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

    For each word of ecstatic praise they’ve received over the course of their two decades of existence, Godspeed You! Black Emperor has earned exactly one skeptic’s eye-roll. The Canadian eight-piece collective is overly serious, unnecessarily mysterious and their music is self-described as being thematically political (despite the fact that their songs are instrumental).

    “Why should I surrender to this myth-band’s ham-fisted allusions to Israel?” you may rightly ask yourself. “And doesn’t their exhausting band name, punctuated by an arbitrary exclamation point, seem to mock the listener for even trying?”

    This conundrum is forgotten approximately four minutes into the band’s latest surprise release “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” On opener “Mladic,” an aviary of effects-pedal squawks is cast into a pulsating inferno of carnal drums and a massive, slow-mounting drone. When the build (which lasts nearly three minutes) finally peaks in a menacing belly dance from hell, it’s one of those rare moments that grabs you by the ankles and hurtles you into the abyss. It’s also a rare moment of clarity for the band, which now finds itself squarely in the domain of raw metal riffing. Gone are the eerie field recordings and avant-orchestration of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s dense 2000 album “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven,” replaced here with an urgent, hypnosis-by-volume approach in the vein of Sleep’s stoner-metal manifesto “Dopesmoker.”

    The second half of the album consists of the less menacing, 20-minute-long “We Drift Like Worried Fire” (the remaining two tracks are shorter transitional ambiance composed by the band’s core songwriters). Here, beautifully employed guitar wailing reminds us where latter-day post rock outfits like Explosions in the Sky draw inspiration, before the track takes a darker turn, vaulting into a motorik jam that soars triumphantly through space.

    In this visceral power, it’s easy to sympathize with the band’s desire to contextualize their music in the ultra-serious. But “Allelujah!” is as much about politics as it is about violence or struggle in general — and, thus, whatever subjective associations these conjure for the individual. Let it soundtrack your own catharsis.

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