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GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR

Post Rock/Math rock • Canada


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Godspeed You! Black Emperor biography
GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR! is an experimental nine-piece from Montreal, Canada that specializes in semi-avant-garde instrumental music of haunting beauty. They've released five discs of music, with a grand total of eleven pieces of music, so you know they can write some extended ideas. Formed in 1995, GYBE! consists of Roger Tellier-Craig (guitar), Norsola Johnson (cello), Efrim Menuck (guitar), Mauro Pezzente (bass), David Bryant (guitar), Thierry Amar (bass), Sophie Trudeau (violin), Aidan Girt (percussion), and Bruce Cawdron (percussion). GYBE!'s music should probably be described as long, dark, moody, and brilliant. Their sound was once compared to TANGERINE DREAM, except that GYBE! uses no keyboards. They paint a similar sonic texture to TANGERINE DREAM, but they do it using cello, violin, upright bass, and three guitars, rather than synths. In fact, GYBE! is very organic, often bringing in spoken word samples, as well as glockenspiel.

GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR!'s best album is arguably the double-disc "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven". It consists of four 20 minutes pieces. "Yanqui U.X.O." is also an excellent album, having two 20 minute tracks and a 30 minute track. GYBE!'s other albums are "f#a#infinity" and "Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada."

GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR! is highly recommended for prog fans as Kraut Rock, epic-length experimental, or anyone looking for something a little different to sink their ears into.

BrainRock Ben, USA



See also:
- A Silver Mt. Zion
- Fly Pan Am
- Set Fire To Flames
- Valley Of The Giants
- Exhaust
- HṚṢṬA

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  • Moya Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada E.P., 1999
  • Storm Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, 2000

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GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR discography


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GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.07 | 345 ratings
F# A# ∞
1997
4.12 | 449 ratings
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
2000
3.97 | 266 ratings
Yanqui U.X.O.
2002
3.68 | 124 ratings
Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
2012
3.61 | 67 ratings
Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
2015

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.40 | 5 ratings
All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling
1994
3.20 | 5 ratings
Split (ft. Amazezine)
1998
4.41 | 165 ratings
Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada E.P.
1999
3.33 | 3 ratings
Tiny Silver Hammers
2004

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 F# A# ∞ by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 1997
4.07 | 345 ratings

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F# A# ∞
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Insin

4 stars Godspeed You! Black Emperor's debut is a haunting, memorable, and quirky release. From the ambient stretches, the samples, to the post-rock crescendos, its main attraction is its apocalyptic atmosphere.

Even in the absence of words, GY!BE brings plenty of mood to their music, but with their inclusion, it gets even better. Featuring an eerie spoken word piece, Dead Flag Blues immediately produces visions of doom in its first movement. The lyrics are poetic, powerful, and the song embodies what Loutallica's Lulu should've sounded like. The music that accompanies it brings to mind many different scenarios, but the one we're given is the end of the world, and it works. Following the end of the vocals, DFB builds into a delicate, beautifully desolate post-rock climax?

And then the song winds down and draws to a close, just when things are getting really good. This F#A#'s major flaw; while GY!BE executes atmosphere extremely well, the music is lacking. DFB's peak is relatively intense, and even the bulk of East Hastings seems like it is building up to something huge, but never quite reaches it before descending into noise. Providence is just a bloated mess of samples and unrelated themes that give up too soon, withering away into nothingness before they reach anything of much value, being abandoned just as the movement nears a peak. There is no real climax in Providence; while it does have its moments, it scarcely functions in separate movements, let alone as a whole. Essentially, it is a collection of half-assed buildup and breakdown, a more extreme version of the problem that plagues the rest of the album. In short, GY!BE's debut is incredibly atmospheric, and musically mediocre. Dead Flag Blues is an excellent song, minimizing the problem and emphasizing the best features of the album; it is definitely worth listening to, but the rest of the album is optional.

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 Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.12 | 449 ratings

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Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Insin

5 stars Taking the atmosphere of F#A#Infinity and the musically superior arrangements of Yanqui UXO, GY!BE has created a masterpiece. Some say that Riot for Zero Kanada is their opus, an EP that demonstrates their sound more concisely, but for the full experience LYSFLAtH is a necessary experience for anyone into post-rock. With four epics and almost ninety minutes of music, this is an essential.

