In my opinion, there are bands you love, and then there are legitimately important bands. Often times, the two will not meet. You can enjoy a band, and if you’re a reasonable person, admit that they’re not genre luminaries or trendsetters. Most bands aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with that. For example; I love Mgla, but to argue that they’re much more than just another really proficient black metal band seems silly to me. They’re not. They’re just good at relying on tropes that others have created to great effect. Godflesh, on the other hand, is not just a band I love, but a band who actually shaped heavy music in the late 80s and early 90s. And now, they’ve returned, yet again, after the stellar “reunion record” 2014’s A World Lit Only By Fire. And with this return, made the most varied album of their career.
When Post Self was first announced, Godflesh made it sound as if it would be a wholly different album than anything they’d done before. They called it, I believe, their post punk album. Now, I’m not going to suggest that Post Self is rehash by any means; it isn’t, but it certainly is immediately recognizable as the brilliant work of Godflesh. The smothering guitar tone, the pummeling industrial sound of the drum machine, and Justin Broadrick’s alternating hellish screams and light, angelic clean vocals are all well established cornerstones of Godflesh’s sound. These are all present on Post Self, and fans of Godflesh will not be disappointed or found wanting for the band they fell in love with. However, there are some elements that while not wholly new to the band, are far more prominent here than on past releases.
On, “No Body”, Godflesh invokes shades of danceable techno, while pulling influence from drone on the very next song, the zone out friendly “Mirror of Finite Light Again, you can tell you’re listening to a Godflesh record, but they really cover a lot of ground on Post Self. Before hearing a single song, I thought I remembered an article saying that this wouldn’t be a heavy record, or at least a “less heavy” one. Listening to “Be God” for about 10 seconds cured me of that delusion. While the guitar work isn’t necessarily extremely prominent or riffy, and the vocals aren’t inordinately aggressive, the atmosphere of the song may be the heaviest damn thing Godflesh has ever done. And then, within the last minute, it becomes light and airy, replacing dense darkness with open ambiance.
On “Pre Self” Post Self (what an awkward way to begin a sentence) begins to take a more purely industrial tone. The metal is stripped away, in favor of repetitive, simple mantra-like spoken word vocals, and percussion used to accent, not keep a steady rhythm. It’s strange, sure, but not awkward or completely outside of something you could see Godflesh doing. It’s not dancey EDM, and it’s not amplifier worship drone; it’s just the band stripped down
“Mortality Sorrow” introduces vocoder over a simple, but pretty, melody that reminds me of Clan of Xymox for some reason. The head nod inducing, pulsing drum machine lulled me into almost a trance, and the song was over before it started. It was at this point I was almost amazed how much diversity Godflesh had employed in their songwriting on Post Self, while not sounding awkward or forced. The back end of this album is weird, and a lot less song oriented in some ways than the front, but they truly feel like A and B sides of one album. A is more structured and formulaic songs, while B exists more in the realm of atmospheric art pieces. All of it is pretty damn brilliant.
Those familiar with Godflesh mainman Justin Broadrick’s other projects should also be happy that despite the huge catalog of music he’s been a part of, the overlap with Godflesh even on their most experimental album yet is very minimal. Of course, some of the more clean and “pretty” parts remind me of Jesu, or the heavy parts of Greymachine. However, this is through and through Godflesh playing music that makes sense in Godflesh’s canon, distinct from his other work.
In one way, however, this album infuriates me. I thought I had my album of the year list all wrapped up, and that other than Nortt and Aosoth’s new records, I wouldn’t be leaving anything out that really made an impact on me due to time constraints. Then this was announced. Then the title track premiered and blew me away. Then “Be God” came out and completely scrambled my brain. Now, after hearing the whole record, my only thought is “Where in my top 10 of the year does this go, and what’s getting bumped out of the top 10?”. No fan of Godflesh will be disappointed. People who don’t like Godflesh probably won’t have their mind changed by this album but I don’t care, forget those people.
Release Date: 11/17/17
Released on Avalanche Recordings
Favorite Tracks: All of them, but I’ll go with BE GOD because holy crap did that blow my mind first listen
For Fans Of: Industrial metal. Godflesh has no peers, only bands they’ve influenced and a genre they’ve basically created.