Sunday, 28 October 2012

Musical Mutterings

So as promised last week, this week begins with a review of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s (GY!BE) Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! I’ve spent the week listening to it and I have to say I love it. For a band in such a particular genre as ‘post-rock’ to have a 10-year hiatus between albums and to come back with this – it shows their immense musical qualities. The album starts off with a monstrous beast of a song, ‘Mladic’. Twenty minutes of awesome. Starting with some spoken words, leading into a rather slow, violinic (©) intro, by 1:15 the song introduces its first distorted guitar sounds and builds it into the immense opening. At 3:30 the steam begins to gather at the chimney of the pressure cooker. For the next three minutes, there are subtle hints as to what is to come – at 6:42 there are a few squeals from distorted guitars that they are ready to go. At 7:42, you would be forgiven for thinking that the real rock is kicking off, but GY!BE shift the intro of the song beautifully: this is merely the building process to the real kick off of the song at 8:16.


The deconstruct into distortion, then guitars, then more distortion is just as good. It’s what GY!BE reformed to do.  ‘Their Helicopters’ Sing’ is a six-minute ear and mind cleanser. It awakens you from the trance of the previous twenty minutes by gently bringing you back to earth with a soft two-minute electronic intro. Then on 2:12 we have some bagpipes to awaken the mind! It’s a cacophony of noise but that is not to be derogatory about the song. The album is a punishing one for different reasons and this is just going for a shorter blast at different musical senses. Sandwiched in between the two beasts of the album, it’s a brave but an expectedly brave song sandwich from GY!BE.
We drop to near silence for the intro of ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’ and within the first minute we have the first taste of some finger picking and more violinic (©) musings. At 2:57 we have a quite sudden change to defined guitar finger picking and the building process begins again. 3:58 brings in the drums as the song begins to simmer under the surface and it boils over at the six-minute mark. It changes tack at the mid point and chills out for a while with some nice violin work. But fear not! By 14:53 we are truly on the crest of a crescendo of guitars again! It chugs along beautifully until three minutes from the end of the song where it becomes quiet rather suddenly luring you into a false sense of peace. It comes back as quickly as it faded. The song is another twenty-minute mammoth but it hooks you from first to last.
The last song ‘Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable‘ is another electronic, static noise track. Again – that’s not to be disparaging. It’s challenging your senses to adjust to the ultimate changes of the album: the songs themselves rather than just the changes within the songs. The reason these guys are so good is evident in this album. I believe they provide the ‘building rock’ © for ‘post-rock’ and this ability is what makes these guys genii at their craft.
Just as an aside incase there’s any interest, other ‘post-rock’ artists that I enjoy would be Explosions in the Sky, God Is An Astronaut and 65daysofstatic. But GY!BE are the gods of the genre in my humble opinion.

Another new album acquired this week was Apocryphon from The Sword. I came across these guys in 2009 when they supported Metallica on their tour of the UK and they impressed me. They’ve a really distinct sound and made me think they were a heavier version of Fu Manchu – I doubt anyone else will think that! The album itself is good. I have given it a few listens on my hifi and I may have zoned out for a few songs but the ones I heard – I liked! That’s the difference between a metal album and post-rock – I find myself actually sitting down and listening to a post-rock album whereas I can do other stuff and merely hear a metal album. So far my standout track is the opener ‘The Veil of Isis’ but I also include ‘Cloak of Feathers’, ‘Arcane Montane’ and ‘Aporcyphon’ in my list of songs to check out. As happened with their previous two albums, you can find gems buried deep. ‘The Black River’ was buried at number nine on Gods of the Earth and so I found ‘Apocryphon’ buried at number 10! Have to say though – not one song made me want to skip forward so that’s always a good sign! It’s an album I’d define as groovy stoner metal so those seeking a thrash metal Sword album might be a little disappointed.

In closing, with thanks to as always, my top 5 listens for the last week were:
The Sword
Godspeed You! Black Emporer

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