Walking into the high-ceilinged, multi-tiered expanse that is the Brighton Dome, the most striking realisation is that it appears to be the perfect venue for Canadian post-rock behemoths Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The fact that it bears more resemblance to a church than a traditional music venue is rather fitting for a band who, similarly, create music which often feels closer to a religious experience than a purely musical one. This, coupled with the outfit’s reputation for their uniquely intimate live performances, makes the prospect of the next two hours an enchanting one.
Sonically the band’s performance is sublime. A lineup which consists of three guitarists, two bassists, two percussionists and a violinist inevitably runs the risk of sounding like a cacophonous mess. Yet the Dome’s perfect acoustics complement the searing melodies and gut-trembling drones the band craft throughout. The way each song gradually sprawls from pin-drop silence to sheer apocalyptic noise gives the evening a surreal atmosphere, and the mixing of all the instruments is almost perfect. Not only does this allow each crescendo to reach its gargantuan potential, but the band predictably draw these crescendos out to their absolute peak. This makes moments like the synchronised riffing in opener ‘Mladic’ and the surging climax of outro ‘BBF3’ completely mesmerising.
However it’s the middle section of the set which takes the gloss off the evening. The ordering of songs in the setlist is slightly puzzling; the band opt to sandwich the newly-released Luciferian Towers in between the aforementioned ‘hits’, but shift the track order slightly. This new version sees the two long tracks played consecutively before the two ‘transition’ drones, and the problem arises when the drone section therefore lasts at least fifteen minutes. The construction of the drone itself isn’t engaging enough to warrant this length, the peaks of intensity seeming to flicker without fully coming to fruition. This takes the momentum right out of the show; after ‘Hope Drone’ has already served as the build up to the set and ‘Mladic’ launches the band into full-throttle, the relatively more uneventful offerings of ‘Bosses Hang’ and ‘Anthem for No State’ slow the set down to a crawl. Adding the fifteen minutes of drone after these songs takes the spring almost-completely out of Godspeed’s step, to the point where even the universally-loved ‘BBF3’ isn’t quite enough to fully compensate for it.
The way each song gradually sprawls from pin-drop silence to sheer apocalyptic noise gives the evening a surreal atmosphere…
Since Godspeed last visited the Dome in late 2015, the world seems to have changed dramatically, and it would seem that the intent of Luciferian Towers as an album is to reflect that change. Contextually it is possibly Godspeed’s most scathing album since their debut, and so it’s just as well that, tonight, the band sound heavier than they ever have done. However it can’t be denied that there is a slight feeling of disappointment in the air due to the mystifying setlist decision. The middle section ultimately feels too bloated, meaning that the climax of the show doesn’t quite hit as hard as it should. Still, seeing a band like Godspeed is a unique experience in the sense that, even at their worst, they’re still have enough breathtaking moments to make the evening worth it.
Words by Lewis Edwards