Category: Industrial / Metal
Album: A World Lit Only by Fire
Blurb: Exhibiting a maturity of production and performance without losing the raw power first heard 26 years ago, this return album from Godflesh stands as one of the band’s bleakest and most accomplished outings.
It’s almost as difficult to adequately convey the breadth of Godflesh’s influence on modern music as it is to listen to a Godflesh album without descending into a frenzy of conflicting emotions, usually feeling a simultaneous sense of wonderment, rage, and despair. From 1988 to 2001, Justin K. Broadrick and B.C. Green with a bevy of machines and collaborators created music that fused the automated precision of industrial with the guttural rage of metal, along the way incorporating elements of various forms of electronic from drone to drum & bass to dub; this strangely enticing yet uncompromisingly brutal concoction would go onto play a key role in the development of underground music. While Broadrick’s Jesu would pursue similar modes in a more lushly melodic mindset, the return of Godflesh in 2010 was a welcome answer to the prayers of an audience in need of a soundtrack to the pervasive threats of human apocalypse.
The Decline & Fall EP earlier in the year delivered the first taste of what Broadrick and Green had to offer, signaling the band’s return in fine form and without any traces of the original aesthetics being marred by time. Quite the contrary, as A World Lit Only by Fire is everything that audiences have come to expect and demand of Godflesh. “New Dark Ages” begins with a haunting cloud of guitar feedback and a simple yet very mechanical hi-hat loop, the factory-like chug of pummeling guitars and steely bass underscoring Broadrick’s vicious growls. Nominal in its musicality and overpowering in its incessant atmosphere of industrialized menace, the track easily takes the next logical step up from such classics as “Like Rats” and “Pure.” “Deadend” ups the ante with sludgy chord progressions as misanthropic as Broadrick’s lyrics, his voice mostly eschewing any notions of melody, while the dissonant chord structures of “Obeyed” along with the howling vocals and feedback and sparse percussive barrage makes for one of the album’s more strangely orchestral moments.
There has always been an economy of style with Godflesh as the drum programming, while always effective and forceful, takes on a minimalist quality that helped to make early albums like Streetcleaner and Pure so ominous and original in their time. Now, after the technology has progressed to such an advanced degree, to the point where many acts simply fill up space with excessively complex loops, to listen to Godflesh refer to this past percussive frugality offers a sigh of relief as it allows the density of the music and the emotional content to take prominence. This is particularly the case on tracks like “Carrion” with its staccato riffs and Broadrick’s demonically effected voice, or “Towers of Emptiness” with its vast spaces of droning sustain evoking a sense of unending dread, while “Imperator” with its use of clean vocal stanzas, a slightly more upbeat rhythm, and a dynamically engaging hook is perhaps more reminiscent of Selfless. The monolithic “Forgive Our Fathers” ends the album as a symphonically arranged procession of hauntingly subtle synths and distorted waves of guitar, Broadrick’s ghostly voice resonating like the final echoes of lost humanity in the wake of total obliteration.
While many industrial/metal bands use notions of the apocalypse as a thematic impetus, Godflesh has always stood out for its focus on the crushing of the human spirit and the loss of one’s self to the unforgiving cruelty of eventuality. Amid the backdrop of rusty machines and factory-like automation, depicted by the band’s now often imitated blend of distorted noise and bleak atmosphere, are the decayed remnants of man’s emotions, conveyed through Broadrick’s unwaveringly harsh and honest lyrics. A World Lit Only by Fire is no mere rehashing of the elements that attracted us to the band 26 years ago; the maturity of production and musical craft without losing the raw power exhibited in the band’s youth makes this full-length return one of the group’s finest achievements. Welcome back, Godflesh!
Godflesh Website http://www.godflesh.com
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Godflesh Twitter https://twitter.com/JKBroadrick
Godflesh SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/godflesh-2
Godflesh Bandcamp http://godflesh1.bandcamp.com
Avalanche Recordings/Shellshock Website http://www.avalancheinc.co.uk
Avalanche Recordings Bandcamp http://avalancherecordings.bandcamp.com
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)