On its first studio album in 10 years, “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” the post-rock godfathers Godspeed You! Black Emperor return in rare form.
Formed in Montreal in 1994, the band spent the better part of a decade pushing sonic boundaries. With the apocalyptic drive of 1997’s “F# A# ∞” and the band’s other albums, the collective produced headphone-melting instrumental tracks, paving the way for bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Sigur RÃ³s.
But after 2002’s “Yanqui U.X.O.,” the group fell silent until 2010, when new tour dates were announced. Two years later, rumors of new material finally became a reality.
The four-track album “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” opens with a familiar sound from the band: a vocal sample, distorted and looped into a mantra. Opening track “Mladic” continues with some obvious Middle Eastern influence filtered through the band’s signature metal-infused noise.
As “Mladic” clocks in at around 20 minutes, listeners might initially find the album daunting. But the great thing about a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song has always been that, like Ohio weather, if you just wait a minute, it’ll change.
By the 10-minute mark of “Mladic,” what began as eerie and reserved has blasted off into the stratosphere with far-away licks and perfectly manipulated feedback. The track reaches a stunning climax. Rarely has the adjective “epic” felt more earned in modern rock.
The creeping, drone-based “Their Helicopters Sing” follows, leading into “We Drift Like Worried Fire,” another 20-minute piece. It’s more leisurely paced than its predecessor but still moves with a slowly building dread until strings begin to swell, coiling with distorted riffs that reach ever-upward.
“Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable” ends the record with another droning groove, leaving us delightfully off-balance.
With “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” Godspeed You! Black Emperor reclaims the post-rock throne by simply doing what it does best: making dense, complicated music of great tension and deep beauty.