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Album review: Godspeed You! Black Emperor ascends sound with ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’

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 Rós.

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.

Grade: A

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