Without knowing ahead of time that Godflesh‘s previous album, 2014′s A World Lit Only By Fire, had arrived after 12 years of inactivity, false-start reunions and a solid decade dedicated to other projects, nobody would have known it was a reunion album. Justin Broadrick had broken up the band in 2002, following then-swan song Hymns, his attention focused on the transcendent doomgaze of his up-and-coming project Jesu. And though the group reassembled in 2010 for Hellfest, it didn’t go great. Still, Godflesh was ultimately back in the industrial-metal saddle, and Broadrick and bandmate G.C. Green renewed their commitment to mechanized pummel on their first set of music in a dozen years, adding a few atmospheric touches and production updates but ultimately sticking to the thump-n-grind that emerged all the way back on 1989′s Streetcleaner.
With a little more mileage logged, Broadrick and Green have progressed a bit with their second post-reunion LP, Post-Self. It’s hard not to read too much into the title, what with this incarnation of the band being essentially a second life, a band remade in its own image. Yet the progression that Godflesh makes here is a subtle one for the first few tracks. The title track, for instance, is as Godflesh as Godflesh gets, a simple and eerie riff repeating over a steamroller beat while Broadrick barks through Bane-facemask effects. Even if in its early stages it presents more variations on a familiar theme, it sounds great, of course, because it sounds like Godflesh.
When Post-Self does reveal a change in direction, the transition is stark. The subdued factory gallop of “Mirror of Finite Light” features only the slightest hint of metal intensity, its eerie robotics and Broadrick’s toned-down vocal approach making it sound a bit like Jesu given a remix treatment. The contrast isn’t as stark with standout “Be God,” but the results are sublime, its apocalyptic ambience beautiful in its harrowing discordance. Broadrick does drones well, and though Godflesh was rarely his outlet for such an approach, it’s a match made in glorious hell. “The Cyclic End” has a similar effect, albeit one that’s more meditative and spacious in spite of its creeping darkness.
That Broadrick and Green allow the listener to wade into the newly adopted weirdness of Post-Self rather than drop them into the deep end is a partial blessing. They offer a reminder that this is a Godflesh album before making the effort to redefine what that means. And ultimately, there are more ethereal experiments and post-punk dirges than reprises of Streetcleaner‘s industrial inferno. Though this is the second album of Godflesh’s return, it’s the first to sound like a proper second act. The transition might be a delayed one, but its rewards more than make up for the delay.