I must admit to not knowing too much about Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I mean, I know they are a pretty successful indie band with a huge following. I know they are Canadian, which kind of automatically qualifies them as a post-rock Rush. Besides that, this album marks the first actual album I have ever heard by the band. Suffice it to say, I am not reviewing this with the same anticipation for the decade awaited return of my favorite band as some other reviewers may be; nor do I have that much knowledge of their back catalog. That said, this may be a good thing, as it allows me to objectively see Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! as a single piece of musical expression, rather than simply judge it from a fans perspective.
Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is a respectable record. Filled with two long building drones of feedback jams, tempered by two shorter pieces. My first impression is that this band surely knows what they are doing. Unlike much independent drone, Godspeed You! Black Emperor seem to draw from the same well as those early La Monte Young inspired feedback jams that appear on early Velvet Underground bootlegs. The two larger pieces, “Mladic” and “We Drift Like Worried Fire” seem to evolve at their own pace, a storm of guitars and other strings that build and swell until the beat kicks in and the form of the piece emerges. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” is by far the superior piece, with a quasi koto melody that grows into a storm of galloping horses.
It is usually hard to judge a drone album, except by its replay value. This album has plenty of replay value. It also indicates that GY!BE may be a band better appreciated live, and their ability to take sound forms and let them come to their own conclusions is the key for successful improvisation. At 53 minutes, an album like this would normally lose my attention, but this one didn’t. I found myself completely keyed into the intoxicating flow of cacophony of this album.