It has been thirteen long years since Godflesh unleashed the industrial rage of ‘Hymns’ upon a metal scene dominated by nu-metal and then, quietly, disbanded. Nine long years after that event, back in 2010, Godflesh reformed to play handfuls of shows, but new material at that time, it seemed, was not forthcoming, so it is of no surprise that now, in 2014, the release of a Godflesh EP (‘decline and fall’) has been met with much frothing at the mouth from press and fans alike. Remarkably, in the intervening years not a single band has managed to come close to replicating the sheer, stripped-down rage of Godflesh. There have been many imitators, but none who have captured the monochrome intensity of Godflesh, a band whose closest peers (arguably the Swans) morphed into something quite different, exploring the outer reaches of post-rock, drone and progressive music in their quest to create otherworldly sounds.
In 2014 , then, Godflesh stand alone as architects of tooth-rattling industrial, the only band to truly capture the desolation of decaying urban landscapes and recreate it in musical form. Not that Justin Broadrick has been out of the spotlight. Tours of duty with Jesu and JK Flesh have seen the musician veering between pastoral beauty and electronic savagery in equal measure, but there is something truly unique to Godflesh’s urban nightmare and, therefore, the band is most welcome in its return. Opening track ‘Ringer’, which bathes the listener in static before unleashing a primal riff of such potency that it’s hard to believe the band were ever away, demonstrates with ease that the band have lost none of their sonic firepower. Justin has toned down his bark a touch, delivering his vocals like Ian Curtis, but the pounding drums and feral guitars now have the power to shatter concrete, highlighting the central nature of technology to Godflesh’s Terminator-aping aural assault. It is one hell of a return and in six minutes Godflesh easily reclaim their dirt-encrusted crown. ‘Dogbite’ steps up with an almighty groove, harking back to the brutal sturm und drang of ‘hymns’ with its taut, hypnotic groove underpinned by a bass sound that appears to have tunnelled its way up from the very depths of hell. Similarly groove based is the horrifically mutilated guitar work of ‘playing with fire’ which mixes drone notes with pounding bass, repetitive drums and vocals that seems to float, eerily, in the heart of it all, whilst the chorus of ‘It’s all pain, there’s no gain’ echoes the experience of too many downtrodden citizens in this age of corporate control and a growing wealth gap. The title track closes the EP (all too brief at twenty minutes, but perfectly structured to leave you wanting more) with a grimy riff that is surely one of the dirtiest things Godflesh have ever attempted. Set to a torturous, leaden pace and offset with brutal time changes, it is an awesome finale to an EP that whets the appetite for the forthcoming full-length release.
‘Decline and fall’ is everything that Godflesh fans could have hoped for. Still grimy as f*** but delivered with a power that is designed to leave the listener shaken and enervated, Godflesh sound more vital than ever in today’s perfection-obsessed musical climate. The sense of rage, informed by the rapidly multiplying troubles facing people today, is as potent as it was when the band first unleashed the still-unbeatable ‘Streetcleaner’, and the resulting sound is one of flickering strobes, monochrome fury and palpable tension. Whether you’re a long-serving Godflesh fan or new to the band, this EP is utterly essential if you consider yourself a fan of heavy music. Godflesh have made a very welcome return indeed.