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File:Godspeed-You-Black-Emperor 7694.jpg
Godspeed You! Black Emperor [1] are a Montreal based symphonic post-rock band. They are known for their movement-based, side-length suites, inclusion of samples and field recordings, and employment of minimalism in their music.

Their music is also incredibly dark.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor released four albums (including a demo album) and an EP from 1994 to 2003 before splitting up, then reforming in 2010 to go on a reunion tour, and are reportedly working on new material.

The group's debut recording, All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling, was released in 1994 and limited to thirty-three copies on cassette. The group's label, Constellation Records, has one copy, but the location of the rest are unknown. Due to its rarity, it's a bit of a case of Dis Continuity with fans.

The follow up (generally considered to be their actual debut album), F# A# ∞ , was released in 1997 on vinyl and 1998 on CD. The two editions are notably different, the CD version is almost twice the length of the vinyl due to added, lengthened, and rearranged movements. It is considered by some a loose Concept Album about the apocalypse.

Godspeed would stick to the minimalist, dissonant style of F# A# ∞ for their breakthrough and magnum opus Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, a double album with four tracks. This style would be modified for their most recent record Yanqui U.X.O., produced by none other than Steve Albini.

Their best-known songs are probably “The Dead Flag Blues,” “East Hastings,” “Storm,” and “09-15-00” due to their use in films and television ("East Hastings" was notably used in 28 Days Later).

It's also worth noting that their music contains a strong political component. They have been repeatedly described in the media as anarchists, although apparently no one in the group has explicitly subscribed to this label. However, their music definitely articulates a strong anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist stance, which is even more explicit in sister band A Silver Mt. Zion (which contains several of the same members). That said, Efrim Menuck has said the band don't consciously try to be political, but simply write songs about the sort of things they talk about with their friends.


Band members:

  • David Bryant – Guitar, tapes
  • Efrim Menuck – Guitar, tapes, keyboards
  • Mike Moya – Guitar
  • Sophie Trudeau – Violin
  • Thierry Amar – Bass, contrabass
  • Mauro Pezzente – Bass
  • Bruce Cawdon – Drums, percussion
  • Aidan Girt – Drums, percussion

Honorary Members:

  • Karl Lemieux – Film, stage projections, art, etc.

Studio Albums:

  • F# A# ∞ (Pronounced 'F Sharp A Sharp Infinity,' 1997)
  • Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (2000)
  • Yanqui U.X.O. (2002)

EPs, singles, and other releases:

  • All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling (Demo, 1994)
  • aMAZEzine! 7” (1998, split single with Fly Pan Am)
  • Slow Riot For New Zerø Kanada (EP, 1999)

Tropes:

