For many, ‘Storm’ was their introduction to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their first record, F♯ A♯ ∞ wasn’t exactly a smash hit, and didn’t exactly gain the group much notice upon release, but their second record, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven!, was the one that saw the group gain recognition from many mainstream music publications.
Godspeed are one of my favourite groups, and I’ve devoured their music voraciously ever since I discovered them in high school. Unlike most people, it wasn’t their second album that hooked me in, but their first. Its bleak imagery and stark instrumentals gave me a feeling of dread and hopefulness that had never been mixed that way before. I listened to more of their music as time went on, but surprisingly, their supposedly most accessible record was the one I had the hardest time getting into.
While that has since changed, and I love this record, it still isn’t my favourite within the group’s discography. However, it just takes one listen of the record’s opening track ‘Storm’ to be completely overtaken by an immense and confronting world, one that seems so confusing, yet alluring, and one that is so hard to decipher.
The record itself contains four tracks (the shortest of which is roughly 19 minutes), and within those tracks are smaller tracks, or ‘movements’. The album artwork provides a loose sense of a ‘listening’ order to the tracks, but this is obviously quite difficult and is usually only used as a guide for what is within the tracks, or how to get a general sense of the supposed underlying narrative.
While the opening movement of ‘Storm’ (‘Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven…’) provides an immensely hopeful feeling, one in which the future suddenly seems okay, the second movement (‘Gathering Storm/Il Pleut à Mourir [+Clatters Like Worry]’) brings forth the entire group into a rapturous cacophony of noise, almost emulating a jam-band of sorts from within their chosen genre.
The third movement(”Welcome to Arco AM/PM…’ [ L.A.X.; 5/14/00]’), is a field recording of a service station, and gives an almost human, yet severely isolated sense to the track. The recorded message’s plea to ignore any ‘non-uniformed personnel’ almost seems to be a commentary on how the homeless are treated. While possible, Godspeed aren’t exactly very clear with the meaning of their music, so this one is open to interpretation.
The track’s final movement (‘Cancer Towers On Holy Road Hi-Way’) is a lonely, sparse piano solo accompanied by an unknown, distorted speech from… someone. The final movement actually sounds like something taken straight from the recording sessions of A Silver Mt. Zion’s first record, He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms…, which had been released only six months prior, and features members of Godspeed.
Like with anything Godspeed You! Black Emperor do, everything is open to interpretation, however the raw emotion and dark, sinister feelings present within their music are always available to provide the listener with an experience they will likely never forget.