Leonard Cohen’s voice is audible darkness. It’s beguiling. It’s bellowing. It’s mysterious. Otherwordly. Enchanting. Hypnotic. Transfixing. As time has weathered on, his voice has begun to sound more and more like the apocalyptic poet who narrates Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Dead Flag Blues.” Which is appropriate because so much of the 83-year-old’s work is imbued with religious iconography. There’s of course “Hallelujah” but also efforts such as “Tower of Song,” “Story of Isaac” and “Joan of Arc.”
While “You Want It Darker” continues the tradition, the song is far from some “sacred chord.” It’s unholy in its talk of being crucified and preyed upon by demons. Montreal’s Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir only take the proceedings further into the pitch-black heart of the night. Cohen’s asking the Lord to be dealt out of the hand he’s playing, though he sounds cleaved from God. He’s left all alone, invoking a sacred name to stark silence.
Cohen’s new record, You Want It Darker, is out Oct. 21 through Columbia.