Godflesh : Purge

Godflesh new album Purge

Justin Broadrick and B.C. Green are iconoclasts of a certain kind. Whether it be distinctly disposing of the pomp and hyper-masculine ego associated with metal, or their pessimistic and at times crass utilization of Christian imagery as an aesthetic of woe, the art they craft as Godflesh is distinctive. There are countless imitators, but only the minds of Broadrick and Green are capable of generating the specific qualities that form the engine, the living thesis of Godflesh as a body of work, a veritable institution 35 years after its formation.

That specific thesis isn’t as hopeless or as grim as it sounds. It’s instead modest, cathartic even. Broadrick, in a recent statement said that Purge was how Broadrick “utilises Godflesh’s music as a temporary relief from his diagnosed autism and PTSD.” This type of deliberate psychic cleansing via music, especially extreme music, is part of the allure for those that have approached it as a means of understanding more about the self.

This is, however, still Godlfesh, and the album bares its fangs from the start with “NERO” wasting no time in setting the album’s sonic template, a burgeoning fusion of hypnotic beats and muted, cold guitars and bass. The track’s closing minute acts as a reprieve and departure simultaneously, letting the aforementioned coldness eclipse into a warmer amplified dissonance.  

Purge is full of such moments, especially during the latter half, where the first is dominated by bulky, eliptical grooves stand in stark contrast to Broadrick’s shortened howls, every syncopation drenched in a rust that makes it feel grimy and gritty than it possibly should. This continued motif of Godflesh’s utterly filthy rhythms transposed on aggressive vocalizations makes for an interesting exercise that retains its impact even with only subtle changes each time around.

Godflesh do so by approaching their soundscapes and themes with a different vigor. “Landlord” is held in thrall to their plodding industrial background, yet the narrowness of the track borders on claustrophobic, its repetitions yielding little discoveries while its textures remain consistent between squelching drums, grinding bass, ear-puncturing guitars and heavy distortion. It is meant to be this way, holding a distinctly meditative posture typically found in a lot of drone and sludge metal, and which is done exceptionally well here. 

By contrast, the languishing “Lazarus Leper” is richer in its complexity, using staggered, simple drone rhythms that bleed into a soundscape of looping guitars, and hushed vocals—a more nuanced exploration of familiar ground. In opposing measure “Permission” feels heavy still, but has a lightness to it that repels the track’s dub inspired backbeats until the second half of the track where the duo easily pulls things back into that heavier industrial palette. An especially choked vocal performance from Broadrick assists in this matter greatly, serving as the perfect accent between each existing beat.

Closing the album is the phenomenal “You are the Judge, the Jury, and the Executioner,” perhaps a reference to Judge Dredd, but more importantly the most accomplished track on the album due to its fusing of two halves of gloomy melodic temperament, and stalwart crushing bass, ending with a profound elegiac whimper instead of a cacophony of crushing fury. Broadrick and Green’s tempered rage on Purge at times approaches the band’s apotheosis. At other times, it remixes, reinterprets and continues the therapeutic, sundering sonic discourse that the duo have always constructed. 

Label: Avalanche

Year: 2023

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