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Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Post Rock/Math rock

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! album cover
3.73 | 197 ratings | 12 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Mladic (20:01)
2. Their Helicopters' Sing (6:30)
3. We Drift Like Worried Fire (20:08)
4. Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable (6:32)

Total Time 53:11

Line-up / Musicians

- David Bryant / electric guitar, hammered dulcimer, kemenche, Yamaha Portasound
- Michael Moya / electric guitar
- Efrim Menuck / electric guitar, hursy-gurdy
- Mauro Pezzente / bass guitar
- Thierry Amar / bass, double bass, cello
- Bruce Cawdron / drums, vibes, marimba, glockenspiel
- Aidan Girt / drums
- Sophie Trudeau / violin, Casio SK5

Releases information

Artwork: Charles-André Coderre (photo)

2xLP Constellation ‎- CST081-1 (2012, Canada)

CD Constellation - CST081-2, cst 024 (2012, Canada)

Note: "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" are re-workings of previously unreleased Live tracks formerly known as "Albanian" and "Gamelan", which have been performed live as far back as 2003.

Thanks to pianoman for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! ratings distribution

(197 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Review by Matti
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.)

Review by Neu!mann
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?

Review by JJLehto
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

Review by siLLy puPPy
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.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars After several years on hiatus, GY!BE returned with this long awaited album in 2012, and the fans went wild. GY!BE amassed many fans during their hiatus, people were growing to love their music, their brand of post rock, and many bands were being influenced by it also, along with many imitators. Even though this was their first album in many years however, it is not one that I would recommend for first timers or newcomers to their music.

This time around, the music is more dense, and based on drones more than previously, and also more of improvised music than structured, not that any of this is a bad thing, it's just less accessible (If any of it is accessible at all that is) than other albums. This album consists of 4 tracks, 2 of which are very long at about 20 minutes each, and 2 shorter tracks. The two long tracks are reworkings of songs that have been played in concert settings for many years. The shorter tracks are more drone-like.

The vinyl edition was released as two records, one a 12 inch which contained the longer tracks, and a 7 inch which contains the shorter drones. On the sleeve of the 12 inch, there are instructions as to what order to play these tracks in, since it is not in a conventional order as on other vinyl formats.

The album opens with "Mladic" at just under 20 minutes. This one starts out based on a drone and background music mostly formed from one chord. Things build off of this with fast rhythms and improvisation, and there really isn't any chord changes at all until you get past the 6 minute mark. Structure starts to become more apparent as a chord progression starts and the music continues to build. All of a sudden you will notice a theme (melody) that sounds middle eastern and pretty soon all of the instruments are playing that theme as development continues to the point that things actually get cinematic. Suddenly, the tension is broken, things stay intense for a while anyway, but things start to calm down, until the end when the track is led out by a middle eastern percussion pattern.

"Their Helicopters Sing" comes next at over 6 minutes. This entire track is built on a drone and layers are built on top of this. This is led by strings and other non-traditional rock instruments, also accompanied by guitars.

The third track is "We Drift Like Worried Fire", and as the title suggests, this starts out with a floating sort of atmosphere. There is a pattern that forms a theme, which eventually becomes more marked as percussion joins in as a regular beat at around 4 minutes. A violin soon starts playing a counter melody is played on top of everything. The real build starts at 6 minutes as churning guitars, synth and bass start to take over. Tension is released at 8 1/2 minutes as guitars trade off making sounds, tension starts to build again. This track is more of a Scandanavian feel as it gets to this point, the sound of guitars and instruments playing from the mountaintops is the feeling you get. Soon, a lone violin starts to cry and plead and other instruments join and answer back. Percussion comes back in the form of cymbals and a beating drum in the form a dirge, with strings pulsating and other sounds moving around creating an ominous atmosphere. The music builds off of this feeling now, and is the most exciting part of the album. Tempo starts to pick up as rhythm increases. The music suddenly settles into a pattern with a very nice thematic element present here. This suddenly becomes very positive feeling, a very welcome change in the music. This all stops at 17 minutes, and you get lone strings playing far away and they slowly increase in volume, fast paced rhythm joins in and the build here is really quick as that thematic feel starts again. This track is the most structured feeling part of this album and it works amazingly well with the rest of the more improvised feeling of the rest of the album.

"Strung Like Lights..." is the last track at 6 1/2 minutes. Again, this is another drone style track, but the drone is made with harmonies between various instruments with long sustained notes. If you listen closely, you can detect a warbling texture in the drone as pitch tends to change in the sustained notes. Discord enters as tortured guitars begin to be layered in.

This is an excellent album, but it took me a few more listens to begin to really appreciate it. I do love this album, just like all of their other works. To me, it's not the album I would present or recommend as a starting point, that belongs to their debut album, "Lift Your Skinny Fists..." or even the newer album "Asunder". This one is more advanced listening, like "Yanqui U.X.O.". However, this is still an excellent album, and definitely was not a letdown. I knew it was great the first time I heard it, but as I said before, it took me more listens to really appreciate it, but even so, I still knew at that time that it was excellent. This is also the reason why it took me longer to review this one, because I knew once I become more familiar with it, I would like it even more.

Latest members reviews

3 stars A long awaited comeback by GY!BE was worth waiting for since the band deliver a decent record coming out of their roots while mildly experimenting and progressing further. Rather than providing another lengthy album as usual, less than an hour must suffice which may be a good decision based on ... (read more)

Report this review (#2283407) | Posted by sgtpepper | Friday, November 22, 2019 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! represents GYBE's return to the fold. Fans of GYBE had waited a long time for this album. Efrim, Sophie, Thierry had put their energies into the Silver Mt Zion collective, and many thought there might not be any new GYBE albums forthcoming. However, as with much gre ... (read more)

Report this review (#1693540) | Posted by Walkscore | Thursday, February 16, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1468376) | Posted by Insin | Tuesday, September 22, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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