The last time Godspeed You! Black Emperor played Edinburgh was in 1998, when the Quebec-sired nontet played only their second ever UK show at the tiny Stills Gallery on Cockburn Street at the behest of the short-lived but pioneering leftfield music promoters, The House of Dubois. Given the explosive nature of the band's extended strings and guitar-led instrumentals, the venue's private view size speakers were duly blown, though not before neighbours alerted the local constabulary regarding the impending apocalypse below.
Seventeen years on, not much has changed with Godspeed's template. As the now eight-piece ensemble of two bassists, two drummers, three guitarists and lone fiddler Sophie Trudeau gradually flesh out an opening violin and bass motif, there's still the same scratched-out projections with the word 'Hope' on it that top and tails an epic two-hour suite of slow-burning thunder that move between the martial and the mournful. Sat in a circle, heads bowed in concentration, they breathe flesh
and blood onto this year's album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, their fifth, which they play in full sandwiched between older material.
While at times harder, less nuanced and more macho than of old, there remains a raw emotional pulse that sounds like the band that spaghetti western soundtracker Ennio Morricone and Estonian composer Arvo Part might have formed if they'd been raised on Black Sabbath wig-outs and Jewish and Catholic ritual. At moments it sounds like a ceilidh at the end of the world, at others a furious purging. They depart as they came, one by one, leaving a looped cacophony which eventually
gives way to a raging calm.
The Herald, October 27th 2015