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

ALLELUJAH! DON'T BEND! ASCEND!

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Post Rock/Math rock


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AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
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.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#840328)
Posted Friday, October 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars The return of the Montreal formation after nearly a decade of studio silence, though apparently they did tour around somewhat. A lot of water has flown under the Post Rock bridge during their discographic absence, and many of the pretendants to GYBE's throne actually took their place, had their moments of light, copying the typical Canadian post-rock sound, making it an every-day fixture in the alternative music circuit. And if the artwork looks GYBish, it still features as little as possible relevant info on its sleeve. Oh well, at least the obtuse attitude is still there.

Needless to say that GYBE's return was going to be a difficult one if they'd not moved on somewhat from a nowadays typical post-rock sound, one that is so passé, cliché and to be honest now totally redundant. To say that this album brings a whole facet to the genre and/or moves it forward even an inch would be an outright lie. It's quite the opposite actually, because there isn't much new under the sun, and this new album doesn't sound much different to their previous one. It's certainly sonically a tad different, because the production (was there any at all?) is somehow completely botched: it sounds like a mess someone would've recorded on a micro-cassette recorder from the crowd in a concert taking place in poor-soundproofed storage building. What's to say abiout the music itself , if only that it contains four lengthy dronal tracks, most likely spread over to vinyl discs but gathered on one CD. The usually slow never-ending crescendos and the equally long descendos are still there, but this time providing a sludgy and muddy wall of sound (much more so than theur first four releases), where it's difficult to tell who's doing what

Not sure these guys should've come back after such a long hiatus. They had left the scene as one of the artistic leaders (despite not being big sellers), but ten years later they literally come back to the race a with laps behind the EitS or Mogwaï, etc.. Does it matter to the listener and do the musos actually care about this?? Difficult to say from a formation that has never privileged normal communication, as the usual obscure cardboard sleeve is still as obscure and obtuse in terms of basic liner sleeve infos. Some things never change, but I'm not sure that in this case it's a positive thing. Definitely a let down for this writer, but I'm sure GYBE couldn't care less. Not bad per se, but hardly essential.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#877679)
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars After ten years since Yanqui U.X.O. seemed to herald a mild drop in Godspeed's usually high levels of quality, the band return with a set of heavily road-tested compositions which prove that they may have become much less prolific than side-projects such as A Silver Mt. Zion but they're still the kings of Canadian post-rock.

Aside from some loudhailer noises at the start the album once again eschews the sort of found audio snippets which jazzed up earlier Godspeed works, focusing instead on the instrumental performances much as Yanqui U.X.O. did, but a production which steps away from the sometimes sterile textures of Yanqui makes it sound more like a continuation of the classic Godspeed aesthetic of Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada or Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. At the same time, unusually harsh riffing towards the beginning of Mladic finds the band exploring textures and approaches which are new to Godspeed's work, so the band has far from stood still over the last decade. If we're only to get one Godspeed album per decade, I'm fine with it so long as the albums are as good as this one.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#894379)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I don't know how many people thought that GY!BE would be back some ten years after their last studio album but here they are ! Man these guys had such a great 5 year run though with four recordings between 1997 and 2002 that are all simply brilliant. Love the cover art on this one as it reminds me a little of the cover art on their debut "F#A#". Stormy, windy and unpleasant are also good adjectives to describe their music.

"Mladic" is the 20 minute opener that most rave about, and for good reason. It opens with samples of what sounds like a rescue operation then the atmosphere and violin takes over. There's this hum i'll call it that starts to take over. Drums build before 5 1/2 minutes, in fact the whole overall sound is now building after 6 minutes. There's what sounds to me like an Eastern vibe before 9 minues. It even reminds me of THE TEA PARTY. This stops around 11 minutes as distorted guitar leads while the drums pound. It starts to wind down around 13 minutes but it does pick back up. "Their Helicopters' Sing" is a slow moving atmospheric piece that sort of drones throughout. Not a big fan of this one really.

"We Drift Like Worried Fire" is the other 20 minutes piece. It builds from a very quiet beginning. It's haunting around 2 minutes. That changes after 3 minutes as the guitar is picked then it builds to an intense sound before 9 minutes. A calm with violin takes over 10 1/2 minutes in then it slowly starts to build again but this isn't as good as earlier. Another calm comes in with violin then it builds to an intense conclusion. "Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable" like the other 6 1/2 minute track sort of drones throughout with atmosphere.

Well in my opinion this doesn't measure up to any of their three previous studio albums or the EP "Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada" but it's still pretty good. Not 4 stars good but a good comeback for these talented musicians from Quebec. And I have to mention that it was cool to hear them name dropped in that "Pineapple Express" movie.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#903853)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2013 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
2 stars This was my very first listening of this band. Since I like post-rock bands such as Sigur Ros and Battlefields, I figured why not try GYBE too. Frankly I wasn't interested enough to listen to the CD till the end. It left me cold, can't help. Probably this music takes, not only the right mood (which I apparently wasn't in), but also multiple listenings to make the impression, but the world is too full of great music to be found, and if I remain cold in the first place, I usually don't give it another try. Boring, depressing. Cryptic track titles: 'Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable'. Scuse me??

(This must be one of my poorest "reviews" ever... But maybe this little piece of poorly expressed information - that I didn't like this album - adds one dimension to the overall reception.)

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#921789)
Posted Sunday, March 03, 2013 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A decade ago the GY!BE nonet entered limbo after releasing arguably the purest expression of their nocturnal Post Rock sound, in the enigmatic "Yanqui U.X.O." album. With nothing else left to say, why waste any more time trying to say it?

A lot of imitators have come and gone in those ten years, and the style of music they championed has long been codified (I almost wrote 'embalmed'). But now the dormant Godspeed has awakened, and reclaimed its spot at the top of the Post Rock pyramid.

What's immediately apparent in the new album is a resurgence of energy, with an emphasis on heavier rock dynamics. In classic fashion the album presents a pair of typically epic 20- minute workouts, alternating with two brief soundscapes adrift in dark ambient waters. The format hasn't changed dramatically, including the inscrutable cover art and track titles (I'm willing to bet something named "Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable" would only make sense to a native Québcéois). But in no way does the new CD simply regurgitate past glories.

Expect some inspired, otherworldly drones and dynamic neo-Krautrock grooves, oppressive and uplifting at the same time. The escalating motorik rhythms and walls of noise in "Mladic" (named after the Serbian war criminal?) and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" are spellbinding, the former standing out as possibly the single most awesome piece of music ever penned by this very loud outfit. And the weird burst of what sounds like an army of crazed Tibetan lamas having a percussion fest at the end of the track offers further evidence of the band's willingness to sack and pillage new musical worlds.

The album works best when placed in the context of the band's entire recorded career, in chronological order. Heard that way, "'Allelujah!" is not only a thrilling comeback, but a decisive late-inning victory: a masterpiece patiently waiting to be acknowledged as such. 4.99 stars, anyone?

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#932281)
Posted Monday, March 18, 2013 | Review Permalink

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