Review: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Published on October 12th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
This fourth album from the Canadian post-rock troupe, their first since 2002’s Yanqui U.X.O. , is comprised for the most part of two twenty-odd-minute pieces that went by the titles “Albanian” and “Gamelan” as part of the group’s pre-hiatus live set, and they have been filtered through the near-decade break (and concomitant re-jigged band line-up) as the more GY!BE-ily titled “Mladic” and “We Drift Like Worried Fire”. As such the extent to which they’re ‘back’ may be debatable, but ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is a fine addition to their oeuvre nevertheless.
“Mladic” gets underway with bagpipe-aping violins underpinned by a low drone, builds into a chiming monotone pound that takes on pure lightning strikes of strokes of lead guitar, a mean-ass Western riff, some terrifying screeching…and becomes something truly monstrous. This bursts into some mad sort of double-time rampage, those lead guitars by now raging something demonic, fades out and comes storming back in again with a promptness that may catch you off-guard, embarks on some big old prog-metal riffery, and ends with a festival of percussion and hand-clapping. Green Day this ain’t.
The ensuing (grammatically incorrect?) “Their Helicopters’ Sing” begins in the jungle, passes by in drony wilderness then makes way for the initial plinky riff of “We Drift Like Worried Fire”, around which ghosts melodicise along with ringing lead, before the whole thing becomes an inquisitively and beguilingly chiming late-night stroll into the ocean. What’s that twinkling, a glockenspiel? Whatever it is, it’s obliterated by an oddly staggering Catherine wheel of triumphantly beaming guitars and great stomping drums which emboldens its own washing beauty with each step, despite riding the same melodic wave for so long. A game of Grandma’s Footsteps breaks out between the loud and quiet dynamic; loud eventually wins out but does not overstep the mark in doing so, rather incorporates the fragile beauty by raising it aloft to the heavens like the Lion King.
“Strung Like Lights At Three Printemps Erable” runs out proceedings with eight more minutes of drony wilderness, and that’s that, a new Godspeed You! Black Emperor experience for us all to whip up a storm with in the comfort of our own homes. Rocksucker for one can’t envisage returning to ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! all that often, but it’s good to know that it’s there, lying dormant within its realm, waiting to transport us.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! will be released on 15th October through Constellation. For more information, please visit www.brainwashed.com/godspeed