed to paint a picture that can vary with whatever baggage the listener brings with him, but whatever mental image drawn, it’s invariably despairing. “Moya”’s introduces the EP slowly, with the strings building on top of each other for several minutes calmly, and even it’s inevitable climax is among Godspeed’s more serene. In retrospect, “Moya”’s purpose is merely to set the stage for the true bone crushing finale that comes later in the record.
The thing about Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada
is that it's more or less one song. Yes, there are two tracks, but listening to "Blaise Bailey Finnegan III" without first listening to "Moya" lessens the tremendous impact of the former. The second track revolves around the man whom the song is titled after. A pissed off, pessimistic American poet (though the poem featured in the recorded interview steals heavily from the song “Virus” by Iron Maiden), Mr. Finnegan appears in two separate places of his track. Godspeed You! Black Emperor undertakes the task of scoring his eccentric ramblings. They succeed brilliantly. With each swell of emotion that Blaise Bailey verbalizes, the group swells behind him. The scary thing is how insane Finnegan sounds with his rants. His interview revolves around his irrational anger towards America and the judicial system, with an ignorance masked as intelligence. He believes he sees the world exactly as it is, sucked of all beauty or any goodness. Godspeed You! Black Emperor matches his words with a heartwarmingly pure arrangement of music, setting up an anguished contrast between the fiery words and the chilling melody. The track trudges onward, like an exhausted wanderer lost in the wilderness, flashing between periods of faith and sheer hopelessness. Ghostly piano underlies the feeling of dementia that has been sneaking up since Finnegan began speaking, and a 2 note melody played with monstrous passion on the violin begins to place the listener in another world. For a moment, everything is strange, nothing seems quite right. Then, in perhaps their most powerful recorded moment, Godspeed You! Black Emperor let everything go. Finally, the fortissimo movement arrives, as the drums begin to run with a crazed urgency, the guitars soar overhead with melancholic pulchritude, and between both lay a gorgeous, familiar countermelody, creating a spine breaking finale that transcends average music and approaches the realm of other-worldly sound.
And as quickly as it began, Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
is over. The EP ends as it started: strings decrescendo, revisiting all the themes experienced in the brief lifespan of the record. The section is like a cold shower, thrusting the listener back into reality with a keener sense of the world. Like F#A# (Infinity)
, Godspeed You! Black Emperor are able to create a new reality for the duration of the music that’s eerie and creepily plausible, except on Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada
, Godspeed removes the massive periods of ambience that underscored the end of the world. Instead, Godspeed You! Black Emperor gets a firm grip on the listener's attention, and treats him/her to 30 minutes of artistry with nary a dull moment. Slow Riot
is an experience not to be missed.