Godspeed You! Black Emperor sound surprisingly hopeful on new L.P.
Brian Boylen | Thursday, October 12, 2017
For a band with barely any vocals, Godspeed You! Black Emperor has always been an unabashedly political group. From their occasional public statement to their sample choice in their music, the Canadian group has embodied a far-left, anti-government and at times anarchic ideology from their very inception back in the 1990s. They have continued this trend with their latest release “Luciferian Towers,” from the very titles of the songs to the outspoken press release that came with the album. In the release the band demands “an end to foreign invasions, an end to borders, the total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex” among other desires. From what I can tell, this is the most overtly political the group has been with their music and ideology to date. This doesn’t come as a surprise, however, with dismay about the current situation of the world being more of a norm than a departure nowadays. Despite the jaded feelings, however, the album is not defeatist in nature — there is anger, hope and joy in the place where despair would be expected.
The album opener, “Undoing a Luciferian Towers,” starts slow but builds into a sprawling and triumphant crescendo that can’t help but inspire. There is a palpable tension that bubbles throughout the song, fueled by a building ambience that is punctured by chaotic and discordant trumpets and flutes. This tension doesn’t break until six minutes into the song when a triumphant guitar melody bursts through the disorder, closing the song with a sense of hope.
The next track, “Bosses Hang,” is split into three distinct parts. I mentioned the titles of the songs being overtly political, and the image conjured by this title is one of the things that makes that point abundantly clear. The first part of the song starts unhurried with nothing but a morose drone, before being built on with intermittent guitar strums and drums beats. This leads well into the second section of the song, which maintains the mood and rhythm by initiating a repeating pattern of notes that remains throughout the song. This repetition increases in speed and carries the track seamlessly into the final section, which is the most layered and enjoyable — fitting for a climax. It evokes strange feelings, attributing intangibles such as triumph and hope to the repeating sounds of drums, guitars and other instruments, but Godspeed You! Black Emperor is able to delicately cultivate these moods on both this track and throughout the remainder of the album.
After the resolution of “Bosses Hang,” the album shifts to a somewhat chaotic interlude in the form of “Fam/Famine,” before hitting listeners with another lofty three part composition in “Anthem for No State.” The song starts off peaceful — carried by wispy, beautiful strings — before the mood darkens with a heavy, dominating, consistent bass riff in part two. The dark but low tempo instrumentation continues until the final section of the song, where the album culminates in its anger. Aggressive drums and a foreboding guitar propel the track forward in a focused rage. This wrath is finally tempered towards the end of the song, when the uplifting strings return to balance out the mood. The album ends on this note, filled with indignation, but with a distinct sense of hope — as if to say that although things are dire, there is a chance if the people fight back.
This connects back to the press release, where Godspeed You! Black Emperor claims there are, “more of us than them,” imploring for people to unite and take back what is theirs. Although this political context is integral in understanding why the album sounds the way it is, there is no need to completely identify with their ideology and flirt with anarchy to enjoy their music. At the end of the day good music is good music, and this album certainly fits that description.
Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Favorite Track: “Anthem for No State”
Related Artists: Mogwai, Silver Mt. Zion