Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Luciferian Towers

- Monolithic eight-piece ensemble Godspeed You! Black Emperor have returned with their third album since their decade-long hiatus through the majority of the noughties, meaning that they've now released as many albums since returning as they did before their initial disappearance – not including the small matter of the nearly half-hour long 1999 EP Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada, nor the fact that their recent albums have tended to be significantly shorter than those released in their original run, especially 2000's epic double-album Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, still regarded as perhaps THE high-water mark of the post-rock movement of the late 90s.

What the recent records have perhaps lacked in breadth, they've certainly made up for in pulverising heft. Godspeed have always been masters of forceful momentum – see 'The Sad Mafioso' from their debut F#A#Ꝏ for early evidence of that – but on 2012's Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! and 2015's Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress the band tended to spotlight their heavier, more brooding elements over their subtle and even, at times, romantic compositional skills. Part of what made Lift Yr Skinny Fists such a wondrous record was its combination of the band's brute force with at times joyous, at times delicate music. With their latest record, Luciferian Towers, they've gone some way to redressing that imbalance.

The compositions contained herein are still definitely 'nu-Godspeed', but they've brought back a few more relatively subtle shades compared to the out-and-out bombast of recent times. Luciferian Towers is also the most romantic Godspeed have sounded in a long while, perhaps ever. Even when they're going at full tilt there's a gracefulness, a joy that has only been seen in glimpses over the past 15years. In some of their rare interviews the band have stated that they never wanted to be a force of negative emotion, that they were trying to create a sense of communal euphoria with their music. On this record that comes through more than almost any other.

'Undoing A Luciferian Towers' opens the record with almost eight minutes of pseudo-drone, but it's a much more musical sounding piece than the droning tracks on Allelujah or the mid-section of Asunder – there are chord changes and identifiable melodies, and it does build up to a form of melodic climax. The song's motif is repeated in the album's palate-cleansing middle track, 'Fam/Famine', the title track's moodier, sparser sibling.

Those two tracks act as semi- introductions for the album's two main three-part suites, 'Bosses Hang' and 'Anthem For No State'. 'Bosses Hang' starts out with a spacious three-chord progression underneath washes of strings before the guitars introduce the song's central motif, bringing with it the record's first star-gazing moment. Even though we're nearly ten minutes into Luciferian Towers by this point, it feels like the true beginning of the record – everything up to now has just been scene-setting. After giving that melody the crescendo it deserves, the band bring things back down several notches for one of their trademark patient builds, working various interlocking parts together throughout the second and third acts of the suite before, in the final moments of 'Bosses Hang', returning to that initial melody and chord progression with crushing power.

Where 'Bosses Hang' is essentially one song broken into three parts, 'Anthem For No State' is more of a set of three related but separate pieces. In that way it's reminiscent of the Godspeed of old – if you placed some fields recordings in between each act the song would fit fairly seamlessly into one of their early records. As it is, the field recordings are again missing from this record, as with Asunder, with the music placed right in the centre of focus. The opening act of 'Anthem...' is Godspeed at their most delicate and beautiful, full of cleanly picked guitars and celestial strings. It's not a thing I imagine is often said about Godspeed songs, but it's not nearly long enough, its three-minute running time over far too soon. '… Part II' is even shorter, and mostly acts as a link between the two other sections. It's remarkably laid-back for Godspeed, providing a moment of respite between the achingly beautiful opening and the dark closing number to come. 'Anthem For No State, Pt. III' is the most substantial of either of the suite's parts, and continues the Ennio Morricone-esque feel established in the first two sections, this time speed up to a racing pulse. In the record's final moments the strings wrest control back from the guitars, taking us (and our skinny fists) once more towards heaven before gradually losing momentum and falling back to earth.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor's politics are writ large throughout much of the text accompanying the release of Luciferian Towers – each song comes with a lengthy, albiet obtuse, explanation of what it means to the band. Where they could have been excused for releasing a set of anger-fuelled compositions to reflect the times and the frustrations they obviously feel so acutely, instead they've opted to provide us with a soundtrack to salvation.

- Cameron Smith.

Album Details

Album Title: Luciferian Towers
Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Record Label: (Constellation)