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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

Godspeed You! Black Emperor official website

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  • Moya Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada E.P., 1999
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'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
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Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada [Vinyl]Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada [Vinyl]
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Song of the Silent LandSong of the Silent Land
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GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR shows & tickets


  • Primavera Sound Barcelona 2014 on 28 May 2014
  • Optimus Primavera Sound 2014 on 5 Jun 2014

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

4.04 | 284 ratings
F# A# ∞
1997
4.10 | 362 ratings
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
2000
3.95 | 221 ratings
Yanqui U.X.O.
2002
3.58 | 86 ratings
Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
2012

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)

3.25 | 4 ratings
All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling
1994
2.50 | 2 ratings
Split (ft. Amazezine)
1998
4.39 | 144 ratings
Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada E.P.
1999
2.50 | 2 ratings
Tiny Silver Hammers
2004

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.10 | 362 ratings

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

Review by Roundabot

5 stars First released on: riversofreverb.blogspot.dk

Godspeed You Black Emperor! is a band like no other. Being one of the pioneering bands in the post-rock genre, their music is different than probably any band that is considered part of this genre. Their symphonies succeed in creating the atmosphere of a post- apocalyptic world, a mental picture of a desolated earth where nothing grows anymore and life is just a memory of the past. Beginning with their debut album F♯ A♯ ∞ (1997) they have been known for their long-scaled compositions, their long build-ups, their use of classical instruments, drone guitars and tape recorded speeches.

Their second album though, is a work of epic proportions, even for GYBE standards. Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven (2000) is not only GYBE's longest and most ambitious album, being a double album composed of only four 'songs' (they would be better called movements or compositions), it is also probably their most complete one. It is a career defining effort for the Canadian band, being heralded by most since it was released as the band's masterpiece and as a classic post-rock record.

The music found in this album features some of the most intense and varied feelings, even when the general tone is somber. From sheer happiness in the beginning of Storm all the way through the hopeless desperation at the end of Antennas to Heaven, it encompasses some of the most powerful buildups, transitions and melodies the band has ever written. They work together to create a sense of completion, as if the album as a whole is trying to make a point about the human experience in its entirety.

Even without lyrics, it can be said that in their work, GYBE show clearly how poignant a band they can be regarding current social and political events, having had problems themself in the US in the wake of the War on Terror. LYSFLATH is probably their less political album though, not having any politically charged messages such as earlier albums had, like the introduction of The Dead Flag Blues in their debut or the one in BBF3 from their sophomore EP Slow Riot for NewZer' Kanada (1999).

The theme of the album seems to revolve around the most sentimental side of their mostly anarchist worldview rather than on the intellectual side of it. Even when they get more political in the recording they use as an introduction to Sleep, clearly a criticism of savage progress in the wake of the new millennium, it appeals more to the emotions of the listener rather than trying to enrage him into action. It's that change of direction which gives LYSFLATH its soulful nature; its mysterious and magical appeal.

GYBE wear their heart on their sleeves on this album. Sometimes it even seems like they are begging for people's understanding, as in the ending of Storm or in the whole Sleep, the saddest and most heartfelt composition on the album. They also succeed in creating the paranoid, almost schizophrenic atmosphere of the times the album was released, with the fear of terrorist attacks and the new millennium coming. The mid-section of Storm and the outstanding Static are the best examples for this.

Although the compositions work as a whole, they are each divided in different sections. Some of this sections are the whole base on which this movements stand upon. Take for example the achingly gorgeous She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field. It opens with some of the most beautiful violins on the whole album followed by the band playing the most urgent section ever recorded by the band. It ends with a build-up that sounds like a dirge for lost hope, the kind of melody you hear in your head when there's nothing left to do.

Other highlight sections are the cheerful Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven..., with its horns and victorious drums, opening the album with a blast, or the nerve-wracking World Police and Friendly Fire which builds up to a wonderfully noisy and apocalyptic explosion of sound. The musical peak of LYSFLATH comes with the melancholic Broken Windows, Locks of Love Pt. III which ends Sleep with a highly complex and instrumentally rich section. This section alone defines perfectly what GYBE's music is, with all its diverse nuances.

One of the main characteristics that have been attached to this band is how cinematic it is, to the point of GYBE being described as 'cinematic post-rock'. Throughout this album in particular you can't help picturing different images whenever a build-up comes, or a tape recorded speech or noise, or when the main melodies kick. Even in the quietest moments of the album, the sense of it being the soundtrack for an unwritten movie about life itself doesn't fade until the last screeching sounds of Antennas to Heaven.

In the end it is probably the soundtrack for all of our lives, for the whole society we are living in. The question that's being asked here is: Where do we go now? What's next? The album leaves no answer, just a final cry for help to make sense of all this. Maybe a baby inside its mother's womb or the heart of the earth itself, the final sounds of Antennas to Heaven end the most desperate composition of the album, and the album itself in a mysterious note.

