Godspeed You! Black Emperor

G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is a reminder that, at the end times, what will matter is how we persevered and pulled one another up when the forces of evil and tyranny tried to keep us down.

It should come as no surprise that Godspeed You! Black Emperor ends up being the band that best captures the past year of fear, panic, malaise, and suffering. Who else has as much experience and practice as the loose ensemble who, for the last twenty-five years, has been ringing panic bells and people’s ears with their exquisite protest noise? 

By now, we’ve all felt it: the encroaching sense of doom waiting for the latest case counts, untangling the restrictions and instructions on how to keep ourselves and each other safe while everything is crashing and burning around us. For much of their career, Godspeed You! Black Emperor has translated that angst, anger and human ache into epic post-rock symphonies, fueled by fire and rage as much as sound and noise. 

Their seventh suite, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!, was forged at the height of COVID fever and fervour. “we wrote it on the road mostly. when that was still a place,” the band explains in their signature lowercase style, “and then recorded it in masks later, distanced at the beginning of the second wave. it was autumn, and the falling sun was impossibly fat and orange. we tried to summon a brighter reckoning there, bent beneath varied states of discomfort, worry and wonderment.” The result is described as the band’s angriest, most impassioned — and most resonant, beautiful, and hopeful — record yet. G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is melodic and mournful, elegiac and exuberant. That ferocity and fieriness explodes on “Job’s Lament” and “First of the Last Glaciers,” the second and third movements of the opening suite. It feels as if first-time GYBE producer Jace Lasek has rubbed off on the band, the tracks’ soaring guitar riffs and cinematic scale rivalling the prettiest moments of Lasek’s most recent work with the Besnard Lakes. 

And that is a word I never thought I’d write in a Godspeed You! Black Emperor review: pretty. But there it is, blossoming like a flower blooming out of scorched earth on “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.),” whose melancholic strings vibrate with a preternatural beauty. It’s as if the melody is tenuously grasping onto its very existence, like it could easily tumble into oblivion, never to be heard again. It’s an aching coda to a triumphantly tragic symphony. Winning wars comes at a cost; they always do. And though this war we’re collectively battling shows us no mercy, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is a reminder and lesson to us all that, at the end times — of our individual lives or the very existence of humanity itself — what will matter is how we persevered and pushed our way through the mire, how we pulled one another up when the forces of evil and tyranny tried to keep us down.