Owned since: 2011
Genre: Industrial Metal
Where I bought it: Roadburn Festival Tilburg
Year: 1988 (remastered 2008)
Label/pressing: Kreation Records
Normally, around April in a city near me a thing called the Tilburg Roadburn Festival happens. Among the biggest alternative ‘cool metal’ festivals in the world, an endless avalanche of metal hipsters mostly. Also insane lineups, even though in the last 5 years I’ve found myself skipping it a fair bit because my taste is edging even less toward metal than it did before. But I’ve attended it a lot, the editions from 2008 to 2016 fully or a couple days and then 2017 and 2019 before everything went to shit. There is nothing like it, honestly, the city center gets taken over by an endless parade of bearded people, patches and a lot of black clothing. All the venues get used and are swamped, bands reunite and bands do their last hurrah. It’s a scene I kinda love and hate, because if there is a scene that is obsessed with snobistic attitude and gatekeeping, it’s the metal scene.
I’ve never really been into the scene anyway, always leant more to Hardcore Punk then metal but whatever. Do not care about whatever project St. Vitus is doing this year, just give me the good stuff. Luckily, they really started to diversify their booking a lot more in recent years, which leads to me seeing some things I’d have never seen otherwise like Young Widows and Current 93. I can’t even start with everything I saw there, but one of the biggest things for sure is Godflesh straight out of their Hellfest reunion show in 2010.
Godflesh has always been a very important band to me, there is honestly nothing like them. Justin Broadrick and G. C. Green’s industrial metal band hit the weird midway between crust-punk, making breathing room for emotion beside despair and nihilism. There is a reason Streetcleaner cover art is the still of the burning crosses from Ken Russel’s bizarre Altered States. But, poorly, I don’t own Streetcleaner on vinyl and I’m covering the band’s debut ep this week.
Poorly is a bit of a word for it honestly, because for a debut the self-titled effort makes its mission statement straight out of the door. Drum computers, Green’s chugging raw bass and Brodrick’s forever feedbacking guitar sound like a bulldozer on Avalanche Master Song. Heavy grade nihilism and then Brodick’s hoarse screaming vocals still need to kick in, singing about the world being a horrible place and you only need to fight for yourself. If you thought his previous band Napalm Death weren’t rays of sunshine Godflesh makes them seem like Belle & Sebastian. It’s so easy to again make a reference to heavy machinery here, but it’s just how Godflesh sounds honestly. A machine endlessly pumping, creaking and clashing; metal against metal on near deafening levels without any moment of silence or breathing room .
Like a machine it’s absolutely monotone also. Godflesh’s big ‘problem’ always been variety with their stuff early on, and when they tried to spice up their sound a bit from the Slavestate EP onward with electronics and samples. But this is very much still the most raw form of the band in the worst and best way. 6 songs that nearly fill a full length album of the same chugging monotone is great when the monotone is infectious, but not great for you in the long run. But fucking hell, is it a great sound and one that holds up so tremendously well to this day.
I’ve always kinda checked out of Godflesh after the quite different but still excellent Selfless which saw them lose some of their edges, but overall the band never did a bad record. They also added a real drummer later on and a second guitarist. Even Songs of Love and Hate, which sees the band sounding quite a bit like Helmet and the like, but never losing their own sound is an interesting record which are also the first showcases of the insanity of Brodrick’s future projects in hip hop/beatwork music with Kevin Martin of the Bug.
One of my biggest discoveries of the last years is how good their last record of their original run is. Hyms is the freshest the band sounded since Streetcleaner and is in a lot of ways a study for Brodrick’s follow up project Jesu, which is named after a track on this. It’s a lot more introspective and while it still has the machine-like quality of early Godflesh, it’s all put in a more diverse setting. A great record that often gets overlooked.
The band split soon after, and reunited with the original lineup of Broadrick & Green mostly to play Streetcleaner live. Which was absolutely great to see two guys on a massive empty stage play such a massive record because, boy, the band looks like two nice dads on a hiking trip more than as a punishing industrial metal band. But the absolute highlight of seeing the band live was at the infamous 2012 Dour festival, where after a ton of rain the field was nearly all mud and on the third day of the insanity there is no more welcoming sound then Godflesh launching into Like Rats the moment you walk into a tent.
Fuck it, I’ve got nothing else. Listen to Godflesh, listen to Streetcleaner, listen to this EP, listen to goddam everything