Godflesh has always had an uncommon connection to metal and industrial music—despite the obvious inclusion of both styles in their sound, one need not be a devoted fan of either to appreciate their work. Sure, it would probably help, but Godflesh produces the sort of undefinable music that makes the band an ideal candidate to reach for if you enjoy watching reactions from outsiders experiencing their sound for the first time. They are the textbook definition of unique, incorporating everything from ambient, trip-hop, grind, techno, post-rock, punk, shoegaze, drum & bass and seemingly everything in-between into a sound that has always been very much their own, and they are one of few who are deserving of a genre tag that’s simply their namesake alone.
In 1989/90, Godflesh represented a total aberration to those who came into metal through melodic twin-guitar attacks and eventually drifted toward the more intense extremes offered by labels such as Peaceville and Earache Records. But not even the Napalms or Carcasses or Bolt Throwers of the day prepared ears for the leveling force behind Godflesh’s seminal EP and the neutron bomb of Streetcleaner that followed. Godflesh redefined heavy, and nothing this side of a hurtling meteor has ever managed to eclipse the sheer weight of songs such as “Weak Flesh” and “Like Rats,” even close to three decades later. The band’s performance during the U.S. Grindcrusher tour during that era was equally devastating—just two guys on a small, shadowy stage being thoroughly consumed by a billowing fog machine, yet pealing from that sweetened smoke was the most flattening atmosphere the venue had ever experienced, and JK Broadrick worked his guitar and microphone like a man who’d just been loosed from a straightjacket.
The absurd heaviness was obviously a huge part of the band’s early metal allure, but equally spellbinding was the way the duo managed to explore uncharted atmosphere that was ludicrously dark, crumbling, withdrawn and mechanized. The coldest black metal bands in the winteriest of winter forests still got nothin’ on the Siberian touch of a track like “Streetcleaner,” and the sense of hopelessness and isolation leveled by “Godhead” still crushes most of what gets produced by funereal acts today. To the point, atmosphere was something Godflesh mastered early on, and it’s something they’ve apparently decided to reconnect with in 2017 with the release of full-length number eight, Post Self.
Not to diminish the boldness of what the band produced from the mid-90s up to now, but missing from a sizable portion of it, particularly with regard to the last two records, is the band’s unique connection to that decaying mood and overpowering darkness. Post Self reasserts that face of the band, and even though it marks a point where Broadrick and Green emphasize the whole of the record’s un-metalness in favor of roots embedded in post-rock, it ends up feeling exceptionally metal because of its cathartic reconnection with grim atmosphere. You might not guess that based on the way the record starts, though. Alongside the opening title track, “Parasite” and “No Body” launch the record with three patent bruisers that strike with the sort of potent beats and pulverizing bass runs that could lead one to believe they’re about to experience a revitalized Songs of Love and Hate, but that extra bit of atmosphere already pokes through in Broadrick’s fretwork, and his vocals are more harsh than they’ve been in years, particularly throughout “Parasite” and the absurdly heavy “No Body.”
Despite the strength of said cuts, the late hitting “Mortality of Sorrow” could very well be the album’s highest peak, as a jolting rhythm and Green’s absurdly heavy bass open the cut with a strong industrial flavor that’s lifted to threat-level red by a haunting and frightful bit of guitar (keyboard?) and robotic vocals that give the whole of the tune a feeling as if you’ve just stepped onto the bridge of a drifting, long-doomed ship at the focal point of some bleak sci-fi epic.
The remaining fair is equally dark, eerie and crumbling, and it’s all done in a surprisingly compact, straightforward manner within each song that makes every vignette singular in its method. There’s more experimentation on Post Self, a wider range of vocals that span the full arc of the Godflesh discography, and the record maintains a freshness with the energy of its beats and Green’s insistence on flattening skulls with annihilative bass play. Summarily, it’s a big victory for anyone who’s missed the darker, more atmospheric face of Godflesh, and its the sort of “late in the year” record that could make those who’ve already locked in their favorites of 2017 want to put their head through the wall…in a very grateful kind of way.
It’s anyone’s guess how long Godflesh will be back, and who the hell knows in what sort of direction they might lead us next. Then again, worrying too much about the future is lame, and Post Self is present right now and wants to drag you into the black, roiling depths, so maybe you should just pack a survival kit and hop the fuck in.
“Hands are tightening…Around your throat.”