‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
There are always certain bands that try to keep their fingers on the pulse of society. Rage Against the Machine did so with their Rap Metal fusion and their Leftist political activism. Jack White’s always done so with his weird brand of off-kilter Blues and his eccentric private life. And you have U2, who have always tried to be culturally important, but instead manage to only appear self-aggrandizing and hugely dickish. But, every so often, a band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor comes through with music that completely envelops cultural syntax. Faced with global recessions/depressions, wars and military aggressions that won’t seem to end, and uncertainty about the direction of the Free World, society as a whole was in need for the reemergence of this Post-rock band. Ending a ten-year hiatus, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have released ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! at the perfect time; it’s not an album meant to serve as political or economic commentary, but rather as a social snapshot — an album that perfectly encapsulates the unnerved mood of the people.
With its sprawling soundscapes, ‘Allelujah! seems altogether a bit heavier than previous Godspeed releases. The epic “Mladic” opens the album. Discordant string scrapes and distortion appear early on. Of course, beautiful violin swells offset the incendiary nature on all of the album. The melodic themes that create the flow of “Mladic” serve as reminders of the reactionary catalysts amid the apocalyptic instrumentals that Godspeed does so well. The other lengthy track, “We Drift like Worried Fire,” takes more time to reach the gigantic feeling of sonorific panic of the opener, opting for dramatic repetitions, which results in orgasmic-inspired climaxes. The sound of marching snare drums and open hi-hats goes a long way to create this atmosphere, a combination with looping strings, expanding bass, and ethereal guitar lines. The cataclysmic crescendos that Godspeed develops over the course of ‘Allelujah! help to cement the band’s renaissance as a vital factor in this era’s musical lexicon.
The other two tracks — “Their Helicopters’ Sing” and “Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable” — may be shorter and less climactic than “Mladic” and “We Drift like Worried Fire,” but they don’t skimp on the musical ideas. These two songs (which appear after each epic on the CD version or as their own 7″ on the vinyl — which only enhances the idea of the social confusion that Godspeed has captured) are less structured. Instead, they’re ambulatory journeys, droning tracks that nomadically wander the prophetic vision of the album. These two musings contrast with the bulk of ‘Allelujah, but only sonically. In terms of mood, these two shorter songs fit right in to the beautiful, fractured ideas.
This fourth album in the discography of Godspeed You! Black Emperor marks a band that enhances with the times. Validating the connection between our social mood and our social complications, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! leaves us with an album that summarizes that relation. It’s a sublime time capsule, one that epitomizes our appreciation of Godspeed.