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Two Nights With Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Canadian collective gets massive at Mohawk

By Luke Winkie, 3:33PM, Thu. Oct. 11, 2012

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Wednesday at Mohawk
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Wednesday at Mohawk
photo by Sandy Carson

I saw more than a few of the same faces for Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Mohawk on Tuesday and Wednesday. A relentlessly enigmatic, fringe-politic Canadian post-rock collective, they've reunited and reconstructed after an abject decade for a fresh new LP and the same apocalyptic visage.

New album Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is only hours old and currently only purchasable from merch tables, but it already feels effortlessly substantial. Spend enough time tersely enigmatic and even the slightest reemergence will be treated as poetry.

They didn’t smile, these seven Black Emperors dressed down to reflect their moniker and back lit by projections of heavy machinery trudging through human debris, a scraggly “H-O-P-E” struggling through TV snow. All serious but unselfconscious, they didn’t even give us a nod. For the demographic worshiping at the many feet of the Montreal collective, all this crypto-drama was dissertation worthy. Remember, we're talking about a band that's compared commercial record labels to the Military Industrial Complex.

Naturally, none of that mattered in the face of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's musical siege.

Across both nights, they lurched into massive 20-minute movements, delivering massive 10-minute hooks, and massive five-minute intros and outros. Plenty of things move faster than Godspeed’s instrumental diminuendo and crescendo (continental drift, my girlfriend’s patience), but in simply letting the mountainous waves of sound further mash the humanity crammed into all three levels of the sold-out Red River venue, it was impossible not to be enthralled.

Guitars thundered like Ragnarok, while Sophie Trudeau’s violin sliced through the mix like it was fresh off the forge. We all know the tricks: start quiet, then loosen the Kraken. And yet the shrewdness of that strategy never depreciated over either of the band's two-hour sets. Gary Clark Jr. – just down the street at a packed Stubb's on Wednesday – couldn’t help but sound diminutive afterward.

Also last night, standing in front of me, there was a guy who looked normal enough, like he probably learned about Godspeed You! Black Emperor on a particularly adventurous night on the Internet. Opener “Mladic,” the first song on the new album, found him pumping his fists with every clatter, the sort of psychic intuition that leads to a biological obsession with a band.

As the set rose and fell, this dude ate and drank Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! became his new favorite record. This was the moment he’d been waiting for.

This was the moment Austin had been waiting for.

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