Album Reviews

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

Justin Spicer / October 15, 2012

Score: 8.6/10.0
Constellation
Godspeed You! Black Emperor

The hawkish guitar of “Mladic” signals the first new recorded wails from Godspeed You! Black Emperor in a decade. It’s the slow cry of a band relearning to speak after dormancy, but it takes the band a mere five minutes to loosen their lips. A spew of distorted curses unfurl, a band silenced during 10 years of turmoil finally having their say in matters. “Mladic” is bleak, a continued cold shoulder.

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is not concerned with the personal effects brought into the pre-existing relationship. This re-emergence is on the band’s terms and it couldn’t be any grander or more stoic. Above all else, it exceeds the (brief) anticipatory hype. ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! strong arms pretenders out of the picture with just the muscle of “Mladic.” The weight of the world, all the meaning left to wring out of GY!BE, is contained in the opening salvo. Any unanswered questions belong to the universal ether now.

“Their Helicopters’ Sing” continues to ignore the peanut gallery; GY!BE preserving themselves in an ebon globe of their own construction. The strings ache like tired bones, the din ebbing with the increasing tension. It’s more of a mixed message than a singular musical moment. What is there to decipher in a cloud of bowed strings at high frequencies; a mantra often repeated by fellow experi/tor/menters hell bent on creating for no one but themselves.

The subtle layers of “We Drift Like Worried Fire” offer only glimpses into the band’s past. Their bully pulpit carries no value if acknowledgement for what came before it is not paid lip service. The hectic guitar caterwauls and melodic undertones of a band mirroring the world from which it was birthed; a planet of stark beauty and undeniable deceit. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” is the first uplifting moment of ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, and much needed. Despite the darkness of their broken silence, it’s comforting to reason this moment is not hopeless. It’s a sentimentality that carries into “Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable.” It’s melodic drone a rumble in empty bellies. It waddles up from the gut and out the mouth once more to stump for measured speech. Silence is golden but carefully choosing one’s words, ejecting them from the hushed abyss when most necessary, is the mark of a clever soul. GY!BE has always been calculating and their return in this moment is no coincidence.

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is a righteously selfish album. A band contained for this long has much to say but within the verbal void, little is gleaned with much regard. But it’s the way it should be. A peep is as good as a wink is as good as a nod. Here stands a monument for infinite deciphering, the monkeys picking the lice from the hair of civilization until their fingers turn to nubs. The world grows desolate in the face of radicalization and GY!BE says all it needs to on this grandest of stages. So should the rotating cast return to slumber we have something to cling to within the monstrous yawn of a world devouring itself.

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