Skinny Fists is able to demonstrate an abundance of emotion in the absence of words, creating some sort of mood for any musical theme. Storm, for instance, begins the album with a warm, upbeat movement, and by the end of the song, it has moved into a deeply ominous passage. The actual music itself is done brilliantly, each movement (with several per song) building up from a simple riff and crescendoing into a peak after layers have been added on the original idea. Unlike on F#A# Infinity, they take everything they can get from a theme. Static, especially, is worth a mention here; the tension before the climax is spellbinding, leaving you wondering how it's possibly going to get more intense. It is set up so that the listener knows it will build up to something huge? and Godspeed delivers. The evolution of each song is done well, save perhaps the weakest song, the almost-title track. Though there are moments of bliss on Like Antennas to Heaven, it does not flow as smoothly as the other songs, additionally too reliant on samples and noise.

The samples, ambient, noise, and drone parts are largely present on Skinny Fists, used to break up periods of emotionally exhausting post-rock. I have no idea how the audio clips are relevant, but they add some more personality and quirkiness to the album, leaving the listener to ponder their meanings. The minimalistic forms of music present on the album are just kind of there, fitting the flow of the song and serving almost as interludes, though not the most enjoyable.

Despite all the noise and a relatively weak closing track, Skinny Fists is an excellent album and absolutely essential listening for anyone interested in post-rock. Combining atmosphere and brilliant songwriting techniques, GY!BE prove themselves masters of prog.

9/10, round up to five stars.

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 Yanqui U.X.O. by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.97 | 266 ratings

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Yanqui U.X.O.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Insin

3 stars Yanqui UXO, for a long time, was my bedtime album. Whenever I had difficulty going to sleep, I'd put this on and by the time the main riff starts building up in 9-15-00 (Part 1), I'd be out. It's not that it's necessarily a boring album, or that it's based more in ambient than the others, but it is nowhere near as stimulating as its forerunner, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.

Yanqui UXO lacks the atmosphere that made its predecessors stand out. F#A#Infinity had mood, this album has more compositional value, and Skinny Fists had both. The glorious post-rock crescendos of Yanqui UXO are still satisfying to reach after the trademark lengthy buildup, the layering of riffs and gradual intensifying of each movement done well with the band taking everything they can get from a theme. Also woven into the album are many ambient portions (no samples this time) that help to break up and emphasize the post-rock parts. But something is missing; Yanqui UXO provokes no emotion like the previous GY!BE albums did. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what atmosphere is and how to create it, but that aspect is gone from this release.

Yanqui is worthwhile, though maybe only after listening to some of the band's other offerings first. Their weakest, musically competent but lacking the extra factor that made Skinny Fists so incredible, is still good.

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 Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.68 | 124 ratings

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Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Insin

4 stars Following their lengthy hiatus, GY!BE released an album that was worth the wait. Allelujah consists of two lengthy post-rock tracks, alternating with two shorter drone pieces. Aside from the very beginning of Mladic, there aren't any samples, so the drone tracks are used to break things up along with some mellow, ambient-based parts at the beginning of the longer songs.

Unsurprisingly, the longer songs really deliver. The songwriting is at its best here, with driving buildup and beautiful peaks. Once Mladic gets started, it doesn't stop, instead working as one flowing, twenty-minute epic. The composition is top-notch, though there aren't really any atmospheric vibes from this one. We Drift Like Worried Fire, on the contrary, is an exercise in mood in several movements. The opening riff is ominous at first, but as the song grows and changes, it becomes uplifting and almost too gorgeous to handle, reverts to creepy, and then finishes with a glorious post-rock crescendo.

Allelujah has atmosphere, but the main draw here is the songwriting on Mladic and Worried Fire. GY!BE is able to make the songs flow without much of the stop/start dynamics that tend to make songs sound disjointed, while retaining individual, distinct movements. There is more "action" on here, drone tracks aside, rather than the inclusion of samples and ambient passages.

It's hard for me to judge the quality of the two short songs, considering I am not a big fan of drone; I think of them more as interludes. Meanwhile two main songs on Allelujah are solid offerings of post-rock and definitely recommended. Great comeback album.

