Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (2012)

After a decade long hiatus, yet another band decides to bring themselves back from the dead and resume normal service; introducing Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

GY!BE. Some would say the epitome of Post-Rock, the most intelligent music of the genre to come out of the late Nineties/early Noughties. Me, I think a little differently. While their music has almost certainly paved the road for a new generation of Post-Rock artists and is definitely extremely thoughtful and critical music, I’ve never really enjoyed any of their albums. Not once have I sat down and said, “damn, that really made me feel”.

Knowing this I still went into this album with an open mind, afterall it has been 10 years, who knows where they’re going to take the music? At this point you’re probably waiting for the hypocrisy of my previous paragraph to be revealed but you’ll be sadly disappointed, since once again they have failed to muster within me the necessary emotion their music is so desperately trying to impart.

“Mladic” kicks us off with radio fragments and wailing guitars, slipstreaming quickly into a rising crescendo of percussion and jangling sounds; an ominous thrumming begins to quicken the pace and keep the menace at our heels. Ahh, there we go, the feedbacked guitar, finally. Micro-crescendos begin to stack the textures and create rushes of sound that peak intermittently, sustaining and prolonging the inevitable; the ending. We’re only halfway through the first track as well; things then begin to get painstakingly slow as we move into the second half and I can feel my attention waning; what is this music trying to say? Does it have a purpose at all? There’s tonnes of scale and textures but none of it is going anywhere, there’s no direction. It’s just big beats and flashiness, that’s it. It even finishes with an elaborate flourish once the music has run its course; it sounds ridiculous and superficial as a result. I will concede that the last minute or so with its marketplace vibe and the jangling¬†cornucopia¬†of percussion is sonically interesting.

Eventually we move into something more up my alley, “Their Helicopters’ Sing”, a 6 minute drone piece separating the two titanic post-rock tracks. An ominous bass drone lingers menacingly in the background while a layer of lighter, disjointed melodies begin to creep in. Appropriately named I think, since this track invokes a vision of slow-motion helicopter blades and thrown up dust-clouds; metal birds hanging impossibly in the air, disrupting the ground below and scattering animals and people alike. Violins rise up and waiver, the drone deepens and warbles and then… touchdown, fadeout.

The success of the intermission leaves me in a heightened state of anticipation for what’s to come, “We Drift Like Worried Fire”; I’m hopeful that it’ll be more inspiring than the first half. As per, the introduction is slow and steady, leading in with gentle string waxes and staccato guitar. It’s nice, pleasant, hopeful almost. Suddenly it begins to ramp up, the melody becomes clearer and more well defined, fleshed out. In the space of just a couple of minutes it evolves from a quiet, downtrodden piece to a soaring panorama, strumming and grating and banging in every direction, stretching out effortlessly yet also somehow deeply confined by itself. My favourite bit of the entire album lies within this stretch of sound though; as the textures begin to die out and the first half ends there is a really hair-raising, heavily processed violin thinly oscillating in the near silence that is just brilliant. Sadly it doesn’t last for very long and then forces a segue into the arguably most annoying sequence. This 10 minute stretch is frustrating and emotionally deficient for the large part, mostly forcing me to skip to the last few minutes just to leapfrog some of the most prolonged, crappy crescendos known to man. I can’t pin down my dislike exactly, it’s just an innate irritation at the sheer amount of wasted time for such a pitiful reward.

My bad mood continues as we move out into the 2nd drone track and the final track of the album, “Strung Like Lights At The Printemps Erable”. Pretty much just an unnecessary drone outro that extends this album beyond what I believe is its useful lifetime, having none of the potent imagery of its sister-track and wailing and grating on for close to ten minutes with excruciatingly minimal progression. The last few minutes are, I will admit, exquisitely soft and beautiful and make for a good closer but it just doesn’t need to be as long as it is.

I have actually come to like this album even less since my rating of it only a few days ago; this album was a surprise drop from a band most people never expected to hear new tunes from again and got overhyped to fuck as a result, if you’ll excuse the crudeness. Boring and seriously emotionally lacking, cleverly covered by a myriad of textures and good production.