Review Summary: Forging a new path.
After twenty-four years, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have changed their tone. I don’t mean that musically; their seventh LP, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is as floor-shakingly loud as any other release of theirs, but their tone
, the overriding emotion they are trying to convey, has changed. Early records F♯ A♯ ∞ and Yanqui U.X.O. were deafeningly angry at the state the world found itself in. How dare we have allowed ourselves to reach this point? How dare we sit idly by and watch as our society crumbles into dust, as our buildings topple in on themselves.
Post-hiatus Godspeed albums have always been compared to their turn-of-the-millennium counterparts. And after all, why wouldn’t they be? When your first three releases are still so influential two decades on, you are always going to be seen as chasing shadows going forward. Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress and Luciferian Towers were all good
, but their tone always carried the pressure of the albums they were following, and the weight of the magic they were attempting to recapture.
Enter AT STATE’S END!. The world has changed considerably in the four years since the Canadian post-rock collective last released new music. Hell, the world has changed considerably since the band last toured, where they premiered the two leviathan songs that would make up the bulk of this album’s 52 minute runtime. AT STATE’S END! sounds like a typical Godspeed album on first listen, but as it runs on, you begin to realise that this is not the band you are used to.
The field recordings that smatter early releases are back, but they serve only as introductions to the two giant songs, known as Glacier
respectively. The shorter, droning pieces return, sandwiched in between the two larger tracks, but they are not just empty space, like they were in Allelujah! and Luciferian Towers. The crescendos that so many Godspeed songs of old built up to are far more subdued. Now we are presented very loud, but quite methodical passages of constant sound.
These seem like minor changes to a formula that Godspeed have pretty much cemented as their own in recent years, and the first song, Glacier
, is very apparent in its use of these new tricks. It takes you on an interesting but comfortable ride, and because of that, it feels slightly weak. The ending is excellent, but it feels like it doesn’t particularly go anywhere, which is a shame.
That said, the first interlude track, Fire at Static Valley
, is where the changes to the Godspeed formula really begin to shine. Having slow drums laying down a discernible rhythm means that the momentum that started with Glacier
is not lost, and, unlike previous interludes, it feels like it is actually integral to AT STATE’S END!’s construction. Which, in turn, shows the album’s greatest strength.
AT STATE’S END! feels so much more cohesive than recent releases; all tracks pulling toward the same goal. It takes a while to reach where it is heading, but when I realised what AT STATE’S END! is trying to say, any criticisms of Glacier
I had were quickly forgiven. I was trying to work out why this album felt so different to what I was used to, and it came down to tone. Godspeed aren’t angry anymore. It should be noted that the majority of the band are reaching their fifties now, and it really shows.
We are used to bleak, miserable releases from this band, but AT STATE’S END! is not one of them. It is at times dark, it is at times frightening, but the second giant song, Cliffs
, portrays a mood that I don’t think many, if any, Godspeed tracks have before. It feels triumphant. There isn’t a hint of bittersweetness or nostalgia here. The final movement, ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE
is simply an explosion of positive energy, and, at its core, an acceptance of what Godspeed have become.
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is an album of acceptance. It is an open letter from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to anyone who will read it, imploring all of us to take solace in the things we enjoy. The final track, OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN
is like nothing the band has ever written before. A beautiful, deep, swirling string piece backed by fuzzy guitars that eventually fade into nothingness. It is at this moment that AT STATE’S END! makes its message clear. There is beauty in the world, we just have to look towards ourselves to find it.