Review Summary: A few thousand bosses swinging lazily in the town square.
For months on end, I listened to Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
to fall asleep. I would take my headphones off, turn the volume way down, and leave my phone somewhere close while the strings in Moya
self-perpetuated and bloomed, and the patient harmonics of Blaise Bailey Finnegan III
swayed back and forth gently like an abandoned swing on an overcast day. By no means is it a record that should capitulate to its listener but, in its hemisphere, a hurdle that would usually take the length of an album like Lift Your Skinny Fists…
to overcome was suddenly made surmountable in less than twenty-eight minutes.
So of course Slow Riot
is my axis, my centre of gravity, for every other Godspeed release this side of the millennium: Are the crescendos plotted out properly, like the swelling of strings in Moya
? Do we see life and verdure at the top of the mountain or something more awash with grey? Do the samples and field recordings create a world rich enough to subsume our own, like BBFIII
does? Will it sing me to sleep?
Pertaining to that last question: I don’t think I’ll ever be able to bend this record into my own personal lullaby. Where Slow Riot
was permeated with a sense of foreboding, and the persistent drone of a record like Asunder
could plausibly drive out every cluttering thought with sheer force, Luciferian Towers
squats somewhere in between. So much of this record is spent marching steadfast and obdurate towards an endpoint that the idea of positing it in the background is invariably counterproductive. Of course, you could say the same for any album that builds imposing towers of noise just to topple them over when they get bored, but this record is different; it collects concerns (about politics, about society) before twisting and stretching them into rallying cries. Regarding samples -- a weathered tool for the Godspeed of yore -- this record opts instead to give its instruments scripts to follow, roles to play. The horns across this record are banners, metonyms of unification shimmering under a decaying sky. The guitars, oftentimes sweeping, oftentimes reworking their motifs in real time, behave like leaders. Their message of determination and triumph is the common thread that ties proceedings together, but that thread unravels as we move deeper into the record, rising slowly out of the dense thicket of noise. These sounds coalesce to form an oasis of hope and rebellion, of catalyst and response, illuminating a state of welcomed confusion to rival the thinly veiled chaos we’ve been struggling against since forever.
As for what we look out upon once we climb to the top of those vertiginous crescendos? Well, it’s once again a panoptic view, where visions of the future -- lavish and irenic -- bleed into visions of the present, desolate and disfigured. The structures are modified by the finer details here, with crescendos only really landing after one element shifts and the whole picture falls properly into place. Halfway through Bosses Hang III
, the steady marching snare that has driven the track forward up until that point suddenly repositions itself as an explosive, straightforward rock beat, and that release of tension feels like a deep gulp of oxygen after being submerged under murky waters to the point of moribundity. The opener doesn’t even give itself any room to rise; it merely tramples and thrashes along the ceiling as the cacophony sits slightly behind it, creaking and squealing and consuming. The melodies are Godspeed’s lynchpins more so than ever on Luciferian Towers
; a means of positioning their identity front and centre, and a method of signifying a change in the way the band approaches songwriting.
Because although previous Godspeed releases have spun sprawling post-apocalyptic narratives imbued with pathos, this new record engenders a last-ditch effort to prevent the end of the world from occurring, as if it plays out before both F#A#
and Lift Your Skinny Fists…
in this universe’s chronology. The quieter passages here are less resigned than they are scheming (the beginning of Fam / Famine
immediately springs to mind) and, the opener notwithstanding, the set-ups extend further than the pay-offs; the band work their way around motifs and themes before going ahead with the execution. The first two Anthem’s For No State -- all maudlin guitars dovetailing into maudlin violins -- are named as such because they dwell in that transitory space between life and death. Yup, like soldiers spending their last moments in the safety of their trench, Godspeed take two giant breaths, imbibing the state of the world around them, before storming head-first into either nothingness, or a world dictated on their terms. This is the first time in a long time where there seems to exist a world outside of these compositions, one that the band react to with disbelief and fear and anger.
This is Godspeed You! Black Emperor in the middle of an existential crisis. While the future hangs up in the air, mingling with the smoke and the dust, it becomes clear very quickly that the band have bigger things to worry about than a reputation made heavy through years of writing music that spans across decades and cultural discrepancies. This is the Godspeed record where elements of its movements converge instead of diffuse outwards, and it’s the only Godspeed record with a thesis statement that isn’t interred under layers of debris. I might not be able to doze off to this record, but it’s sure as hell the one that’ll keep me awake.