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Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! CD (album) cover


Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Post Rock/Math rock

3.72 | 193 ratings

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4 stars To celebrate my 1000th review I thought it would be fitting to turn to one of the most eagerly awaited Post Rock albums. Godspeed You! Blsack Emperor have always been a fascination with me for a number of reasons. The unusual approach to material is one reason, the odd infinitely patient building rhythms is another, and of course one is drawn inexorably into the intense atmospherics and dark feelings that the band exude with their musical expertise. The new album is as avant garde and organic as others and may even be more accessible as it features more rhythms and no narratives whatsoever; just solid musicianship.

On this latest album "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Descend!" immediately the atmosphere is brooding and ominous, beginning with one long drone that quietly resonates and gradually builds to a very powerful rhythmic cadence. I love how this sounds like a nocturnal scene with frogs on a pond and crickets chirping, made possible with guitar squeals and a reverberating violin. It conjures on the mind a scene of alienation in a vast wilderness. The darkness falls over gradually and the music grows to a blinding intensity. A fast percussion rhythm breaks through and a grandiose melody that thunders out. A rainstorm comes down and a hypnotic drone pierces the ears until the note descends mercifully and releases the tension. As the notes descend it is as though the dawn is breaking through to a new day. At the end clanking percussion and tribal sounds are heard. A masterful opening track clocking just under 20 minutes. I have no idea what 'Mladic' means but it is as incredible as anything I have heard from these talented musicians.

'Their Helicopters' Sing' is next with a more sensible running time of 6:30. This one sizzles in the intro like a swarm of locusts and a very gloomy drone rumbles with portentous force. Again, there is a build up of sonic resonance sliding into a kind of dreamy ambience. There is no signature, just a gradual drone, with some atmospheric strings and percussive clunks. This sounds like the soundtrack to a nightmare with someone creeping up behind, and it really gave me the creeps. The violin serrations are chilling over the low rumbling drone. One to listen to in the dark on a cold wintery night with the shutters drawn.

'We Drift Like Worried Fire' is another epic clocking 20:07, and again it is a gradual build up of sound. A strong drum beat locks in as a guitar riff hypnotically drives it. The violins are beautiful and this is perhaps not as dark as previous material. The music is very organic, seamlessly flowing lucidly, and there is a dreaminess to the music that is poetic and yet powerful. The guitar is well executed especially with those high trilling sustained notes. It is perhaps some of the best guitar work I have heard from Efrim Manuel Menueck and David Bryant, especially the closing section which begins with very melancholy tones. The violin of Sophie Trudeau and drum coda from Aidan Girt and Bruce Cawdron is grandiose and quite stirring the way it builds into a war like march. The tempo quickens after about 16 minutes, with tons of basslines from Mauro Pezzente, and Thierry Amar. The spacey textures that chime in at 17 and a half minutes are really beautiful, even reminding me of Hawkwind at this stage. This may be my favourite track from GY!BE. It is simply a masterpiece of atmospheric music, emotionally stirring and flowing into one idea after another; simply mesmirising.

The album closes with 'Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable', a 6:31 track with a non-sensible title akin to a lot of other GY!BE tracks. It opens with a glowing ambience of pulsating whines, sounding like some cosmic sonic feedback. This reverberates and grows in volume with powerful vibrations. It grows intensely loud and even painful and then cuts out to a low whine mercifully. The ghostly howls drift along on a wave of ambient noise, sounding like Tangerine Dream, until it finally fades and the album comes to a close.

Overall this is another atmospheric album from the masters of ominous music, "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Descend!" is everything you would expect from them; atmospheric gloom, ominous drones, building up experimental washes of low rumbles and piercing whines, and music to conjure up bleak imagery. It may not be as rewarding as "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven", "Yanqui U.X.O." or "f#a#infinity", especially as there are no narratives which I always liked to augment the atmospheres, however it is still a compelling album and tends to haunt the listener, requiring many listens to finally captivate. Again 'We Drift Like Worried Fire' is one reason to wrap your ears around this but it tends to grow on you as a whole album just like the previous releases. I believe fans of the band will not be disappointed, but this is slightly more rhythmic than previous efforts. It will be interesting to see how people react to this latest album as it is as striking musically as any other GY!BE album, and it is refreshing that the band have maintained their signature sound and yet continue to reinvent themselves with experimentation and that avant garde approach to music as an art form.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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