Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s seventh album ‘G_d’s Pee AT STATE’s END’ is the soundtrack to a society on the edge of all-out war, of the push-and-pull between total doom and inextinguishable hope for something better. “This record is about all of us waiting for the end,” the Montreal experimentalists say in their manifesto. “All current forms of governance are failed. This record is about all of us waiting for the beginning.”
It’s comprised of two monolithic 20-minute medleys and two six-minute tracks, the shorter pieces opposite images of one another. The first, ‘Fire At Static Valley’ is a great, churning battle march that sounds almost medieval, a colossal drone backed by a slow, ominous bass drum. The second, ‘OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.)’ is gorgeous, with rich, sorrowful strings rising above a great whirl of overwhelming static, like being airlifted out of a forest fire. The first is among the darkest things Godspeed have ever recorded, the second among the most beautiful.
Where the two shorter pieces encapsulate the different sides of an apocalyptic war, the medleys are battlegrounds all in themselves. The first opens with the sound of gunfire and military orders crackling through nauseous static, conjuring a surreal and terrifying headspace. A massive, droning riff soon emerges, its boldness cutting through the gloom like a call to arms. This becomes transcendent, picking up a gorgeous countermelody of strings along the way, until it finally subsides and leaves you in a whirling aftershock, birds singing as guns continue to blare in the background.
The second longer piece begins on an even grimmer note. Ominous fragments of speech emerge through what sounds like a muffled radio: “I’ve always tried to be a pretty good guy, but I’m just not gonna be treated like this,” says one, recalling the rhetoric of pro-Trump militias. That menace only mutates as the static builds into an enormous, lurching noise. But then after a rare moment of calm, an altogether different crescendo takes over. Suddenly all that dread is flipped on its head. The quaking riffs suddenly feel righteous, their energy lifted by tiny little notes of glockenspiel, as the tempo slowly ratchets up until it’s a thrilling rush of electrifying energy.
‘STATE’S END’ is a tumultuous record for tumultuous times, but there’s a piece of galvanising beauty for every moment of crushing dread. For all the gunshots and explosions in the background, there are church bells and birdsong too. Godspeed’s new album articulates dark times, but it also presents the countermovement with breathtaking power.
Release date: April 2
Record label: Constellation