The goal of Godspeed You! Black Emperor has always been the same: they’re not here for your happiness, they’re here for your enlightenment. Since their ominous and apocalyptic debut, F# A# ∞ (1997), the band has spent the last twenty-five years prophesying demonic futures—and in many ways, presents—of over-industrialized wastelands and establishment-led destruction. “Pessimistic” would be an apt descriptor of the band’s expectations for today’s world, but then again, that’s kind of the point. The Canadian ensemble gets to live these scenarios so we recognize our errors and don’t have to.
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is a game-changer. Sure, we’re still met with twenty-minute movements of drone and bass; yes, we’ll have to overcome some bitter, uncomfortable sections; and in the words of the band, it’s also about a world where “all other forms of governance are failed.” But in this timeline, change is possible and glowing over the horizon. Past projects created otherworldly walls halting progress. Now, they’re just obstacles to be overcome.
The record patiently begins with a cluster of radio waves and inaudible voices on “Military Alphabet.” This barrier, though small—lasting only the first two minutes—creates an image of travel; as if you’re going to visit this vast and empty plane. Those muffled voices are just out of reach; the field of echoing static begins to surround you until you finally find signs of life in the arms of their longing drones. G_d’s Pee consistently comes back to this suffocating strategy, forcing its audience into a desperate situation, clamoring until they can grasp onto a single ray of hope. But just like in life, the emotional lows amplify each victory you see, each positive thought. We become thankful when we come from nothing, and that’s what we’re given for a lot of the record—if not something much worse.
Like any other venture through Godspeed’s discography, G_d’s Pee requires patience. The desolate and repetitive intro to “Job’s Lament” becomes a breath of fresh air after the the ensuing battle that follows it. The anxious, heightened guitars that transition to “First of the Last Glaciers” are appreciated much more during the lonely and suspenseful “where we break how we shine.” Each track provides a context for the next; and vice versa, with each movement, each moment often clashing with the last. Yet, despite its interconnectedness, it flows less like water, and more like connect-the-dots.
G_d’s Pee, like with its introduction, consistently find moments to insert small interludes that help break up the narrative it’s constructing. The aforementioned “where we break how we shine” comes after a valiant fifteen minute effort full of heart and perseverance. “GOVERNMENT CAME” re-ushers in the haunting radio waves and intro riff, almost like a new beginning. And “Fire at Static Valley” is the dramatic and melancholy orchestral section to tie the pieces together. Rather than weaken the emotional moments through separation, the fractured approach just tells a fractured story—one of uncertainty. In many ways, G_d’s Pee demands bravery from its audience to push through the scrambled thoughts it navigates.
But Godspeed’s latest effort concludes in—dare I say—the most satisfying outro in the band’s history: “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.).” At the end of all the storylines, the diverging paths, the walks with nothing but you and the Earth, that desperate need for hope is finalized. In a singular motion, the longing drones that once acted as minimal signs of life translate to sentimental strings capable of leveling buildings. After the multiple hells you just witnessed, it’s hard to not sigh of relief when it’s all over.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the now-seventh entrance in the discography of Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a long and daunting journey. Each and every record of theirs thus far has forced its audience into similar scenarios. But for once, we get to see it to the end. After forty-five minutes of begging, hope prevails, but without undermining the individual moments that led us there. If you’re like me, the first seven tracks may just keep you intrigued, but the eighth is standing their, ready to hit you with a right hook that’ll make all of their whiffs feel like hits. Maybe it’s the endless, exhausting jog through COVID, but few moments have hit me that hard.