Consistency has proved itself the most perilous of obstacles for a musician to overcome. Legends fall into mediocrity as misty-eyed nostalgia crusts over into a stingy eye infection that no amount of weary limbed reunions will change.
Cut to 45-year-old Justin Broadrick, moments away from stepping out to a packed audience at Islington’s The Garage with fellow Godflesh member G.C. Green. Broadrick has had his foot to the floor since appearing on Napalm Death’s acclaimed 1987 debut ‘Scum’ at the tender age of 16. More recently, the Birmingham-born behemoth waltzed into uncharacteristically wistful ground with the fuzzed-out sounds of his Jesu project.
There’s no messing around as Justin and Green walk out to opposite sides of the stage and plug themselves in, banishing the pre-set soundtrack shooting from the speakers. No intros, no eye contact. Just straight into ‘New Dark Ages’, the opener 2014’s ‘A World Lit Only By Fire’ (review). The benefits of the drum machine over its human counterpart are self-evident when it comes to punctuating the bleak industrial sound of Godflesh. Justin hunches over an eight-string guitar, taking cues from marching hi-hats, laying down the kind of thick, merciless guitar which made this most recent album one of its makers’ best – no mean feat, considering it’s over two-decades since the seminal ‘Streetcleaner’ LP.
Though the consistency of Godflesh’s studio output gives them the freedom to dip into both old and new material without frustrating the crowd, guaranteeing the ‘classics’ as they go, there’s a definite anticipation for tracks from their first two releases. “Streeetcleeannerrr” screams out of the crowd throughout the band’s run through of newer songs, which include ‘Deadend’ and ‘Shut Me Down’, both off the new record.
Eventually the track which gave their debut its name, and no-doubt soundtracked the angst of anyone here old enough to have reached their teenage peak during the late-’80s, rears its magnificently ugly head. “I didn't hear voices, it was a conscious decision…” – an interview excerpt from mass murderer Henry Lee Lucas prompts jackhammer kick drums and thick droning guitar sounds of ‘Streetcleaner’.
The similarities of intentions between the first and last albums have been well documented through interviews with the two members. And hearing material from both ends of the timeline played side by side shows off that yearning for straight heaviness.
Playing out as a nostalgic throwback for the older spectrum of the crowd and an introduction for younger attendees, tonight is a flawless representation of what makes Godflesh so harsh yet enjoyable: quality renditions backed by sharp skills and a genuine lust for dissonance.
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Words: Charlie Wood