Godspeed You! Black Emperor released a new LP, Luciferian Towers, the band’s sixth, today on Constellation Records and, while it’s certainly far from a dud, it sounds like the Montreal crescendo-rock ensemble is spinning in circles instead of moving forward in any tangible direction. Why? The buzz is gone from the reunion LP (2012’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!) and the first “new” LP they wrote together post-reunion (2015’s Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress), and all we’re left with is a handful of songs that, fidelity aside, could’ve been recorded by them in 1997.
It’s not bad. It’s just not great. I – and, I presume, others – simply were expecting more. Where is the terror? Where is Lucifer’s fury? To what end have we not followed the darkness?
For some, this is as bit of a blessing. Sure, sure. Godspeed You! Black Emperor always has had an invigorating, signature sound – when I saw them live at Knitting Factory NYC 17 years ago, I felt like I was run over by a train – and the new record sounds big (“Bosses Hang Pt. I”) and hits hard (the very engaging “Anthem For No State Pt. III”). There are good moments herein, without question.
But what Luciferian Towers is lacking is the kind of progression that gets people to want to follow bands in the first place for 20-odd years. I mean, hell, even GY!BE side-project Silver Mt. Zion sounded different on He Has Left Us Alone than it did on “This Is Our Punk Rock” three years later.
The fact that the title track, which opens the record, is a take-it-or-leave-it affair is not a good harbinger of what follows. Things get cooking on the “Bosses Hang” trilogy – the epic pieces are split here, without disruption, into shorter tracks – and, though “Fam/Famine” doesn’t really take listeners anywhere, the group makes up for it with the big, closing “Anthem For No State” trilogy. Guitars soar, strings weep, drums pounce. But, ultimately, the proceedings are far from inspiring and, for a group that’s as accomplished as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, that sadly is saying a lot.