Review Summary: And here we stand, wasting away...
Ever since they made their first mark on the scene, Godspeed You! Black Emperor has undoubtedly secured themselves as one of the premiere post-rock bands, if not the
premiere post-rock band. Each and every “big” new album in the genre is inevitably compared to the works of these masters of their craft, including their own. To not know this band in any post-rock circle is absolute blasphemy; almost as blasphemous as if one were to assert a negative opinion about them. Titanic albums like F#A#Infinity
have cemented their mark in post-rock history, and rightfully so, but such things can only be relied on for so long. Every now and then, a band of such scale needs to remind their listeners why they are so revered in the first place; Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
does exactly that.
Save for the vinyl edition of F#A#Infinity
, this is GY!BE’s shortest LP to date. Clocking in at just shy of 55 minutes, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
finds itself wasting no time on its two main tracks, and doing a nice job at populating an otherwise desolate sonic wasteland with two “drone” tracks. Each track feels the perfect length, and the albums seems to have the perfect pace. Never is there a time where it should “speed up” or “slow down” and never is there a time where there is an urge to skip forward or rewind. Each note hangs in the air just long enough to allow its presence to be felt, but after it flees the scene, it leaves nothing left to be desired. Basically, typical GY!BE.
What is not typical GY!BE though, is the length. During the album, the length is felt. This album is not as patient in conducting itself, though that does not necessarily mean that a rushed pace is felt. Instead, the album’s elements each move quicker in general, and even the drone tracks do not last long enough to truly bring the album to a state of “slow” or uneventful at any point. Climaxes fade as soon as they had appeared, and build-ups have more noticeable increases in tempo. Drums beat faster and faster, and soon enough, the sound of static has blossomed into absolute grandeur. Even in quieter, calmer periods, the presence of the songs’ impact is felt, as if giving the listener time to consider what it is they have heard, will hear, and are hearing.
A very important thing to address here is the choice to have two “main” songs and two “drone” songs to make up this release. Unlike the four huge pieces of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
or the three equally large songs featured on Yanqui U.X.O.
, there are two “songs” here that are not really a part of one another, and two “drone” tracks that make a blatant effort to further this point. Opening with “Mladic”, there is a snippet of what sounds like a conversation held over radio and then progressing into a more and more structured work that eventually finds itself to peak before gradually descending back into a smooth outro leading into the first drone track. This song features plenty of interesting riffs and a marvelous use of percussion to craft a very exotic sound. Afterwards, a less momentous track trudges forwards with many sounds buzzing about and maintaining a constant, steady pace to transition into the album’s crown jewel.
Quite simply put, “We Drift Like Worried Fire” may be the greatest GY!BE song ever released. It begins with a patient plucking of strings before more instruments enter to accompany the build up, and continues to do exactly that for a fair amount of time. As the song carries itself faster and faster, the song reaches the first half of its climax. Every instrument brings something valuable to the mix, and the result is breathtaking. Each note comes to life, and introduces something new to the listener, before settling down into a short-lived falling action. Afterwards, comes the outro, the second and final half of the climax of the album, and what a monumental few minutes it is. Everything at once gives its all, everything at once is singing its own song, and everything at once is over. Nothing short of sheer magnificence, this leads into the albums final drone as the listener is left alone, as if standing outside of the house featured on the album’s cover, and brings finally allows its audience to catch its breath.
To even begin to describe the mood of this album in detail would take a short book. Everything from cheer to despair can be felt throughout this carefully crafted behemoth of emotion. Particularly, the two main songs on the album conduct themselves as gargantuan in musical scope and completely unbelievable in deliverance. Guitars hum ominously as everything from bass to violin sing their respective songs, each preparing for their own massive display of climatic brilliance. Upon this enormous release, a flood of feeling that is hopeless to try to explain presents itself to the listener in a gloriously lonesome ambiguity, as if they have been isolated to only the sounds produced by the band and dared to find some sort of meaning in their music. While this is not the same loneliness and solitude experienced from F#A#Infinity
, and not exactly the emotional epic of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
, this album finds itself to be its own beauty and has its own splendour that is meant to be exactly what it is; different.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a name of post-rock royalty. They played a huge part in breathing life into the genre, and continue to supplement it with quality and beauty. As the last note on the album rings towards silence, the question begs itself once again; has GY!BE earned their right to such high praise, such uncontested reverence? If this album is worth anything, then the answer to that is yes.