Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress'


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
March 26th, 2015 | 648 replies


Release Date: 03/31/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A thematic and musical awakening for one of the greatest post-rock bands in history.

Nearly two decades ago, F# A# ∞ brought forth instruments of destruction. Mankind was reduced to rubble, as mothers clutched babies and pulled out their hair. The skyline was on fire, washing the heavens over in an orange haze. Some pleaded for repentance. Others despaired, laying themselves down in the street and accepting their collective fate. It was truly the last of days, and as “Providence” closed the curtain on one of post-rock’s founding opuses, our eyes collectively succumbed to the darkness...overcome by such a catastrophic armageddon, and drawn to the promise of death. Countless years later, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress scores the awakening. It’s a panoramic view of the world; just not as we know it. Grass has pushed up through the concrete, with vines growing up the side of every building. Sheep graze quietly in a pasture, oblivious to the devastation brought upon mankind by their own doing. It’s post post-apocalyptic, and it’s beautiful in a way that none of us will likely ever witness, save through the brilliant and haunting compositions of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

One can almost be excused for giving Asunder a casual shrug in the year 2015. After all, what can this band do for us that we haven’t already experienced? The foreboding spoken passages, the slow-burn buildups, the resplendent climaxes – for diehard followers, we’ve all been there and heard that. Besides, when they reunited and subsequently released Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, Godspeed demonstrated their relevancy and reclaimed their spot atop the post-rock throne. What else is there to prove? These questions aren’t without validity, but Asunder does everything in its power to show us that this band’s reservoir of ideas is far from depleted. There are extensive drone inclusions that comprise the middle half of the album, and the fat has been trimmed from the live working title Behemoth to leave us with only the best cuts. The result is an album that still endeavors to rise and fall, but achieves its goal more quickly and through altered means. It’s an invigorating makeover of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s firmly entrenched sound, and thus Asunder is both a thematic and musical awakening for the band.

From the very beginning, “Peasantry, or ‘Light Inside of Light!” offers a stimulating depiction of Earth after the reign of human beings has come to its violent demise. A desolate drum beat echoes, filling the air with the loneliest of man-made sounds. That echo is joined by ominous electric guitars, which wail like a beast emerging from its earthy grave long after everyone thought that it was dead. It’s a very different approach by Godspeed’s standards, because the song is already peaking well before it hits the two minute mark, and it manages to hold its steam throughout by gradually introducing new components. By the time the strings enter you can almost feel yourself being picked up, the weightlessness allowing you to survey everything below. The sun is shimmering on the ocean like a thousand diamonds, and there are signs of life as seagulls glide about from rocks to sea. When the walls of distorted guitar take over, you’re overlooking the wreckage of civilization and witnessing the barren wasteland created by every major city. Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress gets the imagination rolling immediately.

If “Peasantry” serves as an overture, representing the triumphant and frightening moment that is seeing the new face of the Earth, then the middle two tracks illustrate vacancy and abandonment. “Lambs’ Breath” and “Asunder, Sweet” are both exhales in a way, and considering the way that “Peasantry” overpowers your senses from the get-go, it’s a welcome relief. Both are drone pieces, and there is a ton of feedback and distortion to get lost in if you listen for the little nuances that make them so interesting and, and times, bone-chilling. “Asunder, Sweet” is particularly impressive, with echoing sonar samples that give one the impression of being plunged into the ocean – sinking helplessly into the pitch black while watching the last ray of sunlight get choked out by darkness. Of course, this also plays into the idea of a new world, devoid of human activity except for the remaining machines that continue to hum on cue, hauntingly and unflinchingly. A passing listen might not reveal the depth of these two songs, but repeated exposure to them will cause you realize just how critical they are to Asunder. They’re not just a reprieve; they’re the heart of it all.

