Twenty years on from the release of their debut record, Godspeed You! Black Emperor are still dedicated to bringing forth the orchestral nature of chaos. Luciferian Towers is their second full album of new material since their reunion in 2010. Taking a different tone from their previous two records in its more celebratory sound, this album presents interesting music, but also worth noting is the band’s highly political press notes, provided here before each individual song. Overall, the record — within or without the context of these notes — is an exciting part of Godspeed’s discography, and an incredible turning point for the band.
“look at that fucking skyline! big lazy money writ in dull marble obelisks! imagine all those buildings much later on, hollowed out and stripped bare of wires and glass, listen- the wind is whistling through all 3000 of its burning window-holes!”
The record opens with the intro track “Undoing a Luciferian Towers,” in which a fluttering cloud of string instruments and horns go through a haze like the “whistling wind” mentioned in the description of the song. Eventually this comes together to create a cacophonous waltz that dances through the storm, reaching an almost apocalyptic build until about six minutes in. Just as it seems that the melody is about to fall apart, the guitar line finally reveals a triumphant riff, and the rhythm paces itself around it in a victorious fashion. This opening proves to be a lighter affair than the usual fire and brimstone the band comes towards opening with, but this change in style complements the following tracks much better.
“labor, alienated from the wealth it creates, so that holy cow, most of us live precariously! kicking at it, but barely hanging on! also – the proud illuminations of our shortened lives! also – more of us than them! also – what we need now is shovels, wells, and barricades!”
Next comes the first major three-part piece, “Bosses Hang.” The first part of the piece opens up with some Eastern string melodies similar to their previous record, Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend!, but soon soars with gritty guitar leads into an incredible melody, and then proceeds to slow down for part two. For this part, the band locks into a hypnotizing groove with its guitars and violin parts. In a shimmering repetition much more refined than the duller drone sections of their previous two records, this part feels reminiscent of the wailing opening of “Sleep” off of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. The band even finds a way to sneak in the main riff of the first part into the background as they hurry towards the third and final part of the main tune. Here, with the string section gaining more emphasis than before as they hit a new melody, they build upon the musical anticipation further and further, racing until they crash back into the main guitar line of Part I, somehow sounding more triumphant than before. The strength in this tune lies purely in its use of anticipation, as the band continues to run ahead of itself in each part towards the climax of the overall piece. This suspense is well-managed throughout, while still making the individual parts of the piece exciting. For a rare occasion, the band uses their anthemic fury to make a song that sounds hopeful, and it’s a wonder to listen to. As the press release says, there’s “more of us than them!,” and the band seems ready to make sure everyone knows.
“how they kill us = absentee landlord, burning high-rise. the loud panics of child-policemen and their exploding trigger-hands. with the dull edge of an arbitrary meritocracy. neglect, cancer maps, drone strike, famine. the forest is burning and soon they’ll hunt us like wolves.”
The second interstitial track of the record, “Fam/Famine” takes a much looser approach, with the band putting all noise together as it guides the listener through a haze of guitar feedback as the strings take more of an air of pomp. This makes a very relaxing interstitial track which is well placed in between the two larger pieces, and the band even finds a way to slip in the guitar riff from the beginning into the sounds.
“kanada, emptied of its minerals and dirty oil. emptied of its trees and water. a crippled thing, drowning in a puddle, covered in ants. the ocean doesn’t care because it knows it’s dying too.”
Godspeed’s music is often compared to soundtracks to Western films, but the comparison is hardly more apt than for the menace of “Anthem for No State,” a dramatic opening reigned in by a fragmented and wailing guitar lead, and an excellent lead-in to the harsh finale. This grand closer is opened with an even louder guitar part as well as a rarely employed bagpipe lead, but soon subsiding for an even more monstrous lead. With this, the band pulls out possibly the best melody of the album two minutes into this particular part of the song. The tension builds upon itself in a cascade like only Godspeed could attempt, leading towards a final climax greater than any before it on the album, until the band comes crashing down one last time.
Luciferian Towers is GY!BE’s most engaging material since their revival earlier this decade, featuring of their most engaging hooks to date. The material is decidedly much lighter than the metal and drone heavy affair of 2015’s Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress, but still layered enough to be instantly recognizable as their own. The playing between dynamics that has always been a huge part of the band’s toolkit is well employed here as usual, and the variation stylistically is absolutely breathtaking when one looks deeper into the music at hand. Overall, the one fault the album has is the lack of found audio samples heard on tracks from the band’s earlier songs, like the haunting interview footage from “BBF3.” These small flourishes aren’t required, but they lend a huge hand to memorability, which GY!BE still manage to supply in droves here with the amazing melodies. Overall, this record proves that Godspeed still have the capability to create something pristine out of powerful noise, an audible diamond in the rough.