Godspeed You! Black Emperor are at it again. For the Canadian collective, their pioneering post-rock fusions of experimental rock, classical, drone, and dark ambient have proved timeless and impressive album after album – Luciferian Towers might not offer any sort of stark contrast to the band’s previous efforts, but it’s a continuation of similar formulas that proves that they haven’t lost their edge. Luciferian Towers might not be the group’s most innovative release, but it’s a project that only further cements Godspeed You! in the hall of fame among other contemporary post-rockers like Sigur Rós and Mogwai.
So much of Luciferian Towers’ driving forward momentum comes from its duality, the dichotomy between the hopelessly bleak and the hopefully energetic that pervades the undercurrents of every single composition. Opener Undoing a Luciferian Towers remains indecisive, revolving between moments of both despair and inspiration, while tracks like Bosses Hang, Pt. III form a distinctively upbeat and empowering counterpoint to the album’s more sombre points. Luciferian Towers blurs the lines between art and atmosphere, almost improvisational jam sessions turned droning soundscapes in the way the collective’s shadowy compositions simply swell and swell, ebbing and flowing, occasionally groaning under the weight of their own obese wall of sound.
It’s a grotesque image, sure, but it’s maybe the best way to describe the approach that Godspeed You! take on this album, with a swathe of instruments ranging from wailing bagpipes to distorted guitars and idle violins taking centre stage at some point or another. It might feel as though the collective has become caught up in their own neo-medieval sprawls of sound, and that might be true, but the textures and musical motifs that make up every piece remain distinct and unique, providing a sweet sense of distinctiveness be it the album’s two suites or two individual longer tracks. It’s the way these grandiose moments of warped sound conclude that’s the most disappointing – at times, these perhaps underdeveloped compositions seem to repeat and repeat, often cascading into nothingness or suddenly fading out rather than resolve satisfyingly. That’s not to say it’s not anticlimactic at all – but when Godspeed You! have mastered the buildup, balancing tensions left and right, it’s a shame that’s there not an equally powerful payoff.
Luciferian Towers far from matches the collective’s best efforts, especially when compared to something like Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, but it’s a solid offering and worthwhile listen for any longtime listeners or new fans of Godspeed You! While it may lack the same epic thematic undertones or lingering emotions stirred within the band’s best work, this album will likely prove difficult in disappointing audiences, perennial post-rock fans or otherwise.