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 Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.61 | 67 ratings

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Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Insin

4 stars GY!BE's latest effort is a song they have only been playing live until recently, originally called Behemoth. For its release, they cleaned it up and trimmed it by a few minutes. Now it consists of four individually titled tracks, all cross-fading into each other: two drone-based pieces bookended by more standard post-rock outings, Peasantry and Piss Crowns Are Trebled. The champions of post-rock and bizarre song/album titles have created something memorable, and it is unlike their previous releases, not necessarily in a bad way (though I wouldn't say any two GY!BE albums are exactly alike).

Peasantry, something of an overture, is based off the main drumbeat that opens the album. It is easily recognizable as Godspeed, though it does not have any drastic highs or lows characteristic of much of the band's work. Instead it wanders about somewhat boisterously, discordant to a degree. Piss Crowns is more along the lines of a typical GY!BE song, utilizing more traditional buildup, with a beautiful middle and swirling post-rock climax.

I am not the best judge of good versus bad drone, but the part that the two middle tracks play in the structure of the overall album is not the most effective. They seem as though they could have been cut out or shortened to the same result. Long periods of minimalism-based music often can make reentrances to a structure more appealing and dramatic, but I don't get the sense that it worked especially well here. Peasantry doesn't reveal at all what is going to happen in the closing track, thus the two songs being disparate. The drone tracks are necessary in order to bridge this gap, reinforcing the bookends as separate pieces, while the crossfading between songs contradicts this idea. In short, ASaOD's structure does not deliver as well as it potentially could, but it still works, and the two post-rock tracks are quite good. And there must be a reason why they did this.

Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress is an excellent but flawed release, and even without samples it leaves much to be pondered, in reference to its structure (and the song titles). It's an interesting, quirky album, one worth owning. Good thing they cleaned up and released this live song.

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 Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.61 | 67 ratings

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Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by admireArt
Collaborator PSIKE Team

2 stars I have always thought of this band as the evolution of punk to its inevitable refinement or decadence considering its starting point in the stylistic cycle. Musically speaking its raunchiness, eclecticness and irreverent spirit surely owe a lot to that, then, underground style. Of course the also inevitable technological refinement has turned what once was horrible and rebelious noisy reverb into an extension of the music itself, which is fun but not that original in the electronic or RiO category in this Prog world or even in the outer worlds of Prog .

Outside of Prog the loved as hated Neil Young's solo, 1991, "ARC" or his multiple "with Crazy Horse" recordings or a more recent work like "Le noise", not to mention more into this noisy fields bands as Sonic Youth or the more obscure Cabaret Voltaire and of course the primitive but effective Sex Pistols themselves as many others that have already been playing with this NOISE/Rock in the outskirts of Prog for a while.

Therefore in comparison to those hearings, this kind of noisy "symphonic" sonic/rock environments, Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress" propose in this today's world, well are not exactly the discovery of America!

Anyway, in this "Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress",(2015), they dwell too much into those muddy sonic-environments, and more than once they just come up with nothing but mud. I suppose you have to be a super loyal fan of the band or really be immersed in their conceptual image to listen to something beyond this, but music wise I really did not find anything truly relevant or at least interesting as original.

To be optimistic I will mention that it is instrumental, brief and music wise, the great instrumental contrast which happens here and there between the violins and the wall of music school musicians' noise/rock/post-punk, which ended up being more elegantly named and accepted in this Prog world as Post Rock/Math Rock.

To be honest **2.5 PA stars tops!

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 Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.68 | 124 ratings

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Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars Although the spine of my CD says the name of the band is GOD'S PEE, i am familiar enough with this band's play on words that this is indeed the fourth studio album by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR which is the first album by this band in ten years since "Yanqui U.X.O." While an entire decade has elapsed between albums, i am happy to say that the quality of the music has not! What we have here is a wonderful comeback album that cannot be mistaken for any other musical entity that i have encountered on this here planet and while not exactly topping the previous offerings it holds its own in a splendiferous manner.

ALLELUJAH! DON'T BEND! ASCEND! totally delivers on the satisfactometer. I, for one, LOVE this album and am tempted to give it 5 stars, but yet something about it keeps me from doing so. I guess it's missing a few elements that make the previous releases so very, very impressive and there is a sense of playing it safe by not really upping the ante or anything of the sort. However, this is a very satisfying album that delivers for any post-rock lover's sensibilities and will not disappoint in that manner. The music is magnanimous in scope, hypnotic in nature and just plain scratches that post-rock itch.