Probably the album makes more sense following the events that came to be just one year after its release. They left some with no hope or tomorrow to look forward to, and others with the gargantuan task of living through all the ashes and pain left. Still the amount of questions just increased since that moment, leaving this album as a testament of life in the last days leading to the moment when we were pushed a little bit further into the abyss.

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 Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.10 | 362 ratings

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

Review by Dobermensch

4 stars The year 2000 was the perfect release date for this slab of doom. 'Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven' sounds like the accumulation of all 20th Century history squashed into one 90 minute double album. And despite being without vocals packs a mighty punch.

An incredibly sad and non uplifting album which occasionally sounds more like an artistic statement than a musical one. Unfortunately my eyebrows frown throughout this every time I hear it. All I can think on is death. This recording gives me seriously bad thoughts of WW1 and WW2.

This is one of those albums that genuinely brings me down. The most masterful thing the band achieve in this recording is the fact that they so easily tap into the extremes of human emotion. And by God, is this an emotional album. Every time I hear it I feel like the end of the world is about to happen. It really is that upsetting. Not good...

An emotionally wrought album which I only occasionally play to due to the slabs of concrete pressing down on my shoulders and crushing my skull as I listen.I still don't know if it's the chords used or the radio footage - but this really hurts my soul.

It's still undoubtedly a thing of beauty for those who can see past war.

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 Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.58 | 86 ratings

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

Review by 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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 Yanqui U.X.O. by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.95 | 221 ratings

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

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The pioneering Post Rockers of GY!BE faced an inevitable challenge in the follow-up to their epic twin-disc "Lift Your Skinny Fists...etc". And the mixed reception that greeted the band's third album in 2002 showed even devoted fans struggling to keep pace with what was really just a natural advance in their musical agenda.

Like any evolutionary step forward the change was almost infinitesimal but very real, signaled by the artful relocating of the exclamation mark in the ensemble's already odd moniker. It's true the new album was more overtly political, at least in its artwork and title. But the music itself, being entirely instrumental, maintained a fidelity to art over propaganda, despite contentious track titles like the two-part "Motherf*cker=Redeemer" (of course it would have been even more provocative the other way around).

The band didn't tinker much with their neo-classical instrumentation and arrangements, often presented with an avant-garde lassitude ideal for anyone who thought the music of kindred spirits SIGUR RÓS too bouncy and bright. The Godspeed crowd was also renowned for not using keyboards in their mini-symphonies, but is that a mellotron I hear early in "09-15-00", or just the treated sound of a violin or viola?

More attention was devoted to structure and internal flow: note the lack of enigmatic sub-sections. Having fewer transitions between interior movements allowed the players to stretch their music to the breaking point, as heard in the slow heat-death of "Rockets Fall On Rocket Falls". Just when it seems like the tempo is succumbing to the second law of thermodynamics it begins powering up, slowly gaining strength and momentum like a vast, unstoppable glacier (before global warming), at one point suddenly swapping its relentless 4/4 rhythm for an even more urgent 3/4 time.

There seems to have been a deliberate attempt to dial back the uncanny power of earlier efforts. As loud as it often is, the music here leans more toward minimalism, favoring monochromatic repetition instead of Technicolor drama. Maybe the title U.X.O (Unexploded Ordinance) was something more than just an offhand slap at the global military-industrial complex: this is the sound of a highly explosive ensemble, but without the expected detonation.

Or maybe what we're hearing are the smoldering ashes left behind by the auto-da-fé of "Lift Your Skinny Fists..." Either way the results won't have the same immediate impact as the previous album, but given time and patience it may yet prove to be their most accomplished statement.

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 Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.10 | 362 ratings

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

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The acclaimed second album by the Canadian godfathers of Post Rock continues to shoulder a heavy load of high expectations, but suffers the burden with total confidence, in the process attaining a creative zenith rarely seen by other bands. The ensemble's new-found sense of unity and purpose must have been obvious from the opening notes of "Storm", the first of the album's four 20-minute anthems: the ecstatic intro to the piece is undiluted Post Rock bliss, a joyous noise the group could have bottled and patented.

But it's the rising crescendo afterward that never fails to send a shiver of ecstasy down my aging spine. And the rest of the album, spread out over two discs, follows a similar formula with the same effect. The key to the music is in its arrangement: the repetition of slow instrumental build-up, attenuated climax, and lingering coda, with quieter melancholy passages juxtaposed against moments of truly euphoric bedlam.

