Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (Album Review)


At this point Godspeed You! Black Emperor are known as a band who have made some of the best Post-Rock albums of the 2000s and perhaps some of the grandest in the genre. Early albums like 2000s ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’ have some of the most crushing and dramatic crescendos in modern music. Godspeed are on a bit of a second act of their career at the moment in terms of the time in which they’re active. Their last album ‘Hallelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ was their first in ten years and marked a triumphant return sounding as if they’d never even left us in the first place.

This is because Godspeed have never really attempted to change their sound in any drastic way. They always sound so distinctively like Godspeed. In many ways that hasn’t changed too much on their new album ‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’. Godspeed still sound distinctively like themselves. They’ve been playing this entire album as a singular piece called ‘Behemoth’ in their live shows for quite some time now. The biggest change for this album is that it’s their first single LP for 18 years running at 40 minutes compared to their double albums which normally go on for over an hour.

As a result of this there feels like there have been a couple of sonic changes to basically fit in with the album length. The album feels like one big piece and flows together more than other Godspeed albums. In many ways the album sounds like an extended version of one of the pieces what would have been taken from one of their old albums. Godspeed are going for a much more immediate approach on this album, relying more on guitars than the illustrious instrumentation of their previous albums. The opening track ‘peasantry or ‘Light Inside Of Light!” opens the album with their crushing guitars that sound somewhat inspired by the band Earth. It’s a sound reaching for the depths of evil in the midst of an apocalypse rather than finding the beauty and hope in humanity it like on their previous albums. They’re still using the same instrumentation and many of the same formulas as before, with there being some orchestration and strings gradually beefing up their sound about halfway through the piece. There’s also some Middle Eastern melodies that find themselves sprinkled into the mix like they always do.

The mid-section of this album ‘Lambs’ Breath’ and ‘Asunder, Sweet’ both act as pure atmospheric pieces enhancing Godspeed’s ability to make great drone music. ‘Lambs’ Breath’ is a piece that comes straight off the back of that crushing opening track and offers up and serenity in the wake of a storm. It’s a refreshing piece to begin with but unfortunately lingers on for slightly too long not building into anything in particular. ‘Asunder, Sweet’ livens up the album slightly as it sounds like it’s menacingly heading towards something spectacular with these strings building and building. These two pieces in the middle feel like they could have been condensed into one hell of a build-up track. The back-end of ‘Asunder, Sweet’ leads into the final track on the album so spectacularly that it’s such a shame that they didn’t have a bit more substance in the middle of the album.

The moment the deep pounding drums come in on ‘Piss Crowns Are Trebled’ it becomes evident that Godspeed are planning on leaving the grandest of their pieces to the end. The way they use their strings on this track are a lot more reminiscent of how they do traditionally on their old material but it doesn’t stop them from using those massive guitar riffs similar to the ones heard in the opening track to make it sound so chaotic. It may be one of the most tense songs in Godspeed’s discography with them again relying on their multiple crescendos that build and build with absolutely encapsulating results.

‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’ may be the shortest album in Godspeed You! Black Emporer’s discography and it may also be their least grand. There’s no giant statements to be found on this album and at times it feels like a fraction of what their album normally would be. But it is a short blast of Post-Rock beauty showing why they’re a band that still capture the hearts of so many people whenever they release anything. This is an album that strangely would have actually benefited from being even shorter and condensed in the middle. ‘ASaOD’ is their most flawed project yet, but is still an album fully worth your time.


Best Songs: Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside Of Light!’, Piss Crowns Are Trebles

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