Godflesh

Godflesh

Godflesh were an industrial metal band from Birmingham, England, formed in 1988 by Justin K. Broadrick (guitar, vocals, and programming) and G. C. Green (bass). The band is highly regarded as one of the pioneers of industrial metal and post-metal. The group disbanded in 2002.

Sound and influences

Drawing influence from power electronics forefathers Whitehouse, noise rock band Swans, ambient music creator Brian Eno and fellow Birmingham hard rockers Black Sabbath, Godflesh were among the pioneers of industrial metal.

Godflesh is known for their unique mixture of industrial drum machine beats with droning, discordant guitar and powerful, intermittent bass. (On their earlier albums, the rhythms, synths, and samples are credited to "Machine" or "Machines". Later, Godflesh would make use of human drummers Bryan Mantia and Ted Parsons.) Their eerie, slow, and repetitive style is commonly described as "apocalyptic". The Godflesh sound was once described as "Pornography-era Cure on Quaaludes".

Broadrick's vocals are often guttural, making use of something akin to the death grunt technique, yet they also at times show a softer, more melodic side, as in "I Wasn't Born to Follow" from 1992's Pure. Godflesh lyrics are terse, cryptic, and bleak, often emphasizing duality or opposition. Paranoia and martyrdom are also common themes in Godflesh's music and cover art.

Broadrick has also taken inspiration from Leonard Cohen; both artists have albums titled Songs of Love and Hate. In the song "Mothra" (from Pure), Godflesh borrows the lyrics "Your pain is no credential here / It's just the shadow of my wound" from the song "Avalanche" on the aforementioned Cohen album.

Career trajectory

In 1982, Green founded Fall of Because (named after a Killing Joke song) with Paul Neville. Broadrick, who had been playing guitar as a member of Napalm Death, joined the group in mid-1985 as drummer and vocalist. The band fell apart in 1987. Broadrick then spent a couple of years (1986-1988) as a member of Head of David. In 1988, he contacted Green about reforming Fall of Because. Justin decided to take over on guitars and they chose to use a drum machine to help out. They also decided to change their name to Godflesh.

Godflesh established a presence in underground music with albums such as Streetcleaner and Pure, which demonstrated the effectiveness of lo-fi production values in heavy music. A brief flirtation with major label Columbia Records in 1994 for Selfless and the Merciless EP saw the duo take on a more high-end production approach. In 1996 Godflesh released Songs of Love and Hate, which featured the drumming of Bryan Mantia (Guns N' Roses, Primus, Praxis). The next album, 1999's Us and Them, saw the group experimenting with a more electronic, drum and bass-oriented sound in which the guitar played a less central role. In 2001 Godflesh released the double album retrospective In All Languages. That same year they released an album of new material, Hymns, which featured the precise drumming of new band member Ted Parsons (formerly of Swans and Prong) and brought the band back to its slow and heavy roots while retaining elements of its experiments with electronica.

Green left the band in late 2001. It was announced that he would be replaced by former Killing Joke and Prong bassist Paul Raven; however, Godflesh disbanded in 2002 when Broadrick suffered a nervous breakdown just before departing for a tour of the U.S. As a kind of parting gift, the group released a remastered version of their extremely rare 1994 EP Messiah, which was doubled in length with all new remixes. Broadrick and Parsons went on to form Jesu in 2003.

During its fourteen year lifespan Godflesh toured with numerous bands, including Danzig, Front Line Assembly, L7, Loop, Ministry, Napalm Death, Nirvana, Prong, Revolting Cocks, Skinny Puppy, Type O Negative and Strapping Young Lad.

Collaborators and side projects

Several other musicians have recorded and played live with Godflesh. Paul Neville rejoined Broadrick and Green for the Streetcleaner and Slavestate albums. Robert Hampson, former guitarist for Loop, appeared on Pure and Cold World. (In 1991 Loop released the split 7" single Loopflesh covering the Godflesh song "Like Rats" while Godflesh performed Loop's "Straight to Your Heart".)

Members of Godflesh have been involved in numerous side projects, allowing them to explore interests in other musical genres, including electronica, ambient, dub, industrial hip-hop, and digital hardcore. Broadrick has collaborated with Kevin Martin and Alec Empire, among others. Broadrick's current projects include Jesu and Final.

Legacy

Godflesh has been cited as an influence by Korn, Metallica, Danzig, Faith No More, Fear Factory, Converge, Isis, Pitchshifter, and Ministry, among others. Justin Broadrick was asked to join Danzig and Faith No More as a band member full time, but Broadrick wanted to be focused on Godflesh.

Cinematic connections

The image on the cover of Streetcleaner is a still from the movie Altered States, a 1980 horror film by director Ken Russell in which the film's protagonist, played by William Hurt, explores other states of consciousness with the aid of hallucinogenic mushrooms and an isolation chamber. Photos from the insert sleeve for the album are taken from David Lynch's Eraserhead (another major influence cited by Broadrick).
Godflesh showed the video for "Crush My Soul" (by Andres Serrano) to Kirk Hammett and he loved it. Metallica later used a piece of footage by Serrano for their cover on the album Load. In a later interview with Hammett, he is asked where the band got the idea of the cover. Kirk tells the interviewer that he saw something on television about Andres Serrano and that is how it came about, not giving any credit to Godflesh. Justin says, "There's no copyright on Serrano. We'll be the first to admit that. But we planted the seed, and unfortunately we're not getting the credit, obviously." Fortunately, in at least one situation, Hammett has commended the band, stating that they are the "heaviest band in existence".
After Earache merged with Sony (Columbia), Godflesh got the chance to do soundtracks. In 1995, they appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Hideaway. They also appear in the movie itself. During one of the club scenes, they are playing onstage in the background, performing the song "Nihil".

Discography

Studio albums and EPs

Year of Release Title Label Catalogue Number
1988
1990
Godflesh [EP]
(reissue) [Album]
Swordfish Records
Earache Records
MOSH 20
1989 Streetcleaner Earache Records MOSH 15
1991 Loopflesh [EP] Clawfist
1991 Slavestate [EP] Earache Records MOSH 30
1991 Slavestate Remixes [EP] Earache Records MOSH 30
1991 Cold World [EP] Earache Records MOSH 56
1992 Pure Earache Records MOSH 32
1994 Merciless [EP] Earache/Columbia MOSH 116
1994 Selfless Earache/Columbia MOSH 85
1996 Songs of Love and Hate Earache Records MOSH 157
1997 Love and Hate in Dub Earache Records MOSH 178
1999 Us and Them Earache Records MOSH 179
2000
2003
Messiah [EP]
(reissue)
AvalancheInc
Relapse Records
2001 Hymns Music for Nations

Compilation albums

Year of Release Title Label Catalogue Number
1996 Slateman/Cold World [EP] Earache Records MOSH 47 CD
1996 Selfless/Merciless Earache Records MOSH 116
2001 In All Languages [2xCD]/DVD Earache Records MOSH 246

Singles

Year of Release Title Label Catalogue Number
1991 Slateman Earache Records MOSH 47
1995 Crush My Soul Earache Records MOSH 127

References

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