Written by Jack Andrew Cribb
‘- an end to foreign invasions
– an end to borders
– the total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex
– healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right
– the expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again’
These statements, these ‘grand demands’, are attached to the new album from Godspeed You! Black Emperors, Luciferian Towers. It comes as no surprise that we should look at these demands with a serious eye, as contextually, a piece of work that slots into the narrative of civil rights and societal progression. They are statements that come alongside an album that is raw, melodic, vast, stirring, and most of all, uplifting.
Luciferian Towers was made ‘in the midst of communal mess, raising dogs and children. Eyes up and filled with dreadful joy – we aimed for wrong notes that explode, a quiet muttering amplified heavenward. We recorded it all in a burning motorboat.’ reads a one sheet regarding the project. Regardless of the bands Canadian roots, this seems to be an album of which the protests therein apply to almost anywhere on the planet nowadays. A passage on the cover of the album reads:
‘The building chokes, folding inwards. There’s a pit inside where the beating heart of the Sun expands. Dust traces its contours like a radiograph.’
Now in England, these statements, these song names such as Bosses Hang and Anthem For No State, and descriptions of fiery towers stark against the sky seem a little too close to home. A tragedy that befell London recently does not need to be mentioned, simple imagery brings it to the fore of your mind. It is curious then, that the actual sound of the album is so much more, well, positive, than what these descriptions and images portend. This isn’t an album of surrender, this is an album of hope. While Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress (2015) and ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! Orbited riffs that cried death and destruction, and distinct, singularity-esque voids of sound, Luciferian Towers does no such thing. It is the spirit of belief that this album orbits like some celestial body in an ever-expanding universal twilight.
The album rolls out like a performance of classical music, and epic tragedy that actually contains no tragedy. Beginning with Undoing A Luciferian Towers, this overture-esque track brings a downtempo richness to the forefront of the project, while dual drummers Timothy Herzog and Aidan Girt rhythmically and with military-like precision underscore the piece. A simple, and yet joyful melody begins around six minutes in, one that is reprised later in the fifth track, Fam/Famine.
The album is then split into two tripartite forms, Bosses Hang Pt. I, Pt. II, and Pt. III, and Anthem For No State Pt. I, Pt. II, and Pt. III. The former, Bosses Hang, is incredibly uplifting, and almost totally filmic. It sweeps along like the years in a millennia, opening slowly like a chrysalis, and waving itself like a revolutionary flag. Godspeed You! Black Emperors, while this is not their most complex work, can definitely create something rich and tactile even when writing simplicity. It’s definitely worth mentioning that this album sits on a borderline between the genres of post-rock and contemporary classical. I’m sure someone like Nils Frahm or Olafur Arnalds would enjoy it greatly.
These two tripartite are songs in themselves, split into three for ease. Anthem For No State is the heavier of the two, initially teetering on a standoff-like tension with the solitary sound of guitar and violin. The final part increases the intensity of this tension, creating a soundtrack that would fit perfectly on any Western film.
On Luciferian Towers, in contrast to their previous work of writing fire and fury, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have written the triumph, rather than the struggle. They are writing from the point-of-view of a world saved, a world looking back at a past that will never return. The finale of Anthem For No State creates a hero that has won the day. While it doesn’t contain the darkness the band is known for, Efrim Menuck and co. have created an aural thriller that screams adventure and heroism The towers they have undone are naught but dust, now they say, it is time to rebuild.