The Montreal-based post-rock octet tend to fall into post-rock's tired clichés harder than ever on their seventh studio album, but it's still their best release in years.
In nearly 25 years since their apocalyptic debut F# A# ∞, Godspeed You! Black Emperor hasn't really changed their core message and beliefs that inform their sound and style. Despite mostly doing away with the spoken word and interview segments that defined their sound before reuniting in 2012, the band has continued to showcase their unapologetic far-left anarchist beliefs through vinyl packaging, press releases and insistence on independence in music scenes.
While things in the world haven't exactly been better over those past 25 years, arguably getting worse, one aspect of Godspeed's sound has been slowly evolving—the growing presence of hope. While post-reunion albums like Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! and Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress mostly followed the beats of albums like Yanqui UXO and the classic Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven by including some triumphant moments completely shrouded in dark pessimism, their 2017 release "Luciferian Towers" contained some of the most uplifting and positive music on a Godspeed album since the opening passages of "Storm" from LYSFLATH.
And with their seventh full-length album, G_d’s Pee AT STATE'S END!, Godspeed continues on that hopeful path, no longer living in the pessimistic present where things seem to be strictly doom-and-gloom, but looking forward towards a triumphant future. And even though this causes the eight-piece post-rock legends to indulge in some of the most generic tropes of the genre, it also results in some of the band's most beautiful and politically-charged music in nearly 20 years.
Unfortunately, the album begins on its lowest point. The near-20-minute opener, whose title "A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) (4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz) / Job's Lament / First of the Last Glaciers / where we break how we shine (ROCKETS FOR MARY)" borders on self parody, is possibly Godspeed's most generic song to date. It's bookended by the welcome return of radio broadcasts and field recordings, but their inclusion is a little sloppy for the most part, not carrying any message but instead merely establishing ambience. That being said, the solemn ending during the "ROCKETS FOR MARY" section is a fitting and moody ending to an otherwise disappointing opening track.
In between these short found-sound segments are two lengthy sections that are nothing other than triumphant post-rock builds. The basslines are interesting to follow along to and hold together the structure of these sections, but this song and its builds don’t stack up to newer Godspeed songs like "Mladic," "Bosses Hang" or "Anthem for No State." It isn't bad, and still retains some of what makes the group one of the best post-rock bands to ever do it, but it's unfortunate that this song finds the band coasting for nearly 40% of the album's runtime right out of the gate.
From here, the album moves into more interesting territory immediately. The six-minute "Fire at Static Valley" is a melancholic drone track that's seeping in classic Godspeed atmosphere. It may feel kind of disconnected from the rest of the album, as it's nearly as dark as some moments from the band's earlier releases with its haunting strings and pounding drums. And while it doesn't stack up to what else is to come on the album, it is a sign that the opener was mostly a fluke in quality.
The other near-20-minute track, "'GOVERNMENT CAME' (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz) / Cliffs Gaze / cliffs' gaze at empty waters' rise / ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE" follows up this interlude, and it's one of their better epics in a while. Unlike "A Military Alphabet," it isn’t afraid to reject traditional post-rock builds for the majority of its runtime, and chooses in this case to establish a slower and more deliberate atmosphere. But as the song progresses, it eventually explodes into the most energetic, triumphant and joyful climaxes in the band's career. It's a beautiful moment that showcases why Godspeed are the legends they're regarded as.
After the song's incredible ending, the album closes out with the gorgeous, yet uneasy "OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.)," another six-minute drone track. But whereas the previous drone was swallowed by its bleakness, this one sounds like the equivalent of shining a bright light into a thunderstorm. It doesn’t assume victory, but ends the album on its central theme of hope for a better future.
Despite falling into the clichés of post-rock for a large portion of the album, G_d's Pee AT STATE’S END! is one of Godspeed's most important-feeling albums since they've returned. Within the context of the world right now, Godspeed feels essential. And instead of returning to spread a message of coming end-times, the band knows that the end times they've been preaching the onset of has arrived, and all one can do now is carry a message of hope for a better future. Despite remaining instrumental, Godspeed communicates this message beautifully through their music, and this is truly what makes them special 25 years later.
Highlights — "'GOVERNMENT CAME' (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz)," "Cliffs Gaze / cliffs' gaze at empty waters' rise / ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE" & "OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.)"
G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END! is available now. Stream the new album below.