GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR
Warwick Arts Centre, Oct 22nd 2015
Louder, heavier, noisier, DRONIER … if those words go some way to describing how Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress compares to previous GY!BE records then those same words go all the way to describing Asunder live v Asunder studio: on stage, GY!BE 2015 are an electrified maelstrom.
At the start of the set, hope flickers. Literally. It’s the first word of the night but it’s unspoken, projected instead onto the film-shorts backdrop while the band file onstage one-by-one and take to their instruments – a violin two-bass two-drum three-guitar ensemble – to build that b.i.g. drone opener. This all happens without fanfare or salutations, like a choreographed rehearsal between long-term friends… if the crowd were absent, it would not matter.
Post HOPE, where do Godspeed take us? Far away from The Everyday Normal, that’s where. Asunder gets aired – Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’ and Piss Crowns Are Trebled are both heavier and hairier than you dare imagine – as does the madfuck spiral that is Mladic. And while there are moments of calm and light, as you’d expect, those moments are Flee Ting and Power Less in the face of the night’s amplifier overload. Strands of Sunn O))), Metal Machine Trio and Earth all push through in the drones and the noise, and though it’s pretty tough going at times, the reward – typified by Piss Crowns’ stupendous fuck-off-and-cry climax – are those surging crescendos and brink-of-collapse payoffs that Godspeed make their own.
So yeah, it’s an experience more than a gig, and if you want fanboy precision about tracks played then this review ain’t the place. All I wanna do, as a Godspeed-live first-timer, is somehow convey the thrill of the show: it IS heavy, it IS noisy, it IS intense, and it IS vast – the orchestral enormity conjured by just eight people defies belief.
When the whole thing ends – band members departing one by one, instruments left and locked in feedback harmony – there’s much to reflect on, not least the massive, near-physical power of music (when it’s in the right hands) and the transient chatter that passes for much of our day-to-day. Sometimes you need a break from life to get yourself realigned. Two hours of Godspeed will do that.
Seismic rock, visceral beauty. Nothing less.