Godspeed You! Black Emperor have become rather well known for their neo-classical style of post rock. Nothing further solidifies that than this double disc monster. Four songs, that's right, four songs, are on these two discs. Two per plastic circle. That's understandable once you see that there's only one song that's under 22 minutes in length. These songs are nothing short of epic. I'm sure that's the only way that GY!BE would have it, anyway. Why? Because they enjoy challenging the standard, or conventional, ways of music. Lift Your Skinny Fists..
uses standard rock instruments and some classical strings to sculpt giant musical compositions in several movements each, usually with a tape sample of some kind. Everynow and then, a special instrument will join in, such as a French horn or xylophone.
The sound of Godspeed's debut has evolved into a more "in your face" sound, with more instances of walls of sound. The songs have many more moments where you can tell everyone is playing at once. I can't imagine how difficult it was to write these songs with nine members. Guitarist Efrim was once quoted as saying "The writing process in this band is like trying to shit 50-pound bowling balls." Storm
starts in typical fashion, with a slow gentle melody going as more members come in to build the song up. Once the percussion comes in, the song rally gets rolling. There's so much going on at once, it'll take you several listens to finally hear everything. Let's see, there's a guitar there and cymbals there. There's another guitar, and a violin, and a few basses. Oooh, there's a French horn. It can get quite hectic at times, but it's never over powering. Everything is as clear as it needs to be in order to be clearly audible. If you wanted, you could pick out any instrument and single it out within your mind. It's actually rather fun. Static
features gentle violin, with some sort of religious zealot rambling about holy things. Then they begin to build and add other instruments in. Eventually it goes into some screeching guitar and what sounds like xylophone, along with several other things. It dies down a bit, and then begins another tremendous build-up before exploding with a guitar that sounds like it's being stabbed to death with a rusty spork.
The star of the show is Sleep
. It also happens to be one of the best GY!BE songs around. It begins with an elderly man reminiscing about the good ol' days at Coney Island. Days when you could sleep on the beach, overnight. Then begins the lovely guitar melody. This is something these guys do very well. The building into something fierce is enviable. Bit by bit, the song slowly starts coming together. One guitar is joined by another, and a bass, and eventually drums and violin with some cello, too. There's some squeeling as snare ratchets away, and strings pluck out accompanyment. It soon dies down, and turns into another wonderful guitar piece. This is added to and layered upon until it transforms into a stunning piece of musical excellence. The last part is most impressive, as it oozes emotion with it's great use of classical strings and ghost notes on the snare. It ends on percussion and cello swipes.
Like all Godspeed albums, this one isn't easy to digest. All the songs are very long, with only one under 22 minutes. Another very apparent flaw are the bits and pieces of random nothingness tacked onto songs. Unlike their debut, the ambient parts here aren't very enjoyable and go on for far too long. Storm has a piece towards the end of an announcment at a mini-market. Roughly half of Static is made up of pointless guitar doodling that, while are good for a dark mood, aren't very exciting, entertaining, or enjoyable. The last track, Antennas to Heaven, has about six minutes or so of pulsing strings. Granted, this part is much better than the others, but is still slightly unecessary. This could've easilly been trimmed down to one disc, and I'm deeply pained that it wasn't.
Even with the unneeded ambience, this album makes for a good, yet long, listen. The songs are all very well written and come together nicely. If you're a fan of the band's earlier works, you owe it to yourself to go pick this up, as you shouldn't be disappointed. It's the ones that aren't aquainted with the long, post rock stylings of Godspeed that should approach with caution. You may be turned off by the length of these epics, which is understandable. But, if you just dig a little deeper and take the time to soak everything in, you'll find a very enjoyable experience. One to just lose yourself in, as you become ingrossed in this large group of Canadians as they do what they do best. So put this in, crank it loud, and lift your skinny fists as though they were antennas. Antennas... to Heaven.