Sound — 8
Godspeed You! Black Emperor formed in Canada in 1994 to fill a slot supporting another local band. From there, they began a revolving door lineup where members were free to join and leave as they saw fit, which they maintained until after their first official album release in 1997 of "F♯ A♯ ∞." From there, the band managed to keep their numbers at roughly 9 members. Some of the key members of the band have been David Bryant and Efrim Menuck on guitars, Mauro Pezzente on bass, Thierry Amar on bass and double bass, Aidan Girt on drums and Sophie Trudeau on violin. The band has been very critical of modern culture and the music industry, as well as society in general. They have previously been suspected of being terrorists and have been held in custody by the FBI for the same, though later released without charges. Several members of the group are self-described anarchrists, and the only time vocals are used in their music it is vocal samples, which often express dissatisfaction with the status quo and critical opinions of certain political situations. "Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress" is the band's fifth studio album and contains 4 tracks with a runtime of approximately 40 minutes. The album is being released through the independent label, Constellation.
Before attempting to critique this album, track by track, I have to say that this isn't really that sort of album - it is more of an experience, and really more designed to see live, much like Sunn O))). There is a visual aspect to the show that is shown on screens at their live shows, as most of this album in a live form has been performed as "Behemoth," and previously recorded live as part of the We Have Signal concert series. The album opens with the track, "Peasantry or 'Light! Inside of Light!'," which initially opens up like a modern drone track, with a very straightforward drum part, but it builds and changes in complexity and goes through several movements. The guitar, drums and violin seem to take turns sharing the spotlight throughout the track, creating a very pleasant tapestry, overall. The song is approximately 10 1/2 minutes long. The next track is "Lamb's Breath," which opens very much like something you would expect from the band Sunn O))) that I mentioned earlier in the review. The first half of the track is almost exclusively droning with a swooshing sound in the background, though there are some periodic cymbals/hi-hats being played, then some orchestral strings (violin and cello, at least) come in, but it goes back to droning for a prolonged outro. "Lamb's Breath" is approximately 10 minutes long.
"Asunder, Sweet" is the third track on the album, and by far the shortest at under 7 minutes. It opens up with the same droning that closed out "Lamb's Breath," but with the addition of some percussion and odd instrumentation and sounds, at times like a breeze and at others like insects buzzing. Violin takes a more dominant role in the track as it progresses, with some other string accompaniment, as well. The complexity and intensity of the track slowly build into the closing, and into the opening of the closing track, "P-ss Crowns Are Trebled." "P-ss Crowns Are Trebled" is the longest track, coming in at almost 14 minutes, and incorporating more guitar, interesting percussion and violin than in much of the previous 2 tracks. "P-ss Crowns Are Trebled" slowly builds to a crescendo, and then drones out to a closing.
Lyrics — 8
There are no lyrics. I'm giving this the same rating as Sound and Overall Impression so it doesn't affect the overall average.
Overall Impression — 8
I haven't really had much previous exposure to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, other than recognizing their name as an instrumental band that has toured with NIN before. I dedicated some real time to exploring who they are and what they're about leading up to this review. I understand that not everybody is going to be into this band or be able to enjoy what they do - much like the band Sunn O))), that I've now mentioned three times during this review, the band is more designed for live performance. I would strongly suggest looking up some footage of a live show, or even better, attending a live show by the band (which I plan to do the next time the band performs anywhere within a couple hundred miles of me). This is one of the best post-rock bands that I think I've encountered in years, and I just regret that it took me this long to really give them a chance.