"And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
- King James' Bible, Revelation Chapter 6, verses 1 through 8
None too familiar imagery these days, you're thinking. We're all familiar with the Book of Revelations or the Ragnarok (less so on the latter), and by now I'm sure it's set fear into our fragile, human hearts at some point. But what many fail to realize is that the Four Horsemen and the pending actions that come as a result could also be of our own doing, without the involvement of sometimes over the top prophecies and fear mongering. The HIV virus has become a pandemic, poverty is ravaging the world as it always has, and the war on drugs still continues on. And yet, a large portion of the world could really care less. If they do, then there is a decent chance that it is nothing more than an afterthought or a nasty little taste left in their mouths.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! would more than likely agree with this. However mysterious they want their personas to be, their music still carries the weight of the human essence to an extent that no other band has or will probably again. Forming in the mid nineties and named after a documentary on a Bozoku gang (the equivelent of a biker gang in Japan) by the name of the Black Emperors, the band cultivate sounds and experiences to form long, slowly unfolding songs that are as influenced by classical and avant-garde as they are by the raw feelings of punk rock. Unlike some of their contemporaries, Godspeed's music sounds anything bu joyous or sad; even more, the overall tone of F#A# (Infinity)
is more of the post-apacolyptic experience, the impending strife and mourning, and that pulsing sense that their is hope for humankind afterall.
And it all began with "The Dead Flag Blues"; scenes from prophecies, as claustrophic as Vancouver pavement on a summer night. It went like this: "The buildings tumbled in on themselves. Mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble and pulled out their hair. The skyline was beautiful on fire. All twisted metal stretching upwards. Everything washed in a thin orange haze. I said, 'Kiss me, you're beautiful.. These are truly the last days'"
. Then come the sighs, the surviving gasps of life coming to the surface to view the passing clouds, marked by mourful, glistening guitars, spaghetti western bass lines, and sympathetic harmonica, building to a crescendo that leaps over the rubble and to the gray skies. This is the first ounce of hope, as the humanity finds it's place in a now devestated world. A waltz of glockenspiel and strings, hope marches through, then we are left to ponder.
Salvation cries out through a preacher in the streets, as bagpipes sing out the same tune. "East Hastings" slowly settles itself in. Eventually, the melodies start to rise: the repeating of doomed and depressing guitar that is eventually joined by complimentary drums and bass, slowly pounding under the heavenly forces of all three guitar players. It falls; introduction of crooning strings, that morph to puncture wounds and die, only to be ressurrected again with the force of a thousand swords. Slowly and gradually, like the previous piece, "East Hastings" throws itself into the depths of possibility; a ten-ton steam engine pummeling anything in it's way. If you have believed anything to be intense before here this buildup, then my friend, you have never heard a proper crescendo/release such as this.
"Providence" is almost as epic, but never reaches the terse strains of the former. This may be due to the almost thirty minute length. An interview in Providence, Rhode Island also reflects the apocalyptic feel of F#A# (Infinity)
: "The preacher man says that it's the end of time. Says that America's rivers are going dry."
However the length affects the song, it still lives up to it's main function: to continue the feeling of the music and enforce the great confusion of what is beautiful and what is not. However, it still remains as a vital component of the album, with sparkling melodies and same type of ferver and enthusiasm that is spread throughout the rest of the album, making it blissful and inspiring in the process, something that few, if any bands, will every accomplish in our lifetime. We can all learn something from listening to Godspeed You Black Emperor!, especially in the sort of delusional times that we live in. Our own fate as humans is beyond our grasp, but there is hope. Always.