Godspeed You! Black Emperor is no stranger to build-up. Since releasing their 1997 debut “F# A# ∞,” the group has thrived on swelling crescendos and slow escalation over the course of their often multi-movement songs. After taking an eight-year hiatus, the group released their fourth album “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” to critical acclaim and the 2013 Polaris Prize. Now they’ve returned with their first album since 2015’s “Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress,” the ominously titled “Luciferian Towers.” 

“Luciferian Towers” starts off how you’d expect. The liner notes on the album sleeve speak of recording on a burning motorboat and grandly demand that “the expert f---ers who broke this world never get to speak again.”

“Undoing a Luciferian Towers” addresses this rage with high string pitches and droning noises throughout the first half, bursting into one of the most unnerving sections the band’s ever produced. Harrowing saxophones and chaotic screeching dominate the space in an almost anxiety-inducing affair. By this point, it’s clear that the album will be among Godspeed You!’s most harrowing works.

But right before the noise in “Undoing” threatens to completely consume, it retreats and a melody breaks through. In “Bosses Hang, Pt. 1,” the first of three parts, a rush of guitars and strings lift the entrancing melody, while “Pt. 2”’s central motif is a five-note rhythm that sharpens and quickens as the sounds coalesce, finally climaxing in “Pt. 3”’s triumphant return to the initial melody. The song is a lovely release from the group, even if the pulsing ostinato starts to wear on the listener in “Pt. 3” and the track never truly explodes.

“Fam/Famine” works well as a spacer between the two three-part songs on this LP, reprising the melody with an atmospheric feel. One of the greatest strengths on this album is that even the interlude tracks offer interesting melodic experiences, something that 2015’s “Asunder” had difficulty maintaining in its middle two tracks “Lamb’s Breath” and “Asunder, Sweet.”

The highlight of this record is easily the three-part “Anthem for No State.” “Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2” build beautifully, and the last minute swell of “Pt. 2” leads into an intense “Pt. 3.” The four-note ascension from “Pt. 1” is coupled with a vicious descent, and this vigorous rising and falling is accompanied by a wall of sound that wails and trembles. Just like in the opener, this wall is pierced with guitars for the last minute and a half, offering a resounding conclusion to the album.

Godspeed You! does a fantastic job at shifting their sound into this more-positive focus. Their interludes are more striking than ever before, and they continue to be the best post-rock band in the world at making motifs stay fresh far longer than any simple refrain should. Yet, for all of its charm, there is a certain sadness that I feel when I see Godspeed You! walk away from their greatest strength — their ability to completely flood your senses with dark and unnerving sound (yes, I miss the bleak spoken word vocals on past albums) and the impeccable crescendos and dynamics that graced “F# A# ∞” and “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.” The lacking dynamic output can be partially attributed to the muddy production, but that’s never been a strong point of Godspeed You!’s output.

The weaker crescendos can also be traced to the album length. Clocking in at 44:54, “Luciferian Towers” is among the band’s shortest albums, and it shows in the often jarring transitions between songs. “Anthem for No State” deserves the droned intro that graced its original form “Railroads,” and the songs’ abrupt endings often break the immersive experience that Godspeed provides. If “Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress” was too long, then “Luciferian Towers” is too short — a little bit more room to breathe would have improved the listening experience and the pacing within the songs themselves.

Yet on the whole, “Luciferian Towers” is executed well and represents a new direction for the band. The album’s spirit of positivity and hope is especially powerful considering the group’s well documented radical leftism and the world’s current political climate — right now, hope is something we all need. Twenty years ago, Godspeed You! Black Emperor opened “F# A# ∞” with this ominous tiding: “The car is on fire, and there’s no driver at the wheel / And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides”. With this new release, they’ve become the drivers, and their music, once furious and cold, has become an uplifting call to their listeners. The liner notes close with “much love to all the other lost and wandering ones” — we hear you, Godspeed. Loud and clear.