Review Summary: This is classical music for the aging generation of punk-rockers.
There are many mysteries in this world veiled under our own short-sightedness or our inability to tap into the different mindsets and thought patterns we are capable of. Music can be seen as a way of shedding light on some of these mysteries and perplexing and indescribable emotions that elude us in our everyday life. With music we can describe the sound that a mute makes, the sound of inanimate objects, of emotions, and ideas.
Q: What is the sound anger makes?
A: Listen to a punk rock album.
Q: What is the sound that an empty room makes?
A: Listen to a Brian Eno album.
Q: What is the sound of a nuclear holocaust?
A: Listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Often we find ourselves describing music that makes an emotional impact on us as “breath taking“
, but just how many times has music literally taken your breath away? Godspeed You! Black Emperor does just that, several times throughout their compositions with the scope of the imagery they paint. I can’t think of a time where listening to this band didn’t convey the image of a crumbling metropolis, a scorched playground, or the tragic scene of an airplane crashing and burning. Hell, I even find myself tossing on “F# A# Infinity”
while roaming the wastelands in Fallout just to compliment the mood. In the same way Ennio Morricone perfectly captured the sound of desolation in the American deserts with his score for “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly“
, Godspeed You! Black Emperor perfectly captures the sound of the American countryside ravaged by the likes of a tornado or some sort of storm…or by nuclear fallout, if you want to keep with apocalyptic themes.
This is the definitive statement by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, spoken in a nonchalant manner. It’s an EP clocking in at about a half an hour, and containing only two songs. Despite this, all of the band’s ideas and trademark techniques are expressed more efficiently here due to the compact nature of an EP. Within “Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada”
, we find the classic ebb and flow of the band’s catharsis that has been copied by countless other post-rock groups; the parabolic drifts between gentle hums and violent belches of fire and brimstone, and the confusing beauty that mingles with abrasiveness during their most dramatic moments. Effortlessly, the band melds the desolation and heavy sampling of their debut with the epic peaks of “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven”
. This album will go down as one of the great symphonies of our time.
Consider “Moya” as an introductory piece to the second track on this album. Slowly and surely it climbs towards the heavens as the instruments continue to rise and coagulate into a shimmering wash of noise, pulled forward by the restrained and exact drum work of Bruce Cawdron and Aidan Girt. We’re left with the bellowing hum of cello, as “BBF3” (acronym for “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III”) begins…
The music is pushed into the background momentarily as Mr. Finnegan takes the foreground. The sampled interview with this eccentric man can be looked at as the personified representation of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s sound; odd beauty tinged with insanity. As the music lingers we listen to this crack-pot of a libertarian anarchist rant about the United States Government, parking tickets, and his gun collection. Oddly enough, it’s the most engaging moment in the band’s entire catalog. There is a sense of sincerity and of vulnerable humanity here, and at the most appropriate of times, the music returns gloriously to take the forefront again. Then comes the build up…
Soaring guitar squeal punctures the thick atmosphere of tortured strings and pounding drums as the band lets loose and collapses into itself again riding the forcefulness of their orchestral stabs. Somehow, the song continues to build even more
tension, taking the endurance of both the musicians and their instruments to their limits. And just as you begin to question whether or not the band has a breaking point, the song comes to it’s final crescendo and ends; the audience now ***ed and left drooling.
Tired metaphors and analogies can never truly describe the songs of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, nor can any analyzing effectively pick apart the arrangements of such pieces. This band speaks in moments and emotions; anger, sadness, fear, regret, triumph, optimism, happiness. This is the catch and release of the band’s draw. Where there is tension, there is looseness. Where there is construction, there is chaotic spontaneity. Where there is relaxation, there is confrontation. This is classical music for the aging generation of punk-rockers. Godspeed You! Black Emperor creates their own emotions in spite of their contradictory nature. Like a photograph of a ravaged Chernobyl, there is desolation and tragedy upon first viewing yet an odd sense of beauty in its placidity.
And who amongst us could have guessed that the band’s finest vocal moment would end up being the rehashing of some Iron Maiden lyrics plagiarized by Mr. Finnegan? Brilliant.