It’s been five years since we last had a glimpse into the psychedelic world of The Besnard Lakes. After the relatively accessible A Coliseum Complex Museum, the band have returned, fresh from a label split, with a full album suite that one can only imagine they’ve been destined for their entire career. It’s a remarkable 72-minute piece of music centring on mortality and the feelings both before death and after death. Indeed the album is broken-up based on the sides of the LP (Near Death/Death/After Death/Life), but if you thought this was going to be a dirge-like journey then you’d be so, so wrong.
The topic of …The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is full of the strongest kinds of emotions, which makes it the perfect theme to be tackled by such a grandiose and evocative band. It’s odd to think that an album influenced by death has bought an element of ‘life’ to The Besnard Lakes, but that’s the case here. There seems to be an element of renewal and reinvigoration on the album, especially in comparison to the band’s previous two releases.
For a start the songs are longer than usual for the band, and while this could signal overindulgence with a whole load of filler there’s not much in these songs. Instead, The Besnard Lakes use the opportunity of longer song structures to not only cram in a whole range of emotions, but also to linger on them, allowing them to permeate through the soul; the band doesn’t just make you feel these emotions, they make you live them too.
It’s remarkable to listen to as the album meanders through those emotions with such attention to detail. On “The Dark Side of Paradise” (part of the ‘Death’ mini suite) the almost ethereal feeling is tempered by a haunting undercurrent as the song enters its second half. “Christmas Can Wait” (Part of the ‘Near-Death’ mini suite) transitions halfway through from something resembling a dream-like state to something very, very real, which is done purely through instrumentation with drums crashing into focus and seemingly acting as a wake-up. The driving nature of “New Revolution” gives the distinct impression of someone or something moving forward. It’s not explicit at first what these moments, and so many others, are portraying, but they’re executed with such grace and care that by the end of the first listen it’s not a stretch to imagine their nature.
There is no revolution on …The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings, no reinvention of The Besnard Lakes’ wheel. In style, tempo and production this is exactly what you would expect from them which, given the band is approaching the 20 year mark, could be a hurdle. This is no paint-by-numbers affair, however. A highlight of any Besnard Lakes album has always been in the suspense, the anticipation of a song roaring into life at any second; or a delicate moment following something far louder that somehow matches the intensity of what has come before. This quality is in abundance on …The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings. It’s an evocative thrill ride and a captivating rumination on mortality that also asks questions of life afterwards. It isn’t an easy listen but it’ll soon become something you’re drawn towards time and time again.