Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

At last, one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year has arrived (official release Oct. 23), and music lovers, I mean true lovers of the most glorious music you’ll ever hear, rejoice. For Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven is two CDs, that’s 90 minutes, of some of the most powerful songs you’ll ever hear. This nine-piece Montreal band has put together a completely worthy follow-up to their Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP.
For those unaware of the phenomenon that is GYBE!, it is truly music that has to be heard to understand. But this obtuse group of musicians make crescendos of post-rock, post-orchestra music, all beautifully flowing and chock full of tolling crescendos, lilting horns and strings, driving percussion, and moments of almost inaudible quiet. And the occasional sample or vocal segment is thrown in more as another instrument in its inclusion. It’s beautiful, moving, powerful stuff that is better experienced than simply listened to. It’s the score to the opera in your head, the music of real life’s soundtrack. It’s quite honestly beautiful.
Things start out slow on the first of four tracks, “Storm,” but they build at a luxiourious pace so that the drums are crashing, the horns tolling, the guitars driving before you even realize it, and it’s been 5 minutes. And like a storm, things quiet, getting soft and subtle, sweet and simple, before finding a more moving rhythm. Things get a little spooky, intense and powerful, building and then dying, to be replaced by softness and distant recordings and the sounds of daily life. The piano comes in over these noises stark and chilling and leading into “Static.” This section starts off very ambient and atmospheric. A segment offers vocals over soft strings and stark quiet moments. I completely lose myself in the next segment, as the music flows and bobs along, the perfect background music that suddenly builds and explodes with almost violence and shrieking strings. From there, it goes on to the most rock-related that the band ever gets, the rhythm flowing perfectly and drums crashing, bass booming.
“Sleep” kicks off the second disc, and it starts a little differently, with a segment (“they don’t sleep anymore on the beach”) that uses vocals for a nice change-up. Again, the music builds slowly, with the drums building stronger and stronger over strings and soft, high-pitched effects. I love the soft acoustic guitar used on one segment, stark but sweet sounding. This is the strongest segment, riding a melodic wave of guitar and building and falling rhythm. These are also some of the most intense moments on these albums. And “Sleep” ends with some incredible rhythm and violin, almost with a rock feel and building to a powerful finale. “Antennas to Heaven” is the fourth and final track, and it starts with some deceptive country-style rock that fades out into a wash of noise that fades out with the sound of children singing in French. This segment has sudden changes, from all-out rock to almost imperceptible piano and silence. As it comes to a close, you hear drums and electric guitar, soft but steady, picking up the pace with determination.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! are one of those unique bands that fall between dozens of classifications but really cannot be classified. Their music is at times stark and beautiful, at others loud and powerful, and they are never traditional. Their newest album can almost be taken as one long, continuous work, flowing together flawlessly. It’s brilliant in my work and one of the most impressive albums of the year.