Essential New Music: Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!”

Perhaps the most common running line about Godspeed You! Black Emperor is that its mighty, caustic brand of rock music is best heard as the definitive soundtrack to some imagined apocalypse. It’s quite a far cry from the starry-eyed, vaguely pleasant sounds of Sigur Rós and Explosions In The Sky, two acts, like Godspeed, often lumped in with the rest of the general “post-rock” set. The members of this Montreal collective have long insisted—albeit in their signature, almost fully instrumental fashion—that they’re instead interested in more tangible points of reference Namely: austerity, collective power and hope.

It comes as no surprise, then, that G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!, recorded during the most austere year in modern history, is Godspeed’s most direct album in some time. The LP distills everything that makes the band’s work so essential into arguably its best outing since 2000 hallmark classic Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven.

G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! features two 20-minute tracks—presented in typical, widescreen-set styling—along with two shorter pieces. Though Godspeed has previously issued records in a similar format—post-hiatus releases ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (2012) and Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress (2015), both of which included relatively brief drone tracks that acted as segues into the band’s signature crescendos—the two shorter pieces here (“Fire At Static Valley” and “Our Side Has To Win (For D.H.)”) recall some of the band’s best work (“Providence” and “She Dreamt She Was A Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone In An Empty Field”). And yet they also play more like songs than ambient interludes.

The two long-form tracks here (“A Military Alphabet (Five Eyes All Blind) [4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz]” and “Government Came (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz)”) also recall the group’s strongest moments, finding Godspeed as direct as ever, all molten guitars and cranked string section. “Government Came” (informally referred to and road-tested as “Cliffs”), in particular, is a career highlight, catching Godspeed in optimum, laser-focused form, capping off with one of the most intense peaks of the band’s career.

—Mohammad Choudhery