Review Summary: A masterpiece. An unforgettable experience that will show you how dark and twisted the world looks through the eyes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
I sat paralyzed in my chair, a blank expression on my face. I glanced hesitantly at the clock. Sixty-four minutes had passed since I started listening to F#A#∞
for the first time. I removed my headphones and paced around my house, trying in vain to wrap my mind around what I was feeling. My mind awash with an onslaught of different emotions, I slowly came to a realization: F#A#∞
had changed me. I looked nor felt any different than I had sixty-four minutes ago, so what about me changed? It may not have been immediately apparent, but F#A#∞
by Godspeed You! Black Emperor completely altered my perception of music. Forever.
served as my introduction to both Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the post-rock genre, both of which I had no knowledge of until roughly an hour prior to listening. Hearing Godspeed's sound for the first time was a magical experience and opened up my mind to new musical possibilities I had never before fathomed. It was a strange sensation; I felt as if I had been deaf my whole life and was hearing sound for the first time. Before this album came into my life, I viewed music in an admittedly mundane perspective. Music consists simply of instruments playing notes, I once thought, arranged to incite an emotion or make a statement. Although music has always been an important part of my life, this album made me realize how boundless and infinite it truly is.
creates an entire universe with its music. Note-by-note, you are slowly, gracefully immersed into Godspeed's dark, gloomy, desolate world. The band uses music to create a story; a journey in which the listener must embark. The album moves and progresses like a linear plot, but one that is never made directly clear to the listener. The entire storyline is open to interpretation, with nothing but samples, such as a train whistle or a shouting preacher, to guide the listener on their journey. Furthermore, each track has a different focus. All three songs sound completely dissimilar from one another and convey entirely different emotions, although they all clearly still take place in the same world. Describing it, however, does the album no justice. The best way to understand F#A#∞
is to interpret the album's storyline. To do so, all you must do is relax, open your mind, and allow the emotions and atmosphere of the music guide you along the way.
The album's opener, "The Dead Flag Blues,"
closes your eyes and takes you away. Whereas one band may violently plunge the listener into their world, Godspeed take their precious time. Your eyes still closed, you feel yourself being gently lifted off you feet and whisked away to another world. As gently as you were lifted, you are placed down. Before you can open your eyes, you hear a deep, brooding voice. The voice poetically describes the post-apocalyptic world you've been placed into. As he speaks, you open your eyes and view everything for yourself. You realize you are standing in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but ruins. The man stops speaking, and you begin to explore this world for yourself.
The music begins to give off a feeling of overwhelming sadness and grief. A calm, lazy tune plays as you walk among the ruins, the ashes of what once was and what will never be again. Your fear begins to slowly build, but before long you hear a familiar voice. The voice says his strange goodbyes, and the song begins to fade. He ceases talking, and you feel more alone than ever.
Out of nowhere, you hear a train whistle blow. No melody plays, no instruments can be heard; the train sits on the tracks, patiently waiting for you to board. You step on and take a seat. The train begins to move, and you are on your way. There are no passengers on board but you, making you even lonelier than before. Suddenly, a ghostly drone is heard, indicating that something horrible is approaching. The train begins to transform, its sound now distorted and ugly. You hear the noise getting louder. It is unclear what the drone means, but as it becomes louder and more terrible, you begin to regret ever going on this journey. You want to leave desperately; you miss your home and the world where you once dwelled. All of a sudden, the train lurches to a stop. You stumble out of the train and into the apocalyptic world before you. Aimlessly you wander the wasteland, completely alone yet somehow at peace. The melody that was once melancholy has had a paradigm shift. More instruments join in, and the same sad tune slowly transforms into something jubilant. The most gorgeous soundscape you have ever heard accompanies you as you walk. You smile and begin to regain your sense of adventure. Tired from the day's proceedings, you lie down to take a nap. As you rest your weary eyes, an uncharacteristically beautiful xylophone begins to play. The xylophone makes you forget entirely about where you are. You let yourself drift off into a much-needed slumber without a care on your mind.
The next song, "East Hastings,"
begins with a preacher shouting about the salvation of Jesus Christ from the side of the street. Cars speed past him, ignoring his every word. Over the preacher's desperate pleas you hear a familiar tune play on someone's bagpipes. Little did you know, it would be the last time in your life you would ever hear that song. As the sound fades away, you realize that your brain is toying with you. The preacher talking on the side of the street was no more than a memory from a long time ago. You snap back into the sad reality you were thrown into.
The following section of the song leaves you without direction nor guidance. A few notes are played slowly, each one sadder than the last. The music conveys a feeling of utter desolation and despair. Tears begin to swell up in your eyes. Mournfully, you hum the melody of the song until the instruments begin to crescendo into something different. A tune that was one sad is quickly becoming evil. You turn around and see nothing, yet things continue crescendo and intensify. The music indicates something terrible is approaching, and so you frantically run for your life. You run faster than you ever have before, and before long you begin soaring at unfathomable speeds. No longer do you have a destination; no longer do you have the first clue where you are going.
Suddenly, everything violently stops. You look around; you were running so fast, you ended up in a completely unfamiliar place. It is night time, and a flickering streetlight nearby is your only source of comfort. The music has completely stopped. Just when you begin to feel your loneliness return, you hear a voice. On the ground lies a ham radio. You pick it up and listen to the voice closely. Whoever is at the other end of that ham radio has clearly lost his mind. He rambles on about something you can't understand. Frustrated, you smash the radio on the ground.
