Godflesh – Purge Review

Tons of things have been said about industrial pioneers Godflesh. Unrelentingly brutal. Hypnotically trance-inducing. Pairs alarmingly well with Destiny’s Child. Whatever your stance or point of reference, there’s no denying the long-standing Birmingham duo have carved their way into the minds and hearts of the industrial scene since their arrival in the late 80s, and have bludgeoned and captivated over the course of eight highly-influential albums. Since their return in 2014 with the head-caving A World Lit Only By Fire, bassist GC Green and vocalist/guitarist/programmer Justin Broadrick strike when the time is right, given by the length of time between albums and Broadrick’s multiple projects, but when that time hits, it’s usually a treat.

Usually. So… Purge, like all Godflesh albums, starts off on a strong note with “Nero,” featuring all the classic Fleshy trademarks we’ve all come to know and love. Atonal riffs, Green’s head-flattening basslines, groovy danceable drum patterns, Broadrick’s howling screams… all present and accounted for in a chest-caving opener that’s sure to put a smile on any industrial fan’s face. Immediate follow-up “Land Lord,” though? Now that’s the shit right there, swinging and hitting with greater urgency and heft only hinted at merely one song ago, and could possibly end up on my Song o’ the Year list in December. Elsewhere, “Permission” showcases that it’s perfectly okay to incorporate breakbeats in metal, and not only have it fit, but make it pop in aurally pleasing, brutally satisfying fashion.

I just wish a good amount of the rest of Purge was as inspired as the above. Godflesh excels in two modes: facecrushingly heavy, and in airy atmospheric drones. The problem with the latter here on Purge is that the songs feel half-baked. “The Father” should hit with emotional heft, but so precious little is going on in the music that it’s just too sparse and empty to leave an impact. Closer “You Are The Judge, The Jury, and The Executioner” doesn’t connect quite as hard as past closers like “Go Spread Your Wings” or “Jesu” due to the songwriting. And the only thing I remember from the otherwise banal and overwrought “Army of Non” was the non-stop “Check it out, y’all” sample looped ad nauseam.

The other problem with Purge lies with the production. In the past, Godflesh’s production has always been as unrelenting and unforgiving as their music, which added to the charm, but also brought about a certain aura to it. Here, it sounds too clean, too clinical, and too sterile. The guitars don’t have that same bite to them that they had previously, the programmed drums, while crisp and bright, don’t quite hit the same as before and, most unforgivably, Green’s bass sounds muted and powerless. Besides Bolt Thrower’s Jo Bench or Voivod’s Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault, GC Green has a distinctive tone and presence that you want to bring to the forefront. Why it sounds this squashed here is baffling.

Godflesh have given us a wealth of incredible music over the years, and their music continues to inspire generations of metalheads and industrial music lovers to this day. Their minimalistic approach to crafting music that’s equally moshable and trance-inducing knows no peer, and nothing can take that away from them. Sadly, Purge, while not a terrible album by any stretch, isn’t one that I would deem “essential” by any means. I’m hoping this is just a misstep, as I hate to see another long-time favorite go by the wayside.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Avalanche Recordings
Websites: godflesh1.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/godflesh.official
Releases Worldwide: June 9th, 2023

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