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

Stephen M. Deusner

By Stephen M. Deusner

on 10.15.12 in Reviews

When Godspeed You! Black Emperor disbanded in 2003, they didn’t exactly go out with a bang: Their last album, 2002′s undercooked, over-thought Yanqui U.X.O., was upstaged by its packaging, which included a chart that linked missile companies to major labels. So when the group reconvened in late 2010 to play a handful of dates, including All Tomorrow’s Parties in Minehead, England, it seemed like a second chance. Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, their comeback full-length announced just two weeks ago, offers resounding redemption.

A comeback heavy in both sound and concept

Along with their penchant for cryptic, seemingly coded titles, the group’s facility with sprawling, majestically apocalyptic suites remains intact. ‘Allelujah!, like their best material, conveys an unnamable dread that lies well outside the purview of lyrics (they don’t have any) and standard song structures (which they explode). The expected elements remain – heraldic guitars, jarring sound collages, disquieting drones, roiling crescendos – yet they combine in new and unexpected ways. In fact, it shows the band rediscovering and reclaiming its primary mission, which is to make music that is heavy in both sound and concept.

‘Allelujah! contains four tracks: two short drone/collage pieces as well as two towering compositions that lurch and lumber well past the ten-minute mark, contorting into unexpected shapes along the way. Despite being persistently tagged “post-rock,” Godspeed do not stray far from actual rock, specifically the proto-metal of the late ’60s and early ’70s. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” moves with an apocalyptic stomp similar to Black Sabbath, while a Zeppelinesque exoticism/eroticism defines opener “Mladic.” That heaviness lends the album a gravity and immediacy that Yanqui lacked, yet there are no solos, no lead instruments, no blazing displays of technique. In short, no egos. That each Godspeeder is absorbed into the collective makes ‘Allelujah! sound bracing and bold, instilling these doom-laden songs with a sense of renewed promise.