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Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!


It's been ten long years since we last had anything physical from apocalypse rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and what with the political climate at the moment, songs about everything going to shit could fit in nicely. That isn't to say Godspeed are all about doom. Previous works have managed to weave immense beauty and intimacy into their expansive soundscapes too. Yet for the opener to this album, 'Mladic', they opt for sheer anger. The song holds some real weight with Eastern-style wailing violins mixed with growling guitars and furious drumming. It's a song that demands attention and acceptance that this isn't just a reformation for the band, but a resurrection. But for all its roaring and screams, it lacks that expansiveness that elevates Godspeed to such high praise. It feels rather insular; less of a musical journey through desolation and more one long battle cry.

In stark contrast, the second "major" track 'We Drift Like Worried Fire' is a gently building crescendo of genuine joy and triumph. Different movements change up the pace and add variety, yet for all the rare sense of positivity that the song creates, it too often strays into the blandness and guitar-noodling that dragged down their previous album Yanqui U.X.O and made it feel so weak compared to their explosive earlier works.

The last two songs on the album - coming on a separate 7" vinyl - are quintessential drone and yet somehow tragically forgettable. 'Their Helicopters Sing' is one long demonic orchestra tune-up. 'Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable' - yeah, I have no idea either - has more of a bite to it with some added distortion but still ends up coming up short. These two tracks aren't especially bad but they lack any kind of punch or depth past the harsh noise. The expansiveness of previous albums is sorely missing.

One of the main problems I have with this album is that the main bulk of it isn't even new. 'Mladic' and 'We Float...' have been part of setlists since 2003, before the band went on hiatus. The drone tracks are the only new material we get, and they feel so limited, lacking the glorious vastness that Godspeed can create, that upon first listen the album seems slightly disappointing. But there is potential here; new sounds, new approaches. Godspeed may be on the brink of a transformation. This album may be the start of something much bigger and louder than before. I hope so.