The first track "Mladic" is a drony piece that is imbued with only the slightest of tone changes that reaches slightly over twenty minutes in length. The subtleties are the magic as in most post-rock as the subtle sonic twists and turns are what makes this kind of music really work well. The second track "Their Helicopers' Sing" has a little melodic riff that repeats into infinity, well a 6:45 minute infinity! It contains the usually post-rock build up and layering effect albeit a very pleasing one with interesting time signature changes that break the melodic development up into progolisciousness delight! This track makes ample use of the violin, viola and other post-rocky elements that we have come to love so well in this sub-genre.

The third track "We Drift Like Worried Fire" reminds me a lot of the Indonesian gamelan music of Bali with its rhythms. It sounds to me like they used this template and embellished it with post-rock instrumentation. There is the usual drawn-out approach to repetition with nerve- racking sounds playing the dread card building up and up and up and up and up and up even more. This track lasts twenty and a half minutes and provides crucial elements in making this album very post-rocky. The fourth track "Strung Like Lights At Thee Primtemps Erable" is another drony almost Krautrock electronica dirge that maintains a steady mood while adding subdued melodic elements to the mix. An immensely pleasing comeback by an immensely pleasing band.

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 Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.61 | 67 ratings

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Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This. Is. Awesome! I thought that perhaps GY!BE had slightly slipped on their last album "Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend" even though I love that album, it just didn't seem as great as their past efforts. I wondered if the best days were over for this band....but I am glad to report that I was soooooooo wrong. This album is amazing and beautiful and just simply beyond words.

Basically, what this album consists of is a single 40 minute composition that has been entitled "Behemoth" and it has been played in many live shows since 2012. It has been perfected and finally released on this album. The album divides the composition into 4 parts which make up the 4 tracks. And you don't have to worry, there is so much to be happy about this album. Don't let the fact that this is a 40 minute composition worry you, the band does not get lost in long noodling sessions or huge walls of never-ending noise. The music is well structured and flawlessly performed with changes in sound and dynamic. This is a masterpiece if there every was one. This is completely instrumental with no field recordings or spoken words, but it doesn't need that this time.

The first track (or section) is called "Peasantry or 'Light! Inside of Light!" and probably offers the most memorable melody that GY!BE has ever performed. The main theme is based around a middle-eastern sound that develops nicely and utilizes the full band. It doesn't incorporate the usual formula of post rock in that it instantly kicks in full force and continues with it's excellent orchestration through the entire 10 minutes. This seems to me to be the most positive and least dark music I have heard from the band and it really feels like a song of hope amidst the undercurrent of despair. This one will go down as one of my favorite GY!BE tracks. The next track enters into the drone section of the piece which is the 2nd movement. This drone is a lot different from the drones that were on the previous album in that instead of being a wall of noise built around the same chords, it is more of a minimalistic approach. It is dark and foreboding, yet somewhat industrial sounding to a point, without the loud noise, sort of reminiscent of King Crimson's most experimental period that incorporated the ProjeKcts, and probably the first drone that I would rate at 5 stars without hesitation. It is not what you have come to expect of dronework, but it actually seems to have direction instead of just noise.

The 3rd movement is also a drone, albeit shorter this time. It leads in off of the single note that the previous track ends off on as a continuous sound. It is impossible to tell exactly when one track ends and the other begins, but as the sound develops from this drone, it tends to be minimalistic again at first, and sounds a lot similar this time to a Bass Communion drone with percussive sounds. This continues to build though, layer upon layer, until it flows almost seamlessly into the last movement which returns to the full band. Here you get a return to the formula of the final climax built upon increasing intensity and force. The ending is well worth the build, as the climax is one of the best in the sub-genre. The climax comes at full power repeating a motif with building layers until the final release and once that release happens, the sparks continue to flicker and finally fade away as the music slowly dies out.

I have considered the best post rock as the composing of modern masterpieces using classical elements with modern instruments. The best pieces are orchestral and that is what this is, one of the best. I am glad to hear that GY!BE still have the power in them to put together an amazing masterpiece like this. No doubt that this is an instant classic and GY!BE fans need to rejoice that the band is still amazing! One of the best prog releases so far this year. 5 brightly shining stars!

