Godflesh

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Selfless

Godflesh - Selfless ©1994 Earache/Columbia
1. Xnoybis
2. Bigot
3. Black Boned Angel
4. Anything Is Mine
5. Empyreal
6. Crush My Soul
7. Body Dome Light
8. Toll
9. Heartless
10. Mantra
11. Go Spread Your Wings

If there is one band that should define the critic-invented term "Industrial Metal", it should be Godflesh. Their thick, ominous sound has the feel of an early 20th century steel factory, churning out blistering slabs of molten material with all the heart and warmth of a robber baron. Godflesh is the epitome of uneasy listening, which is probably why despite first hearing them nearly twenty years ago, I have yet to actually try reviewing any of their material. Granted, there are many bands out there who are more abusive, harsh and grating, but Godflesh contained a certain level of musical alienation that set them apart. Perhaps that had to do with bandleader Justin Broadrick's occasional problems with anxiety and depression over the years. I have not come to make light of his ailments, but it stands to reason that elements of his inner turmoil have led to my apprehension for all things Godflesh.

Ironically, Selfless has been called Godflesh's "rock and roll" record, which really stretches the definition of that term. There's no Chuck Berry or even AC/DC to be found here. However, the music has a touch more hospitality towards the ear. It's sort of like being strangled by a grizzly bear. But regardless of the "warmth" of Selfless, Godflesh still layers it on like a thick wool blanket on a hot summer day. It's a hard album to feel completely comfortable while playing. Why is this Justin Broadrick fellow so disturbed? you might ask. Does he not ever kick his feet up and watch a little comedy on the television? Godflesh seems like that strange uncle who never laughs at anything and terrifies people simply by standing in any given doorway.

Despite the looming sense of utter doom and misery, Selfless is still somewhat accessible, at least for those who could look at a decaying steel factory and find beauty. Broadrick and bassist G.C. Green have a very identifiable sound on Selfless and have a good sounding drum machine at work. It could be argued that the drum machine is the most friendly member of this recording session, the one most likely to go out for a pint and chuckle. The biggest drawback to Selfless is that it contains perhaps two songs too many. The running length nears an hour and twenty minutes, which very well could be a half hour longer than anyone should endure this sort of emotionally bleak music. "Go Spread Your Wings" takes up over twenty minutes of time, but its experimentalism and brooding ambience makes it a bit more compelling than, say, "Body Dome Light".

Godflesh is certainly not date night music, nor something that ever could find more than niche appeal. Selfless is a record that requires some patience and time to develop an appreciation towards. Album opener "Xnobyis" might be somewhat catchy, but from that point on it takes considerably more effort to wade through the Godflesh architecture of bleakness.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2010


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Slateman / Cold World EP

Godflesh - Slateman / Cold World EP ©1996 Earache
1. Slateman
2. Wound '91
3. Cold World
4. Nihil
5. Nihil (Total Belief Mix)
6. Nihil (No Belief Mix)

This 1996 release compiles a couple of Godflesh's early 90s singles onto one EP. As you may have already surmised, it includes the 1991 single Slateman and Cold World, also from that calendar year. And if you're already familiar with Godflesh, you at least have some idea of what sort of musical bombardment is contained within these tracks.

"Slateman" is actually an interesting precursor to bandleader Justin Broadrick's eventual musical future. Although the sound is still very much Godflesh's relentless industrial metal jackhammer, a notable amount of brooding atmosphere is present within the song, which suggests the embryo for Jesu can be found even back in 1991. In fact, having a couple decades of hindsight working in my favor, it becomes more obvious that "Slateman" is Broadrick taking a plunge at a sound that must have been rattling around in his head all along, but wasn't really able to capture until the formation of Jesu. "Cold World" also hints a bit at the atmospheric aspect of Godflesh's music, one that was often drowned out by the monolithic piledrivers of machine led rhythms. The EP finishes out with three versions of "Nihil", which aren't terribly different from one another and essentially create a fifteen minute block of mind pounding music.

This EP actually does a fine job of hinting at the slow progression of Godflesh's sound away from the oppressive machine driven industrial metal into something that had a lot more breathing space. Godflesh has always been a band that I found occasionally hard to take, but this EP is worth seeking out for those who learned of the band by working their way backwards from Jesu.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2012

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