Godspeed You! Black Emperor


“The gatekeepers gazed upon their kingdom and declared that it was good. Meanwhile, so many of us were locked out, staring at all that gold from the outside in,” speaks Efrim Menuck of the bleak political zeitgeist. Although generally voiceless, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have provided a heaven-pointing soundtrack to this very scene of the outside-looking-in for the past two-decades – challenging the ways in which we engage with corruption and greed, and gifting an audience sonic portals to briefly escape the weight the modern world forces us to bare. Since reconvening in 2010 following an indefinite hiatus, Godspeed! have released 3 studio albums – the latest of which being Luciferian Towers: a defiantly positive, shelter-building soundscape – crushed-out in the wake of Trumpian fallout.

In-keeping with the nature of the collective’s unapologetic-yet-understated brightness, it feels appropriate for the hyrda-headed animal to wade through a mix of decaying film and blurred memories when taking to the stage of the Albert Hall – stranded in stained-glass shades, before quietly settling under a confident projection of the word ‘hope’ as strings tentatively trade the beginnings to a cloud-collapsing suite. Much like the way Wagner once composed music specifically to be performed in one opera house or another, Manchester’s forgotten Wesleyan chapel feels like a spiritual home for the joyous noise of the genre-defying giants, and the evening an inevitability for such ocean-sized catharsis.

Ascend! Ascend! Ascend! God-reaching towers, desolate snow-covered cities, endless horizons – information nausea, both acknowledging and dismissing the very nature of a world built on purchase power, is projected above and against the 9-piece outfit until you find yourself out-of-mind and swallowed completely. Life doesn’t exist within the abandoned landscapes depicted – offering a chilling look at the potential consequences of our destructive nature. The only sign of mankind can be found in the cockpit of a crashing plane – forever plummeting to the ground as the monolithic refrain of ‘Bosses Hang’ acts as some sort of wordless elegy to humanity. Like each piece performed, ‘Anthem for No State’ unfurls slowly – rising with the tide of its parts until the urgent energy harbored breaks free in a goliath, Morricone-esque conclusion. The arresting dead flag of ‘Fam/Famine’ stirs with intensity – paving the way for the fury of ‘Monheim’ before the world-eating ‘BBF3’ triumphantly unsettles like some-kind-of poster for the apocalypse.

From the low-pulsing drones that hum beneath thunderous power to the static found in-between – scraping its face against the walls, Godspeed! exercise the muscles of extremity and refinement with an effortless ease that is both transportive and grounding. Providence-cut ‘Divorce & Fever’ poses the question, “Do you think the end of the world is coming?”, and in-response the evening has birthed a celebratory portent of societal collapse. “Kiss me, you’re beautiful – these are truly the last days.”

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Official | Bandcamp

James Musker

Music Journalism student and lover of all things sensory and cosmic.