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coverpic flag Canada - Full Moon 198 - 10/29/12

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Constellation

Godspeed You! Black Emperor have just released their first album in almost a decade, since the Steve Albini recorded Yanqui U.X.O. (2002). And they're of course back with, if not a vengeance, a big bang for sure. Or, rather, explosions, implosions, whatever. Mostly slow-floating, but also cranked up and sped up. Fasten seat belts. Get ready for take off.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor (they moved the exclamation mark from being Godspeed You Black Emperor! to Godspeed You! Black Emperor somewhere between Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (2000)) and Yanqui U.X.O., or GY!BE, was started by Efrim Menuck (guitar), Mike Moya (guitar), and Mauro Pezzente (bass) in Montreal the early 1990s. The trio increased, and they're now a 9-piece unit still focused on wall-of-sound (3 guitars, 2 basses, 2 drummers, etc.) performances being an experimental, multimedia collective. Mind-blowing and body-pounding at the same time. A mental and physical experience.

My first encounter with GY!BE (GYBE! at the time...) was with their long EP Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada (1999), which was an eye-opener, or, rather an ear-opener. Anyway, I skipped the band before they reached Yanqui U.X.O., and I never got to see them perform live. Then they took a break to unfold other projects (GYBE's members have been found in many a side-project, such as Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, Fly Pan Am, and Set Fire to Flames). Then, in 2010, the band returned to curate and perform at the classic festival concept All Tomorrow's Parties in the UK. And, now here are new recordings as well.

'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! opens with the epic, monumental and brutal "Mladic". It's a 20-minutes long composition. In fact the album holds 4 songs, two of them clocking in at 20+ minutes. The other two tracks are short; only 6'30 minutes each. Anyway, back to "Mladic", which holds quite a threatening, doomy tone. I immediately think of Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb Chief of Staff military leader who was accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. After a quiet intro the song enters a brutal, massive track, which leads my thoughts towards war, fighting. Then comes even a Balkan inspired theme, which underlines the Ratko Mladic thread. "Their Helicopters Sing" is much calmer, but keeps the focus on war's hell. At least that's what I sense. The key track, "We Drift Like Worried Fire" rolls on for 20 minutes, but has got the perfect GY!BE mix of being intense and quiet. Masterly.

GY!BE play monumental and massive stuff, mostly from the darker side. When they present a 4 headed opus holding almost an hour of music, you'd better be prepared for progressive post-rock oozing with mystery and movement.

Copyright © 2012 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Godspeed You! Black Emperor article/review: Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress.

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