Ever since the release of their titanic debut F#A#Infinity, GY!BE has cemented itself as one of the premiere post-rock bands. The Montreal collective is acclaimed for its use of wide dynamic ranges, unusual instruments, anarchic found sounds, and Satanic album-packaging. The intensity of the music is made more pronounced by their use of classical composition techniques and many tracks have multiple movements. After a 2003 tour supporting new LP Yanqui U.X.O., the nontet went on indefinite hiatus until 2010 when they reunited for a world tour. In typical Godspeed fashion, the band released ‘Allelujah! with absolutely no publicity, selling them quietly at live shows this month. ‘Allelujah! is the band’s first record since 2002’s Yanqui U.X.O., which emphasized concise songwriting rather than their usual lengthy build-ups. ‘Allelujah! represents a strong return to what made Godspeed famous—music that traverses several distinct emotions in a single track.
Unlike the four huge pieces of Lift Your Skinny Fists, two “main” songs and two “drone” tracks make up this release. Twenty-minute behemoth “Mladic” opens the album shows Godspeed at its most cinematic. The track begins with a sample of a radio conversation and then patiently builds to an ominous, cathartic climax. The drums beat faster and faster and menacing strings come in to give the song an exotic, Middle Eastern sound. The guitar riffs are aggressive and continue to get louder and more explosive. “Mladic” is as heavy a track as any in their discography and its brutal, repetitive riffage recalls the best of Swans and Melvins. After the exhausting “Mladic,” “Their Helicopters’ Sing” comes as a refreshing breather. It bisects the two larger pieces and its formless, eerie sounds transition seamlessly into “We Drift Like Worried Fire.” A show stealer, “We Drift,” is Godspeed at its most jubilant. Patiently plucked strings give way to a flurry of instruments that accrue for almost eleven minutes of gorgeous bliss. Then, mid-song, the tone shifts to something much more foreboding. Percussion becomes more prevalent and the song veers into a rapid tempo that is surprisingly restrained. Its final moments, much like “Mladic’s,” are stunning. After almost 46 minutes of intensity, “Strung Like Lights” ends the album with an eerily calm grace. Thick curtains of sleepy, gauzy sound collapse quietly, and place the listener in a world that’s both desolate and beautiful.
Even though the album doesn’t reach the emotional highs and lows of Lift Your Skinny Fists or F#A#Infinity, everything from cheer to despair can be felt through the album. At a time when post-rock is more a joke than a reputable genre, Godspeed You! Black Emperor return from Valhalla to show the world how it’s done.