Out of nowhere, the streetlight flickers off. It is now pitch black outside. In the distance, something begins to approach. Something unimaginably horrible. More afraid than you have ever been before, you lay on the ground, close your eyes, and put your hands over your ears. Suddenly, the sound turned into blood-curdling screams and wails. You force your eyes shut, terrified to open and behold the horrid sight in front of you. The screams and moans become louder and more nightmarish. You feel what's left of your sanity slip away. Percussion explodes overhead and a sea of distortion starts to wash over everything. The music has become more than unpleasant; it is terrifying to the point where you wish, more than anything, that you were back home. Finally deciding you can't take anymore, you stand up and bravely open your eyes. Everything stops. To your amazement, there is absolutely nothing in front of you. There was never anything there; paranoia had clearly gotten the best of you. All that's left is one buzzing high note. After a few seconds, the buzzing ceases. Complete silence has never seemed so wonderful. You pass out right on the ground. Miraculously, you sleep entirely through the entire night in absolute peace. Nothing in life, you later realize, is more blissful than silence.
The final song, "Providence,"
begins with a dialogue between two men. They discuss the ramblings of the preacher man you heard before, how they don't believe his warnings of the oncoming apocalypse. As their dialogue fades away, a drone-like sound begins to build. Suddenly, something becomes clear: the preacher was right all along, and now everyone is dead because they did not heed his warning. The sad truth settles in as the drone becomes increasingly loud. The music has become psychedelic. You feel yourself slip away into a trance. Everything is so peaceful; you realize that only in the eradication of mankind is their truly such a thing as complete silence.
A melody begins to play far in the distance. You turn around and see that, miles away, a massive fire is washing over the area and heading directly towards you. You stand still as the fire draws closer, and you begin to despair. All hope is lost, you think bleakly. The flames are drawing closer now, and your racing heart nearly beats out of your chest as you contemplate about your next move. Whereas you may have been terrified earlier, you suddenly feel a rush of adrenaline course through your veins. You smile confidently and rush the opposite direction of the fire at full speed.
An electric guitar plays a heavy riff as you soar across the wasteland. A trumpet fanfares triumphantly as you victoriously escape the clutches of certain death. Faster and faster you run, until before long the great flames are no longer visible. You stop and catch your breath. To your surprise, there stands a woman right beside to you. Her face is worn, her clothes tattered and torn, her hair long and grey, and her back hunched over. She walks up to you and smiles, her teeth all missing and her gums rotten. She gently places her hand on your shoulder. For a reason you may never understand, she begins to sing to you. Her voice is weak, ghostly and distorted, and the lyrics to her song are entirely unintelligible. After singing for a few minutes, she collapses onto the ground.
As you stare at the old woman's corpse, an optimistic melody, unlike any you had ever heard before, begins to play. Military-style drums begin to beat, and the music intensifies. You sit down, close your eyes, and allow the music to make your thoughts run wild. You think about how wonderful your life was compared to this apocalyptic world you've been thrown into. Cymbals crash and electric guitar shreds as your life flashes back before your eyes. Slowly, the melodies fade away. You open your eyes, only to see the woman, who you presumed was dead, standing up next to you with tears flooding her eyes. "Where are you going?" she asks somberly. Too depressed to respond, you slowly walk away and never look back. "Where are you going?" she continues to plead. You keep walking until you hear her no longer.
As you walk, you think hard about what the woman said. Where exactly were you going? What is the point of survival if there is no one else to survive with? These questions toy with your mind as a low-pitched droning-noise begins to creeps up on you. You have never felt more alone in this desolate wasteland. You walk on and on, until the drone fades away.
A long silence ensues. You feel nothing and see nothing. For what seems like an eternity, the world stands completely still. What happened next was something you had not expected. Out of nowhere, you hear a melody; only this melody is different than the ones you heard before. This one is upbeat and slightly tranquil. All of a sudden, the melody quickly crescendos into the most showstopping, glorious piece of music to ever grace your ears. Cymbals violently crash and drums beat down like enormous raindrops smashing upon the surface of the earth. You are drowning in a sea of overwhelming ecstasy. Nothing makes logical sense anymore, you realize. You no longer have any sense of who you are or where you are, but you don't care. Tears of joy rain from your eyes and you feel yourself lifted off your feet. As the percussion intensifies, you fly across the air. The cold wind brushes across your face. Nothing matters when you're shooting across the sky, not even the end of the world. You feel whatever lifted you gently place you down. The music stops. You look at the clock and realize a full sixty-four minutes have passed, and F#A#∞
has reached its end. You sit in your chair, paralyzed, a blank expression on your face...
is more than just vivid soundscapes and gloomy melodies; it is a challenge to the listener's mind. The album stimulated my imagination in ways I never thought possible when I first listened to it. F#A#∞
is more than just an album; it is an experience unlike any other. Godspeed You! Black Emperor has used music to paint pictures, to seamlessly craft a story of desolation, loneliness, and hope in the midst of the apocalypse. As the album plays, you forget you are even listening to music. Every note is placed strategically to make you feel something different; every vocal sample adding to the dark atmosphere the album conveys. Over the course of an hour, Godspeed will make you feel melancholy, mournful, ecstatic, terrified, paranoid, pessimistic, optimistic, and hopeful. This is perfection; this is Godspeed You! Black Emperor's ultimate triumph.
is akin to a nightmare, but far more realistic. The experience can best be compared to gazing into a crystal ball. What you see inside of it is entirely unique, an experience all of your own. Now, what will you see in F#A#∞
? What adventure does Godspeed have in store for you? There is only one way to find out...