Other reviewers here have capably dissected each lengthy cut, sometimes inspired to colorful flights of rhetoric (see AtomicCrimsonRush's omnibus compilation), so I won't step on their toes with my own gushing prose. But take a moment to consider the larger structure of the whole album, in which each track functions like a separate movement in a single 90-minute symphony. The music itself is hardly difficult or challenging, but the entirety demands a lot of patience: this is not an album designed for casual listening.

I recommend ignoring the whimsical sub-titles (possibly included for maximum publishing royalties), in order to better hear each 20-minute opus as a complete experience. Unlike the band's more loosely assembled debut album, the discreet interior sections were pieced together in a more holistic manner better suited to the GY!BE brand of large scale composition.

With an open mind and a patient pair of ears this ambitious double-disc will stand revealed as an epic achievement, and a landmark recording of its kind. Add one more voice to the near-unanimous chorus of praise surrounding it.

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 F# A# ∞ by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 1997
4.04 | 284 ratings

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

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "I said, Kiss me, you're beautiful: these are truly the last days. You grabbed my hand and we fell into it, like a daydream or a fever..."

The world-weary introductory narration to "The Dead Flag Blues", the opening elegy off the debut Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, sets a haunting mood that would forever define the musical career of these Canadian Post Rock pioneers. But more than that, it also describes the experience of listening to the album itself, which for a newcomer can feel like a headlong plunge into a bottomless pool of terror and bliss.

Despite all the maudlin strings and atmospheric guitars, that first epic medley is nowhere near as gloomy as its apocalyptic monologue would suggest. In fact after the rumbling freight train sound effect it turns almost jaunty, in a turn-of-the-last century sort of way. But what was it that Freud said about trains and death? The symbolism should be obvious, even to listeners who don't remember the similar metaphor used by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR in "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", almost three decades earlier.

The eighteen-minute instrumental tension and release of "East Hastings" could have been designed as a blueprint for Post Rock structural dynamics. And when the nearly half-hour long "Providence" rolls slowly over the horizon (beginning with more rumors of Armageddon) the harder rock elements are finally pushed to center stage, in a tense, escalating jam that almost singlehandedly justifies the band's place on a web site devoted to Progressive Rock.

Of course even then GY!BE was more of an open-door orchestral collective than a legitimate rock group, and their first album needs to be absorbed by some form of sonic osmosis rather than listened to in a traditional manner. The music is often too loud for ambient navel-gazing, too slow for short attention spans, and arranged in piecemeal fragments, not always integrated successfully but helping the album achieve its uneasy, fractured power. Even the mini-masterpiece of "Providence" doesn't quite reach the dramatic resolution it promises, breaking into a sort of Post Rock bolero instead.

Maybe the young ensemble didn't believe there would ever be a second album, so they forced all their scattershot ideas onto a single disc. But the breadth of music is never less than impressive, and the impact of this freshman effort is undeniable. What it ultimately foretold was not the end of the world, but the start of an enigmatic, influential career.

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 Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.58 | 86 ratings

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

Review by 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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 F# A# ∞ by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 1997
4.04 | 284 ratings

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

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Want to dive into the atmosphere of the word after the Apocalypse?

Godspeed You Black Emperor's debut full length establishes the traits of the band of subject as well as a bite of the sound of post-rock in general. My understanding of this album is that F#A# (infinity) was meant to challenge the listener's perception of music, make them think, and/or engulf them in a certain atmosphere. There's no time to fiddle with riffs in the traditional rock sense, no over-the-top goofiness, not even many words to follow along with. The whole point of F#A# (infinity) appears to put the listener in a mood.

It's almost as if the album is meant to be understood subconsciously, so those with a more ''normal'' approach to understanding prog rock will have anger bouts trying to determine just what the heck is going on. The music has more in common with classical music or film scores, but the electric guitar plays quite the prominent role in shaping the themes, so it's fair to assume this has ''rock'' connotations.

The mood GY!BE put the listener in is quite bleak and depressing. Listening to ''Dead Flag Blues'' after the poetry at the beginning (which by itself sounds rather dull) gives a surprisingly distant yet warm tone that cannot be fully transposed into words. Then there are those ecstasy moments, usually augmented by the drum tempo, where the band go into full Magma mode where the brain tunes out the world around so that there's nothing left but the intensity and mesmerisation of the music in your headphones. Look at the middle of ''East Hastings'' or the 7/8 section of ''Providence'' to hear where I'm going with this.

All that said, there are simply too many nitpicks. Many times there will be some dead space in between themes. It's good to have the listener breathe, but there's only so much quiet tension one can take before boredom sets in. The worst is towards the end of ''Providence'' which does the irritating 90's trick of going into a few minutes of silence before pulling back into the music.

If you've ever heard of an album being more of an experience, this is one of those albums. Get this to hear how the granddaddies of post-rock got the ball rolling.

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 Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.58 | 86 ratings

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

Review by 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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 Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.58 | 86 ratings

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

Review by 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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