The Best Albums of 2012, Edition 8: ‘Allelujah!

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! — Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Ten years after their last record together, the collective is back with the massive sonic experience you’ve come to expect from Godspeed. Their previous effort, Yanqui U.X.O., remains their most difficult in their catalogue, largely because it’s just so damn slow. On ‘Allelujah!, they’ve assembled two tracks of roughly twenty minutes’ length, shuffled between two of less than ten. This makes for a much improved pace.

“Mladic”, the album opener, is as massive as you’d expect. It’s symphonic, with a few individual movements that shape it over its length. The build takes over six minutes, but the rewards are satisfying as only that kind of delay can make them. After a frantic middle quarter, there’s a delightful feedback-driven segment, which makes way for a Junkanoo-sounding outro, without horns.

“Their Helicopters’ Sing” (yes, with the apostrophe) is the shortest track on the record and, with detuned bagpipes galore, it had better be. It’s hard to listen to. The droning sounds in the background are sheared by the aforementioned bagpipes. It’s good. It’s painful, too.

That’s okay — the guys in Godspeed are thoughtful enough to follow it with another symphonic guitar-and-drums piece, “We Drift Like Worried Fire”. For me, this is the highlight of the record. The methodical, metronomic guitar work is complemented by the swirling violin that slices through the broadness of the sound. This piece sounds distinctly more story-driven than “Mladic”, the other lengthy piece on the record. There are (obviously) no lyrics, but there are clear sections which point to aspects of a plot.

The album closer, “Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable”, echoes “Helicopters'” in its tempo and droning quality, but it’s more textured than the latter. There’s depth to this track, especially as the final song. After a solid minute of feedback and noise, it calms to end in what sounds like bells at the end of a massive tunnel. It’s a subtle reminder that this record was the product of a breakup of the band, and many years of searching for their significance, relevance, and meaning. It’s a reminder that they might take ten years to make their next album, so listen to this one and cherish it.