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!
Crush My Soul
More photos here.
More photos here.