Review by Carl on August 30, 2023.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending (or rather, undergoing) a performance by Godflesh. It was certainly an intense, heavy and especially bludgeoning experience. Afterwards a friend asked me how it was, so I responded that it was like slowly being beaten to pulp with a brick, simply awesome! As they always are, by the way. The aforementioned show was also a presentation of their new album, which I had no knowledge of at that point, so off to the record store I went (how old school of me, eh?), and its playing its fourth round at this moment, so I thought, why not squeeze out a review for it?
The one thing you have with Godflesh releases is that you immediately hear that it is Godflesh alright. The unhuman machine percussion and distorted bass of Ben Green lay down a base (made of reinforced concrete) for Justin Broadrick's low guitar rumblings and hoarse barking vocals. It's an approach that has proven its worth and durability for the band for ages, because for a career spanning some 30 years, they have never sounded behind the times. A true case of leaders, not followers. Godflesh is, however, also a band that knows how to inject the necessary details to avoid becoming a one-trick pony, and that is no different here on Purge. On the first half of this release, this manifests itself in the inclusion of a kind of metallic old school hip hop influence in the drum patterns. And before someone loses his shit over this, no, they have not turned into some rap metal monstrosity. The beats they employ for this sound more like the simple and stripped-down grooves that early Run-DMC, 3rd Bass or even "Licensed to Ill" era Beastie Boys utilized, but imagine these performed by industrial forerunners such as Test Dept. or Einstürzende Neubauten. It reminds me of a more nihilistic approach to what Godflesh did on their Selfless album from years ago, and in combination with the grinding heaviness the band exudes in droves, it hits the mark big time. Throw some subtle sampling into the mix, and you're there. This mixture of rhythmic noise, electronics and crushing metal guitars certainly had me thinking of the early 90's output of Kevin Martin's God, of which Broadrick has been a member of as well.
It's not only pounding drive throughout, however. The second half of the album has made more room for slow driving dirges, evoking the menacing and malicious spirit found in the early Swans output. Crawling slow and morose rhythms create a suffocating and dense atmosphere, with on top of that the no wave (think early Sonic Youth and the likes) inspired guitar playing creating an eerie touch to the crushing hopelessness. With vocals that alternate between Broadrick's usual hoarse growl and some truly haunting clean vocals, the band effortlessly establishes a truly distraught feeling and a thoroughly bleak atmosphere. A fascinating listen, for sure. Now, because of what I just described, you might be tempted to think that this album consists of two separate parts, but that is not the case. True, the first 3 tracks on here are somewhat more upbeat (as far as that is possible in the Godflesh universe) than the rest of the album, but because all the musical elements I mentioned above are more or less present throughout this platter as a whole, it still feels like a Godflesh album proper. And a great one at that, too!
Looking at it as a whole, Purge might not be as crushing as A World Lit Only By Fire (my favorite Godflesh album), but all the trademarks a good Godflesh album should have are present: crushing heaviness, relentless groove alternating with dense dirge, and an unsettling atmosphere throughout. Speaking as the fanboy that I most probably am, I'm not disappointed in the slightest, that's for sure! It is another great example of why this band has the status it has, and deservedly so. If you are a fan already, this is a safe bet. If you're not but want to get more acquainted with their output, I'd suggest to start with the Godflesh EP, Streetcleaner and the aforementioned A World ..., before diving into this one.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10389