Godspeed You Black Emperor


Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Album: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Label: Constellation

Rating: 9.0

Godspeed You! Black Emperor are back. They are back with an exclamation point, or three more to be exact with their new album Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! It’s been 10 years since their last album Yanqui U.X.O. and much has changed in the world politically and musically, but Godspeed have retained their sound, and even perfected it. There’s not going to be much swaying people that have not liked the band in the past, but there’s a lot to like for fans of the band, especially if you like your GY!BE epic. Their last album attempted to bring more rawness, and anger to their instrumentals, 10 years later it appears they have expanded on that motif to complete what they started then.

A!DB!A! is an album that has two long classic GY!BE epic tracks, along with two shorter drone tracks. The first is “Mladic” which is a reference to Ratko Mladic who is a Bosnian Serb former military leader accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, so you can sense where this track thematically is going. It is actually quite concise with clear melodies, and heavy building rhythms that rise and descend into soft melodies. It’s quite possibly one of the best GY!BE tracks off any album. The second track (it should be noted that on vinyl the ordering of the tracks is different, but there are instructions that show the proper playing order) brings the drone that marks the return of some bagpipes that they have used on earlier albums. Quite honestly I hate the bagpipes, but here in this context, all of the Irish Canadiana stereotypes of the instrument are thrown out the window, and actually sounds like GY!BE have found the proper use for them. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” is the second of the long epic tracks and after the anger and bagpipes have subsided Godspeed come with a more contemplative track. A ticking guitar riff, wailing notes, and eventually cellos backed to some cymbal percussion work seem to hover around an ominous tone. It builds into a beautiful driving song, that along with “Mladic are reworking of tracks that have been played live in their past shows. “Strung Like Lights At Thee Pritemps Erable” is the final drone track to end the album and feels like their simplest yet most challenging track on the album. It holds long distorted guitar notes to a droning keyboard in the background. The Pritemps Erable is a reference to the misunderstood Montreal student rallies from earlier this year. The track is a nice coda on the album, but definitely not the strongest.

There is a good possibility that perception of this album may be a bit lenient because people that like the band will want to see the band succeed after such a long hiatus, this reviewerincluded. We hear the things we want to hear, and Godspeed have delivered a new album that they wanted to make but also what the fans wanted. They released the album with no fanfare, quietly releasing it during a concert in Boston. They march by their own beat, the beat is sometimes soft and melodic, but on this album it mostly tries to reinvent the word “epic”.

-Michael Unger