Some might argue that what makes a song political is the message that lies within in its lyrics; it must be a clear call for change, a clear mockery of the establishment, of a corporation, of a politician, of anything affecting yourself or your neighbour, pushed into three or four verses and a chorus.
It would seem impossible then that instrumental music could ever to push those buttons, could ever force its listeners to think outside their own bubble or make a listener feel uncomfortable with bold statements of belief. The burning question would be, how can you write a message into a melody? Canadian rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been doing just that for the past 20 years. Since their debut F#A# back in 1996 and right throughout their discography, Godspeed have channelled tension, discontent, fear and doubt within their droning, challenging pieces of music. Most notably in their 2000 now seminal album Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven which to this day is still one of the most revered albums in the genre.
With their 2012 comeback album, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! which came after a ten-year album hiatus marked by the release 2002’s Yanqui U.X.O, the band returned to form and exploded back into the world, bearing their teeth just as ferociously as when they left it. Now in 2017, the band have released their 3rd album since reforming, Luciferian Towers.
Luciferian Towers can’t be taken as anything other than a response to the issues we face today. Godspeed themselves accompanied the album with a “list of demands” including healthcare, housing, food and water as an “inalienable human right” as well as that the “expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again”. For a band without a singer, Godspeed have a voice that’s hard to ignore. Opener Undoing a Luciferian Towers right from the get-go is filled with tense drones, squealing guitars and in your head, you can’t help but imagine this being a soundtrack to a revolution. One can imagine band leader Efrim Menuck planning a revolution with the rest of the members. This track smoothly rolls into the three-part piece Bosses Hang.
Part I of this track is so incredibly triumphant with this huge refrain of violins and swooping guitars. If Undoing A Luciferian Towers was the planning of a revolution, then Bosses Hang pt.1 is the metaphorical storming of the Bastille. The whole three-part piece constantly builds and releases tension in such a way that it is unavoidable to not feel empowered by the total upheaval the artists wish for. It also shows a refreshing approach taken to the writing of the album, especially in the build-up to the finale of Part III which sees drummer Aidan Girt playing a beat a 4/4 punching drum beat, before the whole band crashes back to the incredible refrain that holds up these three parts.
The Final piece for the album comes in the form of Anthem For No State. Broken into three parts as well, the first two being much more sombre numbers. Slow guitars and violins swirl around each other building this slow-burning atmosphere, its a perfect ‘calm before the storm’ as Anthem For No State Pt. III is like the rebuilding of an empire. Godspeed throughout the album have torn apart everything they can’t stand about society and in this final thunderous movement they are rebuilding and reshaping it into the world spelt out in the demands set out from the beginning.
Luciferian Towers is the strongest record yet since the reforming of the band. Even after so long, the band can still release an album that’s fresh and powerful. And they show yet again that their ability to reflect the times in their music has only grown.