Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

Every year when the Polaris Music Prize long list is announced, I always wonder what albums would have won the award if the prize existed before 2006. Would The Tragically Hip have won for one of their many well received, and fan-adored albums? Would Sloan have won for Twice Removed?

Thinking back there are albums that I am convinced would have won, among them is Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 2000 released Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven – an album that most post-rock fans would argue is close to perfection. Needless to say, I am not surprised that Godspeed is getting the recognition they deserve by being included on this year's Polaris Prize long list.  

After an eight year hiatus, in the fall of 2010 Godspeed announced that they would be touring North America. For a lot of fans the tour was the very first time they would see Godspeed perform live. Playing to sold out venues across the country, fans not only heard their favourite Godspeed tracks from their small catalogue of albums, but also got to hear two new songs, which have actually been in their repertoire since 2003. When the release of 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! was announced it was refreshing to know that the new songs that were performed wouldn't have to remain a distant memory, but instead could be played over and over again.

The new album is not the group's best work, but it does fulfill the criteria of what is expected of the band. The two previously performed songs that appear on the album are both 20-minutes in length, which is a common characteristic of Godspeed recordings. Both the tracks combine lush strings, simple guitars riffs and heavy bass to create a sound that is both startlingly loud and melodic. 

The opening track “Mladic” starts out quietly with a distorted audio sample, and slowly builds into the trashing sound of drums. This is, by far, the band's heaviest song to date. But as expected by Godspeed, the heaviness peters out and the song ends with a sound that is still fresh in the minds of all Montrealers – the clatter of pots and pans from the 2012 student protests. 

The second song fans recall from Godspeed's recent tour is called “We Drift Like Worried Fire”. This track sounds like it could have been written alongside their 2002 album Yanqui U.X.O. The song starts out with a repetitive guitar riff, over which other elements are slowly added until the song reaches the peak of noisiness. From that point, the song ebbs back into a quiet section, only to break out once more in overwhelming melodic noise. This pattern repeats itself for a glorious 20 minutes of post-rock bliss. 

Also included on the album are two significantly shorter tracks that the band refrains from calling songs and instead refers to them as drones. This is probably the best description, since they both lack a recognizable melody. Considering these two songs are the only new material on the album, I wonder if this is the direction Godspeed is going. Will the days of long, complicated, multi-part songs be reserved to Godspeed's past? I hope not, because quite frankly the two drones included on the album sound more like filler than finished songs. 

Like any Godspeed fan, my response to the new album is perhaps a bit unreliable. It is hard to put aside my excitement of finally having a new Godspeed album to listen to after patiently waiting almost a decade. The album has a comfortable, familiar sound that I can't help but love. I just hope that the new album is an indication that Godspeed is here to stay.