REVIEW: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

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Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Album: ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Genre: Post-Rock
Label: Constellation Records

I was fourteen years old when 28 Days Later came out in theaters, and I was fifteen when I finally got to see it on DVD at a friend’s house. It began a lifelong and slightly idiotic obsession with zombies for me (even though, as all zombie fans know, 28 Days Later is about infected, not zombies); and it also began my love for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The song “East Hastings” played, and it blew my ears and mind away; I had only been exposed to classic rock and alternative rock, so my idea of wild experimenting was Incubus’s S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and not at all Canadian post-rock. By a few years later, I would own all their catalog, be it on CD or vinyl; I’m not a vinyl guy, but GY!BE is a band whose music is meant to be heard as an album, as a whole, and not as a song or a download or something on your iPod’s shuffle.

Years passed, and GY!BE became almost a joke. That band with the vinyl that takes a day and a half to listen to? Ha ha ha. The band that refused to do interviews because long ago, an interviewer screwed them over? Wakka wakka. They’d eventually play live again, but who could hold out hope for a new record when all of their songs are so long, so enchanting, and they have so many members? Then a few weeks ago, they announced a new record, and my mind was blown. They had recorded it all and managed to keep it a secret from the public in this day and age? Shocking. Jaded Punk Hulk even made a joke about falling asleep to the new album.

If you fall asleep to this album, you either don’t “get” GY!BE or you’re not listening to it.

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is four songs long, two of which are twenty minutes and two of which are about six minutes in length. None of them disappoint. It opens with “Mladic”, which has vocal samples that immediately welcome you back to the world of Godspeed. It pedals in such a way that sounds like an orchestra warming up, a bagpipe playing Indian music, and seals barking out of hunger. But within a few minutes, it’s almost their most straight forward rock piece ever, and ends with a percussion section that’s unusual even for them. Right away, you know you’re in for a treat with the album.

“Their Helicopters’ Sing” is almost a noise track, with little melody going on and not as great of a build. This is the way of the shorter GY!BE song. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” is perhaps my favorite Godspeed song ever, with its quiet string opening and its extreme dynamic changes. The second half is some of the best work they’ve ever done – more experimental rhythmically, just as intense emotionally, and just as charged musically. The drum sound around the twelve minute mark is to die for, something I would listen to on loop even though people witnessing me doing it will think I’m flat out insane (and something that if I honestly did, might cause me to go insane). If I can recommend only one song to listen to in full by them ever, it’s that song. “Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable” is another shorter instrumental, and is a great little ditty, but is lacking the strong punch I wanted the album to end on.

I would say the band doesn’t sound as good as they used to, but that’s just a lie. Hardcore fans know these songs have been played at live shows for years, and they fit right in with the rest of the band’s repertoire. All over this record, they are still being themselves but still trying to further their sound, still treading new waters and pushing their own envelope. If you like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or if you like post-rock at all, or if you wanted to buy an album to start getting into the band with, this would be a great purchase. It’s not flawless – in its own way, it’s oddly short for a full album by them, and the ending makes me wish there was just one more track. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Rating: 9/10

Review by: Dan Bogosian

Dan Bogosian

I finished school with a music theory degree. Before I finished school, I was a janitor. You really should apologize to all the janitors you've ever had. You hurt them. Seriously. You did.

But, now that we've cleared that up and you called your high school janitor, know that I quit being a janitor to pursue writing about music. So here I am, and here you are, and hey how are you?
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  • benitoconcarne

    The “percussion section” at the end of Mladic is a recording of the Québec casserole demonstrations of last year.

  • Chris

    Online music reviews are suspicious in integrity. This particular review could be a 9th grader’s class assignment:

    it blew my ears and mind away

    I’m not a vinyl guy

    That band with the vinyl that takes a day and a half to listen to? Ha ha ha.

    Then a few weeks ago, they announced a new record, and my mind was blown.

    If you fall asleep to this album, you either don’t “get” GY!BE or you’re not listening to it.

    It pedals in such a way that sounds like an orchestra warming up, a bagpipe playing Indian music, and seals barking out of hunger.

    extreme dynamic changes.

    The drum sound around the twelve minute mark is to die for, something I would listen to on loop even though people witnessing me doing it will think I’m flat out insane

    etc.