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Review: Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

Constellation; Release date: Oct. 16, 2012



In today's instrumental rock landscape, all those emotional waves relentlessly ebbing and crashing, Explosions In the Sky-style, tend to mute how fresh the genre's innovators sounded. Godspeed You! Black Emperor certainly reads like the Berlin Philharmonic by comparison. Now the politically charged Montreal collective returns a full decade after its last transmission as a rejuvenated nine-piece.

Two 20-minute pieces comprise the LP, with two six-and-half-minute songs serving as a companion 7-inch. Of the shorter pieces, "Their Helicopters Sing" is the more intriguing — cicada-like nature noises are eventually enveloped in industrial drones and saws that build to a climactic end. The long works — "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" — were among GY!BE's sets a decade ago, but they are re-cast here in richer arrangements ranging from ominously orchestral to rock transcendence.

"Drift" is suite-like, buzzing bowed drones setting an eerie framework for a melody that first emerges pizzicato. Intertwining guitar and bass lines take over and eventually coalesce into a sustained, drums-fueled crescendo that's really Godspeed just getting the blood flowing. That breaks apart into a section of jazz-like percussion before the melody, now more elegiac than sinister, re-emerges via yearning strings and three guitars to lead to an epic finale. It's Rachel's eclecticism done at Young Team-volume and power, and it's cathartic.

The suitably dark "Mladic" takes its name from the Serbian war criminal. It opens with radio chatter-samples drifting into Eastern European-flavored strings flecked with feedback. Strange gull-like cries generated by slide guitar pepper the hulking drone, until an Ummagumma-like jam comprised of lumbering riffs and howling guitar effects launches stratosphere-ward. The tempo and time-sigs switch, the arrangements thicken and thin, but the sinister feel sustains throughout.

It may not reach the same majestic heights as 2000's Lift Your Skinny Fists..., but GY!BE still knows there's more to instrumental rock than mere ebb-and-flow.

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