After a long musical hiatus, Godspeed You! Black Emperor return with a new line-up and a surprise new album `Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!', their first record in 10 years since 2002's `Yanqui U.X.O.'
`Mladic' begins as a delicate middle eastern-tinged drone, patiently building multiple washes of soaring distortion and screeching strings. Particularly impressive were the waves and waves of clashing percussion, driving the track throughout its 20 minutes. Possibly the noisiest track Godspeed You! Black Emperor have created, it's a beautiful showpiece opener, a slow-focused visceral onslaught that leaves you breathless. `Their Helicopters Sing' brings you back down from the elation of `Mladic' to channel you into tenser, flakier transitions. Bowed strings and dissonant pulsing drones are placed at the forefront, producing an altogether very different, almost elemental experience.
`We Drift Like Worried Fire' is the other 20 minute opus, and possibly Godspeed's most ambitious track. Some plucked strings set the tone, more instruments emerge but the development is at a strolls pace. The shifting music is allowed to grow organically but you don't often feel that any sound is wasted. Ten minutes in and the first climax has elapsed, a multitude of varying melodies and rhythms follow, a harrowing and moving journey ends with an uplifting final sequence. `Strung Like Lights...' ends the album, shallow layers of drone grow into thicker slabs of muzzled noise, diminishing back into a long continuous drone. A great way to end the album, after all the stirring and emotional upheaval, things settle, you move on.
You may quibble that `Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!' only has 4 tracks, or that `Mladic' and `We Drift Like Worried Fire' aren't even new tracks. But once you press play you forget everything and just enjoy the music which is so beautifully crafted. Godspeed You! Black Emperor return with a tremendous album, its a pleasure to have them back.