Album Review: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers (Constellation)

A light on the horizon

Just in case you fail to pick it up in their music Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s sixth release contains a manifesto of sorts, certainly the sort that would appeal to large sectors of the fanbase: “An end to foreign invasions. An end to borders. The total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex. Healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right. The expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again.” You get the picture.

The absence of lyrics in Luciferian Towers is what you expect of this Canadian post rock, politically aware band, but in the past they have included spoken word samples that added a certain piquancy to their work. This latest album is not necessarily what is expected of GY!BE, none of the tracks are truly epic in length, the longest is just over eight and a half minutes, and the scale and density has been reined in, a little. Even more unlikely is the appearance of melody in with the noise, and there are moments of modality and rhythmic reprise. It’s still pretty dense and heavy by most standards, the sound still forms a wall but that wall is made up of a thousand sonic shards, each with its own character and tone. You’ll need a decent system to realise as much though, the mix is not what you might call open, in fact there is barely any daylight in it at all. But the presence of saxophone, flute and electronics from Bonnie Kane and Craig Pederson’s trumpet means that the opening track, Undoing Luciferian Towers, is leavened to a degree.

Despite the presence of no fewer than three electric guitarists and two bass players in the eight strong band line up, it’s the violin of Sophie Trudeau that makes a real impression. It somehow stands above the distortion of amplified instruments and creates an almost symphonic splendour. Occasionally a guitar or two breaks free from the maelstrom but as a rule they form the simmering river of discontent that informs all but the so called interlude tracks between two three parters; Bosses Hang and Anthem for No State. The former starts out as a calm combination of strings and chunky bass guitar but when the guitars join the melee and the drums start pounding way down in the mix you know you’re in for a intense ride. By part II the rhythm has become cyclic and induces a trance state from which you ascend to the last section where the anthem rises to claim the day over shimmering strings.

Fam/Famine provides a reduction in density with a beautiful hymnal resolve prior to the tormenting rage of Anthem for No State, a piece which ends on an atypically optimistic note given the contrast between this band’s outlook and the world around them. The sound on Luciferian Towers is highly compressed and hard on the ears if played at appropriate level. It warrants a good system because there is so much going on, you can pick out an awful lot of the detail even at sensible levels if you have enough resolution. The album is available as FLAC files for uncompromised digital listening or 180g vinyl for the full analogue payload. Either way it’s powerful journey albeit one that ends a little sooner than expected.

Jason Kennedy
@EditorThe Ear

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