“Healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right, an end to invasions, an end to borders ” these are the concluding thoughts made by Godspeed You! Black Emperor on the one sheet for their new album Luciferian Towers. Throughout their wordless, rallying cry, Godspeed calls its listeners to experience something more than just the surface level, instrumentation they create. With slightly unsettling orchestration, Godspeed paints an apocalyptic canvas on which they attempt to dismantle the barriers put in place by “the expert (jerks) who broke this world”. They achieve this by appealing to your sense of empathy, sound, and soul. You’d be correct in assuming that this album, although lyricless, is not for the light of heart.
“Undoing a Luciferian Towers” opens the album with 8 minutes of suspenseful turmoil. Bagpipes attempt to lead the listener through a sea of blurred strings that, like a pair of lungs, contract and expand their sound and energy. About half way through and the addition of a beaming trumpet serves as a beacon to clear away the foggy noise. However, the disarray returns as the track closes out with the ensemble messily coming back together. Personally, I found this intense amount of disarray to be the weakest point on the album. Maybe I’m missing the point of it; maybe the confusion is meant to reflect the blurred lines in our society. Or maybe there is some other “capitalist agenda message” hidden in the anarchy that I am unable to see. Regardless, “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” (and a similar track, “Fam/Famine) seems too disorganized to make sense and thus, loses my interest.
There are saving graces on Godspeed’s fifth album. The two, three-part tracks “Bosses Hang” and “Anthem for No State” are more emotionally charged than one of those Sarah McLachlan dog commercials . “Bosses Hang” begins by calling listeners to delve into an eery atmosphere, forged by a heavy bass guitar and an ensemble of quivering strings. Halfway through Pt. 1 and a electric guitar tears through, raising the strings, their voices amplifying. Like a well oiled machine, the ensemble comes together – their righteous sound fills the empty space. Pt. 2 features well orchestrated solos that cultivate into a powerful movement. This track is Godspeed’s “call to arms”. All three parts of “Bosses Hang” seamlessly work in conjunction with one another – a truly unique and exciting listen on the album. In contrast, “Anthem for No State Pt. 1” provides a sorrowful, sobering echo that vibrates against a grief stricken space. The bagpipes return from “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” to close out the album in “Anthem for No State Pt. 3”. This final track reiterates much of what the opener gave. However, Pt. 3 includes a meticulous drummer who helps to keep the track on beat. This refrains the listener from getting lost amongst the commotion as Pt. 3 soars into the album’s glorious ending.
The band’s political agenda isn’t unusual. In the past, their albums have featured artwork of falling bombs, coupled with track titles like “Their Helicopters’ Sing”. In 2013, after winning the Polaris Music Prize, the band condemned the award ceremony saying, “Maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords”. For a lyricalless band, they sure do have a lot to say off record. Although, I believe that the wordless element to their music is what makes it so impactful. Godspeed intertwines emotion, music, and message to create something everyone can understand. No lyrics, no language barrier, no confusion. Godspeed need not scream their message through hard hitting lines, but instead, they invite you to experience it though soaring orchestrations. Although they fumble at times, this album is another admirable addition to their discography.