Godspeed You! Black Emporer - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

by Looka ! Rating:9 Release Date:2012-10-15

'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! is a release Godspeed fans have yearned for and feared in equal measure. Its been 10 years since the release of Yanqui UXO which, although it received mixed reviews, showed a more song-based, melody-driven side to the band. This latest release will have the bulk amount of Godspeed fans approaching with a concerned disposition. The main worries for fans before listening to the album will be a) Will the band still be relevant after a 10 year hiatus?, and b) Will it live up to previous recordings?

The answer to both questions is a massive yes. 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! sees the band return in boisterous but amazingly focused form. The album is split into four tracks, two of which, 'Their Helicopters Sing' and 'Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable' are drone pieces. It begins, however, with the first of two lengthy pieces. The first is entitled 'Mladic', which some may recognise from their live performances previously, where it was known as 'Albanian'. It opens with a short spoken sample which is gradually overpowered by dark drones and unnerving strings. These strings begin to fade out and lead into a violin/guitar plucked sequence which builds intensely as percussion and guitars begin to soar.

Godspeed are not hanging around this time out. The build-up progresses into a heavy guitar section with a middle eastern-style riff which is almost manic at times, putting the listener on the edge of their seat, gripped in what feels like a rollercoaster ride through the streets of a crowded city. We then head into a section which bears a more recognised formula, the band using dynamics and sheer force to full effect. Grand dramatic chord changes tightly entwine with the drums and strings while walls of distorted guitar eminate around it.

Track two, 'Their Helicopters Sing', the first drone piece, is an eerie experience which draws you in with its hypnotic atmosphere, the strings that play over the top of the dooming drone sound broken and haunted. The third track is the second mammoth offering on the album, 'We Drift Like Worried Fire', which has also been played live on a regular basis under the name of 'Gamelan'. This is where Godspeed sound most like the band of old which could reduce you to tears with their sheer beauty.

Sweeping strings wash over a creeping muffled riff which is then replicated by menacing guitar. The strings return and before we know it, we are well on the way to an uplifting journey, driven by percussion and heavily distorted yet controlled guitars where each note seems to have its own carefully thought out purpose. After a crescendo of noise, the creepy riff from the beginning reappears but even more menacing and twisted than before. This builds into a fast-paced, uplifting final section which fills you with hope after the anxious and harrowing run up.

The album closes with 'Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable'. Feedback and waves of guitar noise crash and seem to battle one another for the right to be heard. It's an unsettling and and unconventional way to end an album, but then this is Godspeed we are talking about.

In all, 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! shows the band in the most aggressive and driven mood that we have ever heard them. A downside of this is that, for the most part, we lose the more subtle emotions which previous Godspeed albums have given us. Barring the opening few seconds, we hear nothing like the samples or field recordings that previously tugged on the heart-strings or set the scene for what was to come. That aside, 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! is a fantastic record which, without a doubt, confirms Godspeed are still, and probably always will, be the daddies of the post-rock genre.

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