Prior to the release of their ‘comeback’ album A World Only Lit By Fire in 2014, no-one really knew how this new Godflesh would sound. Post Godflesh, Justin Broadrick could be found creating drone-folk hybrids with Mark Kozelek, creating atmospheric wonderments with Jesu, or appearing on a trillion-and-one records as a producer, re-mixer, and electronic necromancer. Many fans breathed a sigh of relief when A World Only Lit by Fire sounded like a cleaner Streetcleaner and not a dirty re-shaped mess, and so did I to a certain extent, however part of me wanted Godflesh to channel the softness of Hymns, the atmospherics of Jesu, and the electronic denseness of JK Flesh into their unforgiving sound. When Godflesh announced that Post Self would embody a lot of different sounds, particularly post-punk and power electronics, I was both intrigued and concerned. One must venture into the extremer genres with an open mind. This is especially true with Godflesh. So I did.
Opener “Post Self” clings to the repetitive throb of the sub-bass, drowning the shards of typical Godflesh industrial-metal noise in its apocalyptic swell. Co-founding bassist G.C. Green provides even more power to Godflesh‘s meaty backbone. Travelling deeper into the electronic abyss, follow-up “Parasite” features a quicker paced pulse. More prominent guitar chugs, a heavier drum presence, and Broadricks’ renowned grunts rise to fore, decorated with shards of atonal guitar dissonance. Third-track “No Body” is essentially the same, however even crankier low-end bass suffocates the mix, accompanied by harsh cracklings and jackhammer drum pulses.
Greater variety occurs as the album progresses. Less harsh but just as ominous, “Mirror of Finite Light” merges Broadrick’s softer vocal lamentations with echoing, glitching, and droning loops. The guitars are a distant texture, so distant in fact that they eventually disappear as the song comes to its barren end. Doomy atmospherics merge with the drearier electronic elements in “Be God.” The low-end somehow reaches lower-ends as bottom-dwelling guitar chugs and bass throbs scavenge for nutrients in this murky void. Broadrick’s growls are deeper and fuller here, holding an abrasive textured sound that blankets the already dense mix. “The Cyclic End” is, as one could guess, cyclical and repetitive. The sound here is even sparser then before, the bass tones simpler, the chugs withered, dead; a dreamy wash of Brian Eno-esque ambience manages to both off-set and deepen the sense of despair that the song holds, as well as adding an extra layer of richness to the mix. Adding extra uniqueness, ultra-space-age tones sear through “Mortality Sorrow,” a horrifically cold sounding track that merges high-frequency synth sounds with a subterranean-level bass tone set to shake the plaque from your teeth.
It’s these less conventional tracks that have the biggest impact. Although decent enough, the opening three tracks are side-glancing, sounding too much like the band’s mid-period output for my liking. The middle-section of songs are different, fresher. Godflesh, by looking further back in time, to post-punk and early-electronic origins, seem to have shifted their musical perspective, re-moulding their influences in absorbing and deft ways. Closing with “The Infinte End” is a fitting end. Repetitive, reverb-drenched, swallowing: the opening to the song is a brooding spasm of double-bass drum pounding, dissonant electronics and guitars, and pained bellows. However, the last minute is visited by ambient warmth that lifts the song into angelic realms. It’s not a happy ending by any means; this warmth cements the hopeless nature of the album ten-fold.
The lack of truly interesting riffs is somewhat of a weakness, especially during the opening songs, and the back-end occasionally suffers with this too. “Pre Self” is poor, failing to harness the strange energies of the previous songs. It’s too much of a mix of everything and thus lacks a potency and sense of direction; its lack of discernible riffs leads to the fading into immemorable territories. Similarly, “In Your Shadow” makes use of riffs similar to those on Hymns and Streetcleaner, though these fail to hit their target.
Post Self is a depressing and uncomfortable listen that succeeds when the atmospherics and electronics are placed at the fore. As a huge fan of Broadrick’s project Jesu and JK Flesh, it’s interesting to hear the influence of these projects melded with the harshness of power electronics and the repetitiveness of post-punk and industrial metal. Post Self is a very good record, but its inconsistent approach is a hindrance. Godflesh are all about the extreme combination of industrial and metal. Post Self has a problem reconciling both to an excellent standard.
Editor’s Note: This review was incorrectly posted as a 3.5 although the author lowered the score prior to publication. Editors who shall be nameless (everyone but Steel) made mistakes and will be dealt with brvtally. The rating is now adjusted.