Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! Album Review

It has been a decade since Godspeed You! Black Emperor released Yanqui U.X.O., and since then the musical landscape has changed quite a bit. As a new generation of music lovers have grown up with the concept that music is free, and the people making it are entertainers in a vaudeville-like act, bands have been forced to find new and interesting ways to release physical albums that will make fans want to buy them

In this day and age where all news makes it to Twitter whether or not it is even news, it is tough to actually pull a surprise on anyone. The internet makes it near impossible — yet that is exactly what GY!BE did with their latest release Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. The band reformed from hiatus in 2010 and then two years later, they silently released the new album at a concert in Boston. Everyone was taken by surprise and no one was the wiser.

 

This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise as GY!BE have always been smarter at making music than we have been at listening to and processing it. The art-rock instrumental band have been around before post-rock was post-rock, and they are a band that everyone claims as an influence and yet no one can quite replicate. Likewise, opening track “Mladic” is near impossible to replicate. You need to have the patience of a Zen artist living in Canada to design an exactly 20-minute monstrosity of noise, urgency and gloom.

GY!BE eschews soaring crescendos of the most standard post-rock variety for a slow build up that is more similar to the punishing method Michael Gira uses when making everyone’s ears bleed while listening to Swans. The band snaps into an almost Middle Eastern twang buried beneath swirls of distortion and feedback before mashing it all together in a peak that few instrumental bands can attain. What “Mladic” showcases is a band at the top of its game after so much time, not so much performing new tricks but doing the same old trick so well you are still amazed when it is pulled off.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Mladic”

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “We Drift Like Worried Fire”

Similarly, the equally long “We Drift Like Worried Fire” is on the art end of GY!BE’s approach to music. It features a more classic post-rock sound that bands like Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai have used to great success. There isn’t much that makes it an exceptional song outside of the fact that it is. By tinkering with such a lengthy track, GY!BE are able to take the time with the elements they want to bring into the song. Odd percussion sounds come in as the song ebbs into minute twelve, that flow into the final six minutes of the build up. When the whole thing is said and done, twenty minutes of your life have gone to a much prettier place than this world can put forth.

Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, despite it’s surprise release, isn’t much of a surprise for GY!BE fans. “Mladic” has been a portion of the band’s live catalog for sometime now, but the purpose of releasing it in the physical form is to prove that GY!BE still can. They are still a band that does what they do and they do it better than most. Allelujah! is a perfect example of this. Fans of GY!BE drooled when it came out and they are still drooling afterwards. If you aren’t on the art-post-rock tour bus as it heads out on its twisted journey throughout the mountains and valleys of the world, it is really your loss in the end.

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