It's got a fantastic cover. (Few things are more beautiful than City scapes at night) and sounds alternately like Pink Floyd, God speed You Black Emperor, Sigur Ros, State of Grace and most intriguingly like the instrumental between tracks on This Mortal Coil albums. It's music scrambling to attain a higher level of meaning or existence just through the sheer beauty of its sound. So yes, it's all those critical clichés encapsulated onto one album. It's lush, ethereal cinematic, but most importantly some of the songs are simply stunning in their wide screen intensity, effortlessly attaining a level of corporeal vigour or humane tenderness using the mainly electronic instrumentation.
This is effectively a solo work, Anthony Gonzalez having split from his long time collaborator and friend Nicholas Fromageu, but rather than forcing him to curb his ambitions and look within it seems to have expanded his horizons and now it seems he's stretching as far as he can, trying to lay his hands on all those vistas in his head. Employing choirs, muscular live drum tracks, huge banks of swirling guitars and interweaving between pure instrumentals and vocal pieces some of this music is Wagnerian in its scope and apocalyptic ambience. The multi tracked vocals on opening track "Moon Child" recall Vast,s audacious use of samples while "Don't Save us From the Flames" has a thrilling propulsive grace allied to it's banks of keening vocals. "In the Cold I'm Standing" sounds quasi religious with its colossal swathes of organ uncoiling like tentacles. "I'll write my love on a thousand weeping willows" sings the breathy vocalist on "Farewell/Goodbye" a ballad of such fervent ardour it seems to infuse the air with misty tears. The rather unfortunately titled "Teen Angst" skyscrapes away from it's opening shuddering synth lines on tectonic plates of white hot noise while "Can't Stop" sounds like it's sung by Jon Anderson high octave tones and in truth is rather repetitive( Apparently he can't stop saying I can't stop). "Safe" is like an outtake from "The Wall" with it's simple two note piano refrain but morphs into the lower stratosphere with its lambent keyboards. "Car Chase Terror" uses actress Kate Moran to narrate a tale of automotive induced horror and is a touch cheesy but there is no denying the power of the gargantuan towering guitars that kick in.
One or two tracks do doodle rather aimlessly by and there are some overly sleek and functional barnstorming guitar /drum driven instrumentals of which "A Guitar and a Heart" is easily the best but the last track "Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun" is an epic amalgamation of Gaudi Cathedrals of keyboard sound, multi layered choral vocals and drums ushering in the Queen of Sheeba. It's a soundtrack waiting for a movie.
Some will label this album pompous and overbearing and it is, but it's also capable of creating a glowing shroud of sound amidst a milky way of emotion. I can understand why the City scape on the cover because with Before the Dawn Can Heal Us Gonzalez has created gaudy neon lit wondrous edifice of his own. And that s stunningly beautiful too.