Friday, 27 February 2015


24 February 2015
The Corner Hotel, Melbourne 

I first heard Godflesh when I was 17. Their crushing brand of down-tuned riffs, pummeling industrial beats, caustic vocals and paranoid ambience really spoke to me, coming as I did from the bleak landscape of small-town New Zealand. Their albums Pure and Streetcleaner formed a perfect teenage soundtrack for the urban anomie of the provinces. This week I finally witnessed them live, and it was as revelatory as that first listen some 15 years ago.

Having reformed about five years ago after the band initially disintegrated in 2002, Justin Broadrick and Ben Green have recorded new material in the form of the Decline and Fall EP and the full-length A World Lit Only By Fire. These recordings continue the crushing path that Broadrick and Green forged on their initial releases - fueled by a fiery aggression and an almost primitive minimalism that does away with any modernist trappings in favour of pure power. 

This was Godflesh's first club show in Australia, supporting industrial metallers Ministry. The show had sold-out in a day and unsurprisingly the Corner Hotel was packed by the time Justin Broadrick and Ben Green took the stage. Their set was somewhat compromised time-wise by the support bill status, but it certainly did not lack the bludgeoning intensity that defines Godflesh's sound, or for that matter, the atmospheric visual imagery that is a fundamental part of their live set-up. 

The triple-punch of "Like Rats", "Christbait Rising" and "Streetcleaner" opened the set, which consisted of tracks from Streetcleaner, Pure and Selfless. Finally hearing these iconic songs live was incredible, with Broadrick pouring every ounce of energy into delivering them. The way he incorporates feedback into his playing is one of the distinctive things about the Godflesh sound, with Green's bass providing the immense heft that drives the songs. A raging "Tiny Tears" gave way to a short feedback segue into "Spite", which sounded absolutely huge as Broadrick and Green riffed over the classic drum break. 

Despite the songs they performed being over 20 years old, they still sound incredibly fresh and vital. The mechanised nature of the drum machine imparts a rigidity to the music, but there are some undeniable grooves that lurk under the surface, particularly on tracks like "Mothra" and the title track from Pure. As a great version of "Crush My Soul" from Selfless ended the set, the dismay of the room was palpable - but Broadrick was clearly appreciative of the huge response. It would have been great to hear a few of the new songs so hopefully the band will return this way for a headlining tour. 

One of the things that I took away from this crushing show was how absolutely timeless Godflesh's music is. Forward thinking in 1989, still relevant today - long live Godflesh! 

Like Rats
Christbait Rising
Tiny Tears
Crush My Soul 

More photos here

Friday, 30 January 2015


8 August 2014
The Hi-FI Bar, Melbourne

Neurosis have long been creating heavy and uncompromising music that refuses to be constricted in any way. The breadth and depth of their back catalogue is a testament to that: boundless experimentation and constantly shifting textures and sounds are dynamically anchored to pummeling rhythms and seismic riffage. Although subsequent bands have taken this approach and made it their own to varying degrees, let's face it; Neurosis did it first on albums like Souls At Zero, Enemy Of The Sun and Through Silver In Blood. Blending passages of sludgy riffs, dark and angry vocals reciting philosophical lyrics and poly-rhythmic drumming with ambient interludes and a great knack for sampling film dialogue and found sound into sonically immersive atmospheres. 

Indicative of their stubborn refusal to compromise, when their longtime visuals operator Josh Graham left shortly after the release of recent LP Honor Found In Decay the band simply didn't replace him, allowing the darkness to replace the light(s) and simultaneously drawing the focus from the band to the music. Graham's visuals had long been a part of Neurosis' live presence, adding further textures to the songs as they were performed, in a way not dissimilar to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's flickering films. Obvious statement alert: Neurosis are not a group given to running around the stage doing machine gun guitar poses like Iron Maiden. They remain relatively static throughout, but so utterly absorbed in performing this intense music that their presence becomes transfixing. When Steve Von Till or Scott Kelly sing into a microphone, they fucking mean it. 

The band were in phenomenal form: taking their time under low light to draw out the beginning of opening bars of "At The End Of The Road". What struck me most was the sheer dynamism of the band and how ferociously tight they were. Passages of brooding ambiance were shattered by roaring guitars, thunderous drums and bass and intensely raging vocals. "Eye" followed, a rarely played cut from Through Silver In Blood that gave bass guitarist Dave Edwardson a chance to perform some vocals. The set drew heavily from Honor Found In Decay, the newer material sounding just as richly honed but with a distinct psychedelic flair on "At The Well" and "My Heart For Deliverance". 

I'm not sure if I've seen keyboards played with the intensity that Noah Landis brings to them, clinging to them like they are bits of ballast from a sunken ship. Von Till and Kelly prove to be brilliant foils for each other as guitarists, between their immense array of pedals are quite contrasting approaches - Von Till is the more psychedelic and ethereal player, whereas Kelly is beholden to the riff and crushes forward with maximum fury. Jason Roeder's drumming alternated between tribal rumble and subtle pulses, the end of "Bleeding The Pigs" showcasing his flair for dramatic timekeeping amongst heavy noise salvos. A highlight of the show was the title track from Given To The Rising - an epic song that brilliantly showcases the evolution of their particular sound across 9 minutes. 

"The Doorway" concluded what was an epic show, the band losing themselves in total free noise abandon as the song collapsed into grinding industrial static. The crowd were left wanting more, though Roeder had began dismantling his kit as they feedback drew to a crescendo. So it goes. Encore or no, few would dispute that what they had witnessed was nothing short of astounding. 

More photos here.