Godspeed You Black Emperor! - F# A# (Infinity) Music Review
Godspeed You Black Emperor! (or GYBE) is a Canadian post-rock band formed in 1994. Post-rock, for those who don't really know, is a subgenre of rock that uses instruments found in rock (like guitar, drums, bass, etc.), but uses rhythms not really found in rock. They also use the guitars less for melody and more for texture. In the case of GYBE, they had 20 members of the band creating this album over the course of three years. Twenty members! That's, like, quadruple the amount of a regular rock band.
GYBE uses this rock-influenced composition normally found in stuff like classical music or orchestras, with instruments like bagpipes, violin, cello, French horn, and various percussion on top of the standard rock instruments like bass, guitar, and drums. With all of this together, GYBE creates such beautiful music that it might as well be played in an orchestra instead of recorded in an empty hotel room.
“Dead Flag Blues,” the first track in the album, opens up with a very eerie and atmospheric introduction with a dark narrative describing a very poor city where the government is corrupt and the people are drugged and hopeless. The narrator describes vivid images like broken cars on fire, dead people in sewers, buildings collapsing on themselves and mothers clutching their babies. Then, a nice string melody and slow guitar playing comes in. After that, it sort of crescendos a bit until it slows down into sounds of trains and distorted sound effects. It eventually turns into a nice Western melody and speeds up a little bit as if the trains are taking you to a better place.
Listen to “Dead Flag Blues” on YouTube:
“East Hastings,” the second track, comes in with a preacher spouting random religious things, followed by the same bagpipe/violin and ominous melody found in the first introduction, as if to say this new song is not any different from the beginning one. It's a bit slower to pick up on this track, since the beginning parts have more focus on some dark ambient stuff before the guitars come in, but it still adds to that atmospheric and dark postmodern feel, and I can't really complain.
Once it gets to around six minutes or so into the track, it starts to pick up a lot faster with drums, guitar, violin, and cello, but then slows down into complete silence. A nice guitar melody then comes in with a surprisingly loud burst of strings coming in every once in a while that caught me off guard because everything else was so quiet. I really love this crescendo because it starts to get really fast and really loud. It also gets super intense with all these instruments playing at once at such a high speed, and then it stops with a crash. After that, it's just some ambient stuff and distorted noises with some nice echoing reverb on the guitar that fills the empty spaces with tons of sounds.
“Providence,” the last track, opens up with the same clicky noises from the last couple of seconds from the previous tracks, along with a field recording of a guy talking about his disbelief at the preacher's callings of the end of the world. After that follows some repeating droning noises for about two minutes, then silence. A slow and sad melody from the strings and concert bells then comes in for a while. This song is significantly longer than the previous two, so it takes a lot longer to pick up speed, which is something some people may not like that much.
However, around seven-and-a-half minutes, it starts to pick up with some fast drum patterns and bass along with a nice guitar melody. This part is also another fantastic crescendo that's much longer than the one in the second song, with the same type of intensity that gets you pumped up by how fast the drums are playing and the instruments following it. After that comes some heavily distorted singing filled with reverb that I can't really understand. Once all of that weirdness goes away, in comes the final crescendo, which is very epic and filled with a wall of sound on the right side, and tons of other instruments playing on the left. A collage of random sounds and drones finishes off the track. After about four minutes of silence, which I didn't really enjoy waiting through, a "hidden track" enters at the end to finish the album.
This album is just so good. Not only is it a great journey to go through, but the music is so unique and powerful for the listener too. Nothing like this has been made before, and it's such a hard feat to pull off. This album and the group are as much classical as they are rock. They are able to blend so many different styles of music together into a perfect composition that couldn't really be copied successfully back at that time in the ‘90s. In conclusion, I give this album a 9.5/10.
Ryan Dang works for the Sharp Park Library at home. Weird, right?