Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress...

They don’t make it easy, do they? Canadian ensemble Godspeed You! Black Emperor have been making their stubbornly obstinate, wilfully singleminded music for over 20 years now. Never once have they wavered; their fire and brimstone, apocalyptic vision of the world rarely leaves room for even the merest sliver of light. Fifth album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress doggedly follows the same blueprint – and herein lies its strength and its weakness. For the second album in a row,  GY!BE mix the sublime with the infuriating. Like 2012 release ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend’, there are just four tracks stretched across a relatively brief (by their standards) 41 minutes. The similarities don’t end there – two of the tracks are as good as anything they have released and when GY!BE are good, they are simply untouchable. But just like on their last album, the other two songs included are entirely forgettable slabs of unstructured noise, lazy inclusions that serve only to test our patience. It all starts so well – opening track ‘Peasantry or Light! Inside of Light!’ screams into action, bold and dramatic, the soundtrack to the apocalypse. Everything that makes GY!BE so special can be heard here – those end of the world blues guitars, the heart pounding climaxes, the off the cuff chemistry that makes these extended jams sound both loose and meticulously prepared at the same time. They follow this with ‘Lamb’s Breath’; ten minutes of the kind of noise you get when a band down tools at the end of a show and leave everything humming. A fitting way to end a gig perhaps, but a whole lot less interesting on record.  ‘Asunder, Sweet’ is another turgid piece of music; more feedback, more drones, increasing in intensity as the track dissolves into the...

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!...

That much maligned genre of music known as Post-Rock has shipped some heavy criticism in recent years.  Mention Post-Rock to most music fan and images of serious young men playing lengthy instrumental pieces with pretentious song titles immediately spring to mind. The bands that have aligned themselves with this genre have done much to promote this stereotypical image by largely adhering closely to the Post-Rock manifesto, almost to the point of parody. Which is a shame really, because scratch beneath the surface, and you will find that some of the most inspiring and exciting music of the last 10 years has emerged from this scene. Bands like Mono, Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You and our own God is an Astronaut have all produced superb albums that have stood the test of time and done much to promote the notion that Post-Rock has more to offer than the stereotypical image would have us believe. Canadian post –rockers Godspeed You!  Black Emperor can justifiably lay claim to having been the most influential band of the past fifteen years in this genre. From the release of their debut album in 1997 to the announcement of an indefinite hiatus in 2003, GY!BE were right at the vanguard of the Post-Rock movement –their emotional,  guitar driven instrumental music with a slight political edge set the benchmark for other bands operating in this field. Although many tried to imitate them, very few bands managed to hit the peaks of intensity they achieved on their seminal album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Their reappearance as a live act in 2010 was warmly welcomed, and now with little or no fanfare, they have dropped Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, their first album release since 2002. Twenty minute...