No one would be at fault for being cynical when a band comes out of retirement, yet in Justin Broadrick’s case you wouldn’t be at fault for understanding why. He initially dissolved the band as he grew disillusioned with it, suffering from mental health and financial issues during a prolonged tour which resulted in Godflesh’s, then, final album Hymns, a prelude to his work as Jesu. He revived Godflesh in 2010 with a string of much-anticipated shows. The reinvigoration he felt performing these shows eventually lead onto the recording of A World Lit Only by Fire in 2014, which rehashed old themes from his earlier work but provided much-needed catharsis to a world which may soon be lit by fire.
He returns with Post-Self and in doing so diverges from the traditional maelstrom and anguish of the majority of his work. Instead, he turns his anger inwards, as if he’s trying to reconcile his dissatisfaction with the world he inhabits with the emotions born from that. The majority of the album forgoes the brutal guitar work which made Godflesh an inspiration of almost every metal band of the past three decades. Rather the heaviness comes from the emphasis on atmospherics, the press release claims the album was inspired by Justin’s love of 1980’s post-punk and industrial, but it’s difficult to see those influences. The closest we come to that are the abrasive yet beautiful distorted lead on ‘The Cyclic End’ – imagine the feeling of welcoming your death by heroin overdose.
This is what makes this album one of the best in the whole of Justin’s career. It would be easy to compare it to The Angelic Process, another band which employs shoegaze elements, but Justin still retains some of that aggression which made Godflesh so appealing in the first place. In keeping with the themes of depression and anxiety he claims as inspiration for this album, he’s created an album more honest and introspective. The lead track ‘Post-Self’ exemplifies this best. Through clever use of melody and effects, it sounds like he’s reckoning with himself, there is no crescendo, just pure guilt before he flagellates himself with snares that rupture the initial self-pitying.
As bands age, they tend to find a formula then adapt and reiterate. With A World Lit Only by Fire it felt like Justin was going to fall into that trap as well. However, the two years in between these albums, alongside his JK Flesh project, have reinvigorated the Godflesh project. You’d be forgiven for mistaking the album being made by someone else but similar elements tether the album to Godflesh’s previous work, the dirge-like riffs and programmed drums, but each element has been refined and given new life. It’s obvious his work as JK Flesh has influenced the drum programming, they sound fuller and in the future, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear a track like ‘Mortality Sorrow’, with its penetrating squalls, on a dancefloor (one can hope). Post-Self sounds like the culmination of Justin’s thirty odd years making music, singular in sound yet not classifiable. It’s almost unheard of for a band to release a masterpiece so late into their career but somehow Godflesh have achieved just that.
Post Self is out now on Avalanche Recordings. Purchase here.
Words: Joe-Julian Naitsri