Album Review: Godflesh’s Post Self
Two years is an album cycle. Four years is a Neurosis album cycle. Six years is a hiatus. Ten years is a decade (yeah, we looked that up just to be sure), and by then a band can comfortably be seen in the rear view. Thanks for the memories, you’re now a legacy act, see you on the festival circuit. It helps if you went out on a stinker, so we can all sigh out platitudes that your band’s final gasp and demise were for the best. Godflesh didn’t oblige: Before scuttling the project, Justin Broadrick and G. C. Green fired off Hymns, as energized a parting shot as could possibly be expected. The band’s sudden sundering left a… well, void… in a music scene that wasn’t necessarily ready to let go.
After a dozen years without new music, Godflesh’s 2014 comeback A World Lit Only By Fire had one herculean job to do, which was to rock like a motherfucker, a task it performed admirably. World brought every available blunt instrument to bear on down on your ears, skull, spine and limbs and reminded you which drum machine was boss. The riffs punished with extreme prejudice, bearing little of the textural nuance that Broadrick had spent the intervening years exploring with his various non-‘flesh projects. The cover’s monochrome red was a pretty fair visual representation of the summary beating that album dished out. Which was fine. We’d indulged the man in his less (or just differently?) nihilistic moods, but outside of the fleeting Greymachine event, we hadn’t heard his crunchy/crushing side in far too long. World was exactly the album that we expected, the one we needed at the time.
Three years down the line, what do we need from Godflesh now? That question defied easy answers, until we heard Post Self for the first time. Anyone hoping for another brass-knuckled barrage… well, you get the first three songs, anyway. And that includes the title track, so you can even pretend that the album’s primary statement is still about delivering concrete blocks to the face. That first song immediately rules, due equally to its snarling guitar lines and the uncharacteristically tortured vocal treatment. “Parasite” feels like vintage Godflesh, though again, the vocals here sound darker than usual, which is only a good thing.
But third track “No Body” begins a subtle transition away from the harsh and traumatic toward a world lit mostly by texture. Glowing texture. Okay, that’s a shit metaphor, but you see where we’re headed. Post Self smoothes out around “Mirror of Finite Light” and becomes more sonic massage than club to the cranium. Green’s gristly bass never lightens up, but the guitar becomes a landscaping device rather than chord violator. The drum machine pulse doesn’t so much relax as blend more cunningly into the surrounding noise. Ditto vocals. Whereas World felt like a gleeful repudiation of Broadrick’s seismic experimentations, Post Self finds the duo restless and roaming, drawing as much variation into their creation as possible while remaining recognizably Godflesh. The seething, writhing layers are never simple or comfortable, but they rarely get as confrontational as World.
It was tempting to start abbreviating the album title halfway through this review, but referring to this record as PS gave us chills. We very much hope these songs have as little to do with a postscript as possible. After World, it wasn’t clear that Godflesh ever needed to say more; a couple spins of Post Self should convince you that Green and Broadrick continue to have important ideas. They’ve come a long way from their Swans-worshipping roots, and whether or not they have a long way left to go, they undoubtedly deserve our ears.