In our latest installment of roundtable review, we tackle the legendary Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Alleujah! Don’t Bend Ascend’ , their first album in 10 years. Our writers were highly divided on this album and this will definitely be one of the more controversial installments of the series.
Shooter: With ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’, Godspeed You! Black Emperor make 55 minutes feel like 20. This could be a good thing. Time flies when you’re having fun, and there’s certainly no point during ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!‘ at which I am anything less than thoroughly entertained. From the opening sample to the clanging of the pots and pans, “Mladic” is dense and entrancing. The strings are at times jarring and at others elegant, which is nothing less than what you would expect from a Godspeed! song. The Middle-Eastern vibe is subtle but ever-present, giving an impression of how Grails might sound had they reigned in their tempo. It’s a great track, but there’s just not a lot there to justify its duration. The same goes for “We Drift Like Worried Fire.” One shouldn’t expect a creative machine like Godspeed! to keep checking their watches as they craft their songs — that’s fine — however it’s hard to feel entirely satisfied with categorizing this as a complete album as opposed to an extremely long EP. As such, ‘Allelujah! feels like a single, directed idea that, although coherent, exhibits little in the way of variety or exploration. It all sounds great, but there’s just not a lot there. – 79%
Drew R: I must confess that GY!BE have passed me by. I have heard several of their albums but they’re not my ‘go-to’ when I’m in the mood for post-rock with politics. Their 10 year absence has done nothing to make their mark on my consciousness, which, with hindsight, is entirely my loss! ‘Allelujah!..’ is heavy on the drone; mesmerizing and hypnotic combined with a lush middle-eastern flavor. ‘Allelujah!..’ combines everything they’ve done before and takes it to another level. The first track ‘Mladic‘, named for the war criminal, starts eerily and builds, weaving in and out of the initial theme. Track number two, composed entirely of violins, cellos and electronic noise utilizes the sawing violins to add spookiness to what is already an uncomfortable feeling album. The third track is where we get our first taste of the more traditional post-rock sound but you have to give it some time before it gets there, swinging in and out, uneasy then hopeful by turns. The album’s closer is entirely drone; drawing a line under the anxiety of the rest of the album. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this album. Seeing as they are one of the genre’s leading lights I should have expected greatness and they have produced an album worthy of their reputation. – 90%
Erich – It seems that this release, being so long coming, was lauded by many people before they ever got a good chance to listen to it. GY!BE rightly deserves to be held high in the echelon of post-rock heroes, as their contributions to the genre, and music in general, are beyond denial. That’s why it saddened me to cast my ears upon this abysmal LP. From the lack of inventiveness and obvious Sonic Youth and Lou Reed rip-off sounds and dynamics to the sub-par production, I was disappointed for most of this record. While there were some good moments, such as the last half of “Mladic” and the ending movement of “We Drift Like Worried Fire,” I felt for the most part like I was listening to a contrived Anglo Teutonic version of The Master Musicians of Joujouka. While this would have been fine as some stop-gap jam room dickery, it’s not up to par for such a respected and capable band. This is simply not worthy of the rest of GY!BE’s discography or, frankly, anyone’s money. – 68%
JacobMoss – I’ve followed Godspeed You Black Emperor! ever since the album ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’. Since then I have listened to just about every album of theirs on repeat. I hear a different sound each time with different cuts, and yet it always remains quintessential existential post-rock. For me, it is GYBE! and different albums by A Silver Mt. Zion which really capture the essence of what post rock is fundamentally all about. The album for the soundtrack ‘Angels of the universe’ by Sigur Ros and Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson captures that as well. Through listening to ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ the visual semblances from such intensity is projected in my mind. It becomes great inspiration for an aesthetic pen artist like myself. This is because the rapid extremes of guitar and drum instrumentalism excite the nerves and through tangents help a person cerebrally venture into exciting and intense future understandings of what it means to be alive and truly feel human! It is a Mecca of chaos in a universe so comfortable to exist in. Even in multiplicity of moments it seems to the mind like it will never end. And for that matter, why would you want it to? This immense energy is freedom bursting from the seams inside you, and with each harmonious rhythmic pulse of rock-based schemata you lose yourself in such a debris of the world happening. Changing. Losing control. Lifting.. to a next degree i.e level of perfection! Alas, Godspeed– No one speaks in such a language of exotic beauty! Truly taking the stage with each and every incredible album of built up virtue and suspense. Light some candles, turn off the lights, and visualize. No ticket purchase needed, void where prohibited. 97%
IamHop – Godspeed You! Black Emperor essentially paved the way for what the post-rock scene has become today through their dramatic cult rise in the late 90’s. Treading upon rarely crossed musical territories back than, their music helped shape the post-rock genre with every release. And while there are those who will tell you that “Lift your Skinny Fists…” is the greatest post-rock release of all time, I’m not so sure I agree. I think that it’s a monumental album that’s certainly left a lasting legacy in the post-rock realm, but I could never call it the best. And now they’re back with their first album in 10 years, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!‘ , which features four tracks, two of which that are 20 minutes each in classic GY!BE fashion. “Mladic” is doom and gloom heavily distorted grayness that feels overly dramatic and is a welcome addition to the band’s catalog. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” feels like the polar opposite of “Mladic” as it feels much more colorful and full of life, continuously building up and breaking down in all it’s glory. I feel a certain amount of helplessness trying to explain the magic behind an album like this. It’s really something that must not just be heard, but experienced as well. “Allelujah” is the type of music that speaks directly to my soul. 93%
Available digitally for $8 at Constellation Records – http://cstrecords.com/store/products/CST081-MP3.html