The newest release from Canadian Post-Rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a refreshing return to form. Luciferian Towers is a tight group of songs that strays far enough from the trappings of hackneyed “crescendo-core” philistinism to be good, but doesn’t glance at the greatness of early GY!BE albums.
A pleasant symmetry is apparent from Luciferian Towers’ track listing; each side is opened with a roughly seven-minute song (“Undoing…” & “Fam/Famine”), and then transitions to a three part suite (“Bosses Hang” & “Anthem for No State”). Compared to their last album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, GY!BE finds a better blend of drone and development here. The songs all feel self-contained; the suites develop neatly and in good time.
The first track is certainly the most “Luciferian” of the bunch. Wavering guitars rise up and give way to sinister symphonic crescendos; tension builds constantly as new, increasingly hellish sounds find their way into the mix. The song resolves to the droning of a slow chorus, while the demonic sounds that have been developing scream on in the background. Of note is that, while the song never really reaches any notable crescendo, it has a peak near its ending, which proves a common theme on this album. Drone gives way to the chorus; the ethereal tones slowly resolve to more concrete sounds.
A similar story is seen on “Bosses Hang,” a triumphant march which feels reminiscent of an earlier GY!BE song, “Storm” off of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Gorgeously distorted guitars waver away throughout Pt. I. The tension fades for the start of Pt. II and slowly builds through Pt. III until a repetitive anthem of violins carries the song to an epic peak. Of any of the songs on Luciferian Towers, “Bosses Hang” is the most guilty of GY!BE’s endless crime of crescendo-fetishism. Regardless, the payoff feels appropriate for the effort that goes into building it through the early parts of the song.
Side 2 is similar. “Fam/Famine” is an eerie drone track layered with sounds that work against each other to build a sinister cacophony, behind which the song’s main melody lurks until it appears finally near the end. “Anthem for No State” is probably the best song on the album. The first two parts are delicate, airy, and mournful; the third is (rather predictably) a more concrete and dark display. A driving melody quickly resolves itself and pushes the track along, gathering strength but never really reaching any corny and extremely obvious crescendo.
Towers is an improvement over the band’s last release, but its scope pales to the sprawling albums that GY!BE put out in their infancy; even their 28-minute “Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada” EP felt somehow grander despite its brevity. Perhaps the lack of audio clips, a trademark of the band’s early albums, contributes to this. Nevertheless, fans of GY!BE will find a lot to like, here, as Luciferian Towers is the band’s most well-composed album in recent memory.