A Stunning Continuation of Form
When a band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor drops a new full length album, a certain section of the world tends to fall silent and listen. Years ago, they captivated audiences with revelatory crescendos and introspective valleys, shattering preconceptions of post-rock as they went along, creating the cliches that would one day become the joke of the genre. This band (and Mogwai) are far and away the Seinfeld of the genre, but where Mogwai went for all out ferocity, GY!BE sought to be cinematic, their soundscapes bringing to mind burning cities, calm meadows, and ferocious storms. Luciferian Towers seeks to pick up where they last left off, making bold political statements in music without words, and regardless of their statements intent, the effectiveness, as always, cannot be overstated.
Ever since their inception, the name of the game for GY!BE has been subtlety. That may seem an odd statement given the grandiose nature of many of their works and the relatively direct (though beautiful) poetry that has been bled across their numerous albums. The statement is nonetheless true, post-rock as a whole, especially now, is comprised of bands like Explosions in the Sky, Caspian, and Pelican; these are all bands that push their music with great forcefulness in a way it is almost the discerning listeners’ dubstep with the way it rises and breaks over and over.
GY!BE has never really been all the way in on the “crescendo-core” movement, as albums like F#A#Infinity and Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven prided themselves on building atmosphere without so much as a single crescendo. Luciferian Towers, however, much like Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! seem eager to get to the point. This causes the first track, “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” to serve as a trial by fire for the record. The listener is met with crashing symbols and rolling snare, horns are played maddeningly in almost every direction with little to no discernible pattern. The whole track melts into an exercise in chaos for the first four minutes that finally finds order in the back three before rapidly shifting over to the next tracks.
The one noted flaw in this album comes across as a rather pedantic one. The record itself lacks that same track length that has often made GY!BE’s previous work seem so monumental. The larger tracks “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” and “Fam Famine” are actually the short interlude tracks that serve as introductions for the split apart “Bosses Hang” and “Anthem for No State” each of which is broken down into three separate parts rather than presenting each as a fifteen plus minute track as they have done in the past. This is rather unnoticeable when listening straight through for the first time, but as they decided to break it down, that decision must be criticized. The section breaks are largely decided by pacing, but they seem almost haphazardly hacked apart, leaving the listener to wonder what the general purpose was in the first place.
Regardless of the split however, the music itself is among the most compelling that GY!BE has ever put out. Their decision to go along a more energetic route in their past few albums may have left some fans frustrated, but their directness coupled with their strong grasp of when to hold back allows the album to speak much more clearly with the listener, despite not having any words on this particular record. The roaring guitars on “Bosses Hang II” are among of the most vicious pieces of music that the band has ever produced and the fact that it keeps rising with seemingly no ceiling makes it all that more addictive. GY!BE have used Luciferian Towers as an experiment to subvert the “crescendo-core” movement by making everything a rising intensity. That, coupled with their inherent knowledge of speaking to the listener on an emotional level makes for one of the most adrenaline fueled records of the year.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor may not ever be the same band that they were, but they never strayed very far from the path. Luckily for fans of the band they have always seemed to make the right decision as they evolved their sound over the course of their discography. Luciferian Towers, despite its minor flaws, should stand tall alongside the likes of F#A#Infinity and Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, as a brilliant composition that only they could ever have been capable of. Those who are fans of the group should look closely, each moment with this band is like looking at an exploding star.