When all is said and done, how will you choose to look back on your legacy? With gratitude? A self-satisfied smirk? Perhaps with a punishing pang of wistful regret? Considering Godflesh’s ninth full-length album, PURGE, begins with a brutalizing bit of industrial damage titled “Nero,” odds are good the Birmingham duo of Justin K. Broadrick and Ben Green are ready to burn their empire to the ground. Let us marvel at the rubble.
Though PURGE is intended to be a sequel of sorts to Godflesh’s 1992 classic, PURE, there are some clear differences. While both albums dial into a hulking hypnotism — cyclical, detuned guitar brutalism; Broadrick’s anguished howl — the drum machine treatments are miles apart. PURE rode with an era-appropriate, reverb-heavy snare. It’s intentionally cold; distant, even. PURGE prefers to get up close and personal, with dirty-and-distorted breakbeats (the oddly “Dragula”-ish “Land Lord”) or choppy military rolls (“Lazarus Leper”) surging into the mix like a series of uppercuts. It’s pure, unadulterated menace.
Broadrick’s guitar is likewise a blunter tool, eschewing some of PURE’s most metal-edged squeals for an economical blend of panic chords and high-string dissonance. Green likewise plays things close to the chest — this most apparent on “Mythology of Self,” where, outside of a few metal-sliver bass slides, he rumbles out a steady B note for six minutes.
In a press release, it’s explained that Godflesh’s latest takes stock of “man’s abuse of power and the systems that chain us.” You get that here, for sure. On top of the aforementioned “Nero” hinting at the disgraced Roman emperor, “Land Lord” seemingly picks at the precarious grift of the housing market, a tenant’s sense of security ultimately dictated by the whims of another (“Control,” Broadrick hurls venomously on the piece). “The Father” seems just as bleak, Godflesh perhaps suggesting that the patriarchal power structures we’re born into — whether familial or religious — aren’t inherently stable or healthy (“Failure/Imperfection…No one can be trusted”).
Though the unrelenting gloom of PURGE can be overwhelming — Broadrick’s delivery of “No sense/Nonsense/Nothing makes sense” on “Lazarus Leper” makes for a bone-chillingly nihilistic mantra— the Birmingham duo paradoxically also sound like they’re having a lot of fun with the formula. While driven by a guitar arrangement of upended augmented fourths, there’s a sleek sexiness to the mutated hip-hop groove of “Army of Non” (a familiar, though regrettably hard to pin-down sample of “check it out, y’all” also adds some cross-genre levity to the bruising piece); “Land Lord” and “Permission” revel in the eeriest edges of electronica, as if Broadrick and Green were mainlining toxic ooze out of a bunch of broken glowsticks.
Getting back to the Romans: we’ve been told that the vomitoriums of yore were monuments to excess and waste, the ruling class literally purging their meals before rushing back to the party to take another taste from the trough. PURGE, by contrast, is a spartan, but efficient take on Godflesh’s legacy of brutality. While it’s one of Broadrick and Green’s strongest statements, it’s nevertheless uncomfortable listening. Godflesh have not dulled with time, and that’s a good thing. Bear witness to the duo’s latest, potent purge: gloriously grotesque; ready to lap up.
Pre-order PURGE by Godflesh HERE
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