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

In the ten years since Godspeed You! Black Emperor released, what was once their final album, Yanqui UXO, much of the landscape has changed. Montreal’s celebrated sonic experimentalists are often tabled as being the most influential post rock band of them all, allowing the growth of bands like This Will Destroy You, Red Sparowes, The Winchester Club and countless others, both good and bad. Reforming in 2010, that esteem and adulation was only galvanised and augmented by a series of special shows, such as All Tomorrow’s Parties, and with any reunion, fans’ chatter will always discuss new material. Perhaps it was always on the cards in some form but two years on, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have broken a decade long silence on new music with this new album – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!.

What’s key to note about Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is much of the material isn’t actually that new. Comprising of four tracks, the record features two shorter drone-like numbers but the meat of it is the 20 minute plus compositions – ‘Mladic’ and ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’. Both jams have existed in Godspeed’s notoriously lengthy live sets in some shape or form but became known as ‘Albanian’ and ‘Gamelan’ to fans. Now, with actual titles, these pieces of music exist in an official capacity and subject to mass consumption.
Its two chief compositions reek of that classic Godspeed sound with jangly, melody rich guitars and slick stunning strings all counteracted by imposing marching to the end drums. Make no mistake about it, Godspeed You! Black Emperor haven’t lost any of their verve. However, when you have a masterpiece like Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven in your back catalogue, it really is difficult to envision how a band, even a band like Godspeed, will tackle such a heady task with a decade of anticipation on their shoulders.
Granted, they’ve never been a band to bend to pressure or expectation and perhaps it’s because the bulk of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! has been heard before in some way live but as one body of work, this record doesn’t alight and excite in the same way that we’re accustomed to with Godspeed. ‘Mladic’ still conjures a dramatic and imposing atmosphere and the reverie-like states of ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’ swell in intensity, particularly at the 10 minute mark and then marches on for a charismatic release. However, the two ambient drone tracks, ‘Their Helicopters Sing’ and ‘Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable’, don’t add too much to album’s overall delivery.
Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is met by astounding and insurmountable expectations and doubtlessly, there will be plenty of diehards left cold but equal numbers deeply enthralled. As always it will take some time for it to sink in and find out what side you’re on.

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