On Sept. 21, Montreal-based music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor performed their fourth and final show at Theatre Paradoxe. The show benefited local charity organizations such as the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, SPCA Monteregie, and DESTA Black Youth Network. Mainly performing pieces from their 2015 album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, the band’s distinctive style was on display, culminating in a musical journey filled with characteristically loud, vibrating, chaotic buildups and sensitive, mellow chords.
After touring regularly between 1998 and 2002, the group took a lengthy hiatus before returning to the road again in 2010. In 2012, they released their fourth album, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, for which they won the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. Since their debut in 1994, the group has influenced a multitude of post-rock bands, including Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and Sigur Rós.
Even the most committed of Godspeed’s cult following tend to agree that Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress lacks in what the collective’s other albums, such as Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, accomplish musically. However, seeing their most recent songs performed live, the newest album stands up against the classics, mesmerizing the listener with thunderous buildups of terrifying, pulsing drums and brooding guitar riffs. Listening to the band’s intensely dramatic music while engulfed by the expansive architecture of the venue, a former historical church, was a journey amplified through such atmosphere.
The band played under minimalist red-tinted lighting, accompanied by projected visuals. The projections started with abstract images filtered through grainy film, and progressed to a loop of flocks of sheep, the same as pictured on the cover of Asunder Sweet and Other Distress. The themes of the video changed with each song but maintained the old film style. The projection journeyed through shots of skyscrapers, deer, stock market numbers and flocks of birds, coalescing in an abstract and emotionally charged representation of the music. Throughout the show, the thought-provoking imagery helped emphasize the political and anarchic undertones of the band’s often chaotic music. These undertones, normally hidden throughout voice samples within songs and on the back covers of their albums, bring forth another perspective to the harmonious cacophony of sounds that is Godspeed’s musical style.
Overall, the concert showcased Godspeed’s impeccable ability to draw listeners into their beautifully chaotic and heartbreaking melodies and textures. The experience of seeing Godspeed! You Black Emperor live pays off in both the visuals and the atmosphere, intensifying not only the dramatic and political undertones to the music, but amplifying the music as a mesmerizing emotional journey, a journey that ended humbly as each member, one by one, stepped off the stage to the final chord.