If you've never heard any of Godspeed's music before, they sound exactly like their name suggests. Lengthy, complex and multi-faceted, the Montreal-based band's music has been huge in the underground scene even since the release of their 1997 debut LP F#A#∞, a sprawling epic of bleakness and despair appropriately referred to as the 'soundtrack to the apocalypse'.
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is the band's 5th studio album, coming off a semi-comeback album Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! in 2012. The whole album is apparently the final product of a huge track called 'Behemoth' which the band have been playing and fine-tuning for a while in live shows. And Asunder, Sweet surely is a behemoth, with lengthy guitar movements and drones with slight influences from sludge metal and shoegaze.
The first track 'Peasantry or Light Inside of Light!' immediately starts off with a bang, something quite unheard of from a band known for its slow build-ups, like the famous soliloquy of hopelessness from 'The Dead Flag Blues'. Perhaps this is because of the short length of the album. Clocking in at around forty minutes, this is the shortest LP the band has released. Starting with slight drums to a persistent layer upon layer of wailing guitars, the track starts to feel like noise rock when it quickly switches to a long guitar solo, another uncharacteristic move from the band. The end of the track sounds almost ballad-like with the accompanying strings, feeling more like a visceral and bittersweet end to a film where the hero gives up his life, and this is just the first song.
The energy simmers down in the next two tracks, titled 'Lamb's Breath' and 'Asunder, Sweet' respectively. These bring forth a tonal shift from the first song and represent in many ways the overall sound of the album. The two tracks feature lengthy drone passages akin to those in the band's preceding album Allelujah! The second track 'Lamb's Breath' directly references the album art, which is of a group of lambs quietly grazing in a meadow while something menacing looks upon them through the bushes. This track feels otherworldly and almost alien with random electronic sounds piercing through the long drawn-out drone. It seamlessly flows into 'Asunder, Sweet' and you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking at the track lengths. 'Asunder, Sweet' is basically a continuation of “Lamb's Breath” only more glitchy and less coherent. The songs together invoke a feeling of constant dread and apprehension, as if something terrible is coming your way and there's no time to step away.
All of this finally flows into the fourth and final track, which has a weird title we can't print. In an album filled with experimentation, this track is classic Godspeed. Starting off with much more prominent percussion accompanied by distant violin, leading into the heavy guitar distortions, this song just keeps on building up and up this wall of noise that never lets up throughout the 14 minutes of its duration. It serves as a visceral and passionate climax to the end of a powerful album.
Overall Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress lacks an overarching theme, but it is still very good and competent music. A worthy addition to the band's already impressive discography.