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 Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.61 | 67 ratings

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Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by CassandraLeo

5 stars The latest album by reigning post-rock masters Godspeed You! Black Emperor consists solely of the song "Behemoth", which has been performed live going back to 2012. At a hair over forty minutes, it's their shortest full-length album since the vinyl edition of their début album, F♯ A♯ ∞, and the band has spent quite a bit of time honing the song since its introduction in live shows. It's leaner (the running time has dropped by around four minutes) and denser than it was when they introduced it, and the drone sections, which make up most of the midsection of the song, have been refined substantially in the intervening time.

Since, apart from the two brief drone pieces on 2012's 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, this is the first material the group has written since its reformation, there are a few subtle differences here from the band's earlier music. The band has continued its preoccupation with drone music exhibited on the aforementioned 2012 album, so if you were annoyed that the band seemed to have increased the portion of drone music on its last release, the midsection of this piece won't leave you feeling any more satisfied. However, the epic, progressive scope of the band's music is unchanged, and if anything, has increased with this release. This is the longest song the band has ever recorded by a substantial margin, and it delivers the emotional payoff a listener would hope for. "Peasantry or 'Light! Inside of Light!'" is a suitably weighty intro, which leads seamlessly into the free-floating "Lambs' Breath" and the steadily building "Asunder, Sweet" before the album's emotional centrepiece, "Piss Crowns Are Trebled". The last of these stands among the weightiest tracks Godspeed have ever recorded, and would justify the purchase of this recording even if it were the only compelling track on it. Thankfully, the recording's heft is such that a listener, upon finishing it, may well feel that the only appropriate course of action is to start it again. This album continues Godspeed's considerable winning streak, and as listeners we can only hope that they continue to produce such worthy material.

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 Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.68 | 124 ratings

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Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Post Rock/Math rock

Review by JJLehto
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Released silently while on tour, I didn't actually know this album was out until I was in the lobby waiting to see the band live. Needless to say this album was huge news for fans, GY!BE's first release in 10 years. What to make of this new release?

The album consists of two long songs, and two short ones. The long ones are redone versions of songs the band has played live before, while the shorter ones are more ambient, soundscape pieces...very droning and minimalist.

This makes the album difficult for me to review, as it feels more like two songs and filler, rather than four actual songs, and while I have no issue with "Their Helicopters Sing" and "Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable" and would even say I enjoy them, they fail to "do much" for me as part of the album. While the long songs, "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" are both pretty brilliant.

"Mladic" runs the gambit of everything we've come to expect from GY!BE: Mind scratching samples, lengthy, slowly building, ascending and descending songs with lots of power and fury. There are the sounds of what I can only describe as guitars crying, pounding, hypnotic drums and a superb Middle Eastern melody that much of the middle of the song builds around, and some absolutely frantic parts. The song moves into a powerful droning section, just to build again to another climax and finishes with the sounds of protesters, clanging pots and pans.

It actually is quite beautiful in its sound and harmony, especially punctuated with car horns and people chattering. It's beautiful in sound and meaning, people getting together to fight for their beliefs. As always, GY!BE is making a political statement, but one that requires research. I being unfamiliar with Quebecois politics...had to look up "Le Plan Nord" and "La Loi 78" which are colorfully protested against in the album's liner notes. I think understand these things make the album even more meaningful, but I don't want to digress so basically these are two bills that are being criticized for limiting the rights of protesting, and for opening up large areas of protected land to mining. I do believe knowing this facts and keeping them in mind add depth to the album.

"We Drift Like Worried Fire" is again pretty charted waters for GY!BE though as always, superbly done and features a wonderful bass heavy, powerful drumming finale.

Final thoughts on this album? It is a fairly standard GY!BE album. This is not a bad thing, standard godspeed is better than most other bands and the same is true here. The soundscape songs are pretty good, though don't feel quite like they add to the album, and while the lengthy songs are superb they are, apparently, not wholly original. Still, this is great stuff and this album was a bit heavier and a good bit noisier than typical GY!BE, with a little more use of drone as well. As always it is both overtly political while not explaining it to you. It fact it may be their most political album yet: the back cover features a poem involving "plague of policemen" and lost dreams. Inside is a picture of a dead bird, (peace?) and an empty drive through sign, perhaps signifying the loss of "old days" and a snapshot of a crumbling economy. One can speculate for ages, all I know for sure is this is a very solid album that may not break any new ground, but is superbly done and very welcomed. Let's hope there will be new material in the future.

Three and a Half Stars BUMP: FOUR STARS

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