Having formed in 1994, the Canadian ‘experimental musical collective’ Godspeed You! Black Emperor have returned with their new album, Luciferian Towers. With a powerful sphere of influence within post-rock, how will the anarchic group fare with the new release?
Featuring on the soundtrack of 28 Days Later, being questioned by the FBI on charges of terrorism, labelled as political anarchists, a nearly 10 year hiatus and a band name taken from a Japanese black-and-white documentary that sounds like it’s punctuated by Christopher Walken; Godspeed You! Black Emperor are not your average musical group. Far outside of the mainstream bubble, the band have a dedicated cult following, but how does the new album fare?
“Undoing a Luciferian Towers” is the opening, and potential ‘title’ track. With its ambient and spacious opening, layering from a throbbing bass drum to pipes and discordant strings. Close your eyes and it’s like a having someone try to build a fantasy world through the medium of music. Slow and patient, the song continues to build, with a growing sense of scale and indeed dread. It draws you effortlessly into the world and album that Godspeed You! Black Emperor have painstakingly built.
As the first part of the “Bosses Hang” trio of songs, part one begins the world-building anew. With rumbling distorted guitars, and slightly lighter brass and strings, you could believe that this lengthy set of songs would be more positively branded than the opening track. As the song progresses gaplessly into part two, there are gentle hints of darkness creeping into the mix, as the song builds in drama and unease through the use of slightly off-key plucked bass strings and as the song progresses the addition of overdriven guitar chords, scraping as if they’re seeking entry into the song. As part three starts to blend in from where part two starts to taper off, the drum beat is gaining pace, the guitar is building in power and distorted, rapid strums are brought to the fore. The sense of scale across the track building is simply immense. By the latter half of the final track of the piece, we’re left with brazen, balladic chords and drums that would almost break from the post-rock bindings if not for the strings and brass that tie them to the genre, this is no bad thing however. The song sets out to build a world and journey through it, and it does that beautifully.
In “Fam/Famine” we are led in to one of only two standalone tracks on the album (the second being the opening track) by a set of violin strings. These are slowly overtaken by distorted synths and samples, weaved together into an uneasy but powerful crescendo. The tracks overall atmosphere is complex and despite the talent on show and the excellent production work, it feels a little overbaked. The track is not short at over six minutes, but for the usual offering of multi-track songs from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, it feels as though they have tried to compress a marathon run of tracks into only one. It’s good, but it is jumbled.
Anthem for No State is the second and final trilogy of songs weaved together in much the same fashion as “Bosses Hang”. It is markedly less dramatic, and retains a melancholier edge for the first two acts of the overall song, with almost gentle plucked strings and softer instrumentals. However, as the third act approaches, we are lurched into powerful, distorted Western-style attack. If you were to build a twisted take on Clint Eastwood western, this would be the track that would mark a dramatic battle or end scene. Once again, as we are led out of the song and the album overall. The sense of scale is simply staggering and highlights the fact that vocals are absolutely not necessary in music, when left in the hands of such capable musicians.
This reviewer thinks that this album is particularly well suited to Focal Aria speakers for their ability to show a detailed and expansive soundstage, so if you’d like to immerse yourself in this excellent album, pop down to your local Richer Sounds and let the album pin you to the seat.
Author: Steve, Southgate store