  • After the End: The monologue in “The Dead Flag Blues” describes this.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: They take their name from a 1970 black-and-white Japanese biker film.
  • Album Title Drop: A subtle one in F# A# ∞. Side A of the vinyl begins in the key of F#, side B begins in the key of A#, and the record ends in an infinite locked groove.
  • B Side: They contributed this to a split 7” single with fellow post-rock band Fly Pan Am.
  • Badass Long Hair: Efrim Menuck.
  • Big Rock Ending: “Providence,” following four minutes of silence.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Lift Your Skinny Fists is a relatively normal post-rock album, with the usual dark, movement-based suites and 20-minute tracks. Then, out of nowhere, this happens (0:00 – 1:14).
  • Broken Record: The loop at the end of the vinyl edition of F# A# ∞.
  • Concept Album: F# A# ∞ is considered this by some fans.
  • Cover Version: The very first movement of "Antennas to Heaven," "Moya Sings 'Baby-O'" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Mike Moya singing the folk song "What'll We Do With the Baby-O."
  • Crapsack World: The monologue that introduces “The Dead Flag Blues.”
  • Creepy Monotone:
    • “They had a large barge with a radio antenna tower on it, that they would charge up and discharge.” in the middle of “East Hastings.”
    • The opening monologue of “The Dead Flag Blues,” at least for the first few lines.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Averted completely. The band allow fans to tape and circulate their shows. It's also the only way to get "All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling", due to its limitation to thirty-three copies.
  • Dissonant Serenity: “The skyline looked beautiful on fire, all twisting metal stretching upwards, everything washed in a thin orange haze.” from “The Dead Flag Blues.”
  • Distinct Double Album: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven.
  • Dystopia: “The rivers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides. And a dark wind blows. The government is corrupt, and we're on so many drugs, with the radio on and the curtains drawn. We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.”
  • Echoing Acoustics: Common throughout F# A# ∞, but particularly “East Hastings.”
  • Epic Rocking: In spades. The shortest song on any of their official releases is the 11-minute “Moya”, from the Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP.
    • The "mere" 6-minute "9-15-00 (Part Two)" is also worth mentioning, but since it serves as the ending of a composition that totals 22 minutes, YMMV on whether or not this counts.
  • Excited Show Title
  • Eye Scream: “Every time the baby cries / I stick my fingers in the baby's eyes / That's what we do with the baby-o.”
  • Face of the Band: Even though he's not the frontman in the traditional sense, Efrim Menuck is the member that seems to get the most recognition.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: All the damn time, but especially “Providence.”
  • Instrumentals: Most songs, though many have spoken word.
  • Last-Note Nightmare:
    • The fly-like buzzing tone at the end of “East Hastings” is incredibly unnerving.
    • The lock groove at the end of the vinyl edition of F# A# ∞.
  • Long Title:
    • Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven.
    • All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling
  • Lyrical Dissonance: “Moya Sings Baby-O,” the first movement in “Antennas to Heaven,” features Mike Moya singing a jaunty, upbeat tune about throwing an infant into a hayloft, feeding it alcohol and stabbing its eyes out. The fact that it appears out of nowhere in the middle of a primarily instrumental symphonic post-rock record makes it all the creepier.
  • Mainstream Obscurity: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are the darlings of critics everywhere, but very few outside the fanbase have ever heard of them.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: All of their albums, but LYSFLATH and Slow Riot in particular.
  • Mistaken for Terrorists: During the 2003 Yanqui U.X.O. Tour in the US, the band stopped for fuel in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The station attendant working that day assumed they were terrorists, and got another customer to call the police. The cops were suspicious of the band due to their possession of anti-government documents and photos of oil rigs, communication towers, etc. After running a background check, all was well and they were released. The band sometimes joke about the incident at shows.
  • Mood Whiplash: “Moya Sings Baby-O,” the movement at the beginning of “Antennas to Heaven,” comes out of nowhere and is a jaunty little guitar song. About abusing an infant. Afterward, the songs shifts back into the expected dark, symphonic number.
  • New Sound Album: Yanqui U.X.O. lacks having clearly defined movements and the spoken word samples found on their other albums.
  • No-Hit Wonder: GYBE have only ever released one single, and it was distributed with a fan magazine. Despite this, they have a large fanbase and receive heaps of critical acclaim.
  • Not Christian Rock: Religion and the religious appear throughout their music, and the band have been known to play concerts in churches. However, they most certainly are not Christian rock.
  • Post Rock: One of the better known examples.
  • Precision F-Strike: The titles of All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling and “Motherfucker=Redeemer.”
  • Revolving Door Band: During the time period between All Lights and F# A# ∞, which led to recording difficulties.
  • Sampling: Loads of songs, but particularly “Storm,” “Providence,” and “Motherfucker=Redeemer.”
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Inverted. The band's music can be horrifying, but the band themselves are a bunch of polite Canadians.
  • Shout-Out: “BBF3” on Slow Riot features a poem supposedly written by an interviewee (the core of the song is the man's rambling responses to questions), which is actually made of lyrics taken from Iron Maiden's “Virus.”
  • Something Blues: Of the “Dead Flag” variety.
  • Song Style Shift: Very often.
  • Spoken Word in Music: 90% of their songs have this, including all of LYSF and F# A# ∞. Most notable would be “The Dead Flag Blues,” whose opening monologue describes a Dystopia that occurs After the End, “Static,” which has a long, rambling, insane sounding rant from a street preacher in it, “BFF3,” built around an interview, and “Motherfucker=Redeemer,” which (on the vinyl version) ends with a chopped-up speech from George W. Bush.
  • Stargate City: "East Hastings" is named for the skid road/Downtown Eastside district of Vancouver, known for its high concentration of drug use and being the poorest neighborhood in Canada.
  • Subdued Section: Every song has at least one.
  • Textless Album Cover: F# A# ∞, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, and Yanqui U.X.O.
  • The Bible: The cover art of Slow Riot is the Hebrew phrase "Tohu vaVohu," the state of chaos that the world was in before Creation in the book of Genesis, lifted directly from a Hebrew Bible (including the tonal diacritics for Torah reading).
  • Title Drop: “The sun has fallen down, and the billboards are all leering. The flags are all dead at the top of their poles.”
  • Wham! Line: “I open up my wallet. And it's full of blood.”
  • Wild Hair: Efrim Menuck.
  • Word Salad Title: All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling.

Notes

  1. (formerly Godspeed You Black Emperor!, often abbreviated to GYBE or GY!BE or shortened to Godspeed You!, and erroneously God Speed You Black Emperor!)
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