Like all Godspeed You! Black Emperor albums, Asunder has a track that serves as the ultimate climax of the entire experience – the mountain’s summit, if you will. Here, that song is without a doubt “Piss Crowns Are Trebled.” Militaristic drumming gives way to driving electric guitar riffs, shredding, string sections, and massive crescendos that are poignant enough to move even the most well versed post-rock aficionado. About halfway through, it transitions to an even faster tempo – and at that point all expectations are shattered by sheer determination, vision, and brilliance. The guitars are amped up a notch, the drum fills become more urgent, the orchestration sounds more heartbroken and forlorn, and it all starts to sound like the cathartic unveiling of a lifetime. In terms of emotional impact, it may even exceed “We Drift Like Worried Fire.” It’s genuinely inspiring, and the fact that Godspeed can still come up with gems like this should restore anyone’s faith in modern music. So much for these guys running out of ideas.

Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress may be this band’s fifth full length album over the course of eighteen years, but there’s something different about it. 2002’s Yanqui U.X.O. and 2012’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! were both great records in their own right, but they didn’t necessarily do anything we weren’t expecting. When you factor in the lengthy hiatus that came between those two albums, there’s even more room for the possibility of stagnation. Asunder fights that notion with every fiber of its being. It’s more concise. It’s bolder, sleeker, and faster. The drone tracks will haunt your dreams if you’ll let them. If 1997 created an unattainable benchmark in F# A# ∞’s musical apocalypse, then Asunder represents a brand new chapter. It’s post-apocalyptic, and it’s a gorgeous awakening for a band that continues to define the standard within its genre.




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user ratings (651)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
March 26th 2015


23982 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

At first this didn't blow me away, but once the drone tracks clicked I adored it.

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile To The Surface

Judio!
March 26th 2015


8393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Godspeed can do no wrong, can't wait to give this a spin. Nice write up, Sowing.

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2015


18624 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Actually, they can ;)



I'm hoping this will grow but not expecting it to. Nice review sowing.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 26th 2015


23982 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Thanks Judio. I actually prefer this to Allelujah.



Mongi your rating is how I started with this...the drone tracks seemed like an utter waste of time. I recommend headphones. If you still dislike this album, then I won't blame you. But try that first.

Judio!
March 26th 2015


8393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks for ruining the vibe with your negativity, Mongi.

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2015


18624 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Haha I try!



Honestly I'm not a fan of the drones in Allelujah either, but they're drastically less frequent and it has more highlights. But I'll still listen more!

Toondude10
March 26th 2015


11041 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

YES! See, Sowing understands this album!



And yeah listening to this with headphones is a must if you haven't yet.



As always great review Sowing. mind-pos :-)

TheBarber
March 26th 2015


3508 Comments


in the last paragraph: it's 1997 for F#A#infinity

record looks sweet even though I believe Silver Mt Zion has topped this band in my heart when it comes to recent outings, will have to jam and see

Digging: Pretend - Circular Rsoning

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 26th 2015


23982 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

^Haha thank you, I fixed that now.

Toondude10
March 26th 2015


11041 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That first paragraph is golden

burnafterbreeding
March 26th 2015


1527 Comments


Awesome work as always, Sowing!

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 26th 2015


23982 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Thanks fellas! Appreciated.

Arcade
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2015


8318 Comments


this is probably not fantastic but i'll listen to it anyway

Digging: Tyler, the Creator - Scum Fuck Flower Boy

Toondude10
March 26th 2015


11041 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I totally agree that this is definitely something different from them. As much as I enjoyed Allelujah! and Yanqui I was thinking that they definitely followed the same formula. This doesn't necessarily rely on climaxes and epic build-ups but it's more focused and content than pretty much all of their albums.



This is their best work since Skinny Fists imo.

Toondude10
March 26th 2015


11041 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

knowing you Arcade you'd probably give this a 3 lol :P

CalculatingInfinity
March 26th 2015


7161 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice to see that get a staff review, great job Sowing as usual. Really enjoyed this, moments like first 2 minutes of the album, the transistion between the 2 drone tracks and of course the giant climax that is Piss Crowns are Trebled make this worthwhile.

Arcade
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2015


8318 Comments


this looks like it 3s pretty hard

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 26th 2015


23982 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Then you and this album will have something in common!

guitarded_chuck
March 26th 2015


13196 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this set of sounds visually seems to be mediocre

RadicalEd
March 26th 2015


8317 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

very good review. I happen to agree with everything you said as well.



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