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

15 October 2012

After ten long years of tireless speculation and rabid devoteeism, Godspeed You! Black Emperor has graced the planet with ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. Two long compositions, each followed by a drone, The opening track, “Mladic”, presumably named after the Bosnian war criminal Ratko Mladić, is a departure for them. Elements from the unreleased, yet long bootlegged track, “Albanian” have been fleshed out into the, by a wide margin, most aggressively rock track in the GY!BE catalog. It is, however, hardly standard or ordinary. And instead of their traditional, almost organized chaos, the strings of Sophie Trudeau unite with the guitars of Efrim Menuck and returning member Michael Moya to play one gigantic riff in the heart of the piece. The brilliant section has a reprise about ¾ of the way through. Closing with the sounds of a street parade, “Mladic” is an instantly gratifying masterpiece. Only one track in but it consumed twenty glorious minutes.

The drone tracks offer that signature chaos and disorienting noise, ratcheting up the drama, but are not as successful in moving the listener. Personally, I prefer listening to the LP version of the album. This is not strictly a sound quality preference but the drone tracks are separated onto each side of the extra 7”. The LP itself has each long composition on each side. Therefore, one has the option of flipping over the LP and hearing the two main songs consecutively. The digital/CD version has each long track followed by a drone track. The other epic itself, “We Drift Like Worried Fire” is comprised of some of another unreleased piece called “Gamelan”. It scratches and soars its way to another pleasant rocking epiphany. The violins work into a frenzy and the ominous, repeating single distorted guitar note are swallowed up in feedback to finish. If nothing else, the band could have just done properly recorded versions of these songs and fans would have just ate them up. They cultivated and perfected these sought after tracks and, after being left untouched for nine years, they finally deserve to be part of the Godspeed lexicon.