Metal is getting its old guard back. Yeah, we should strive toward the future and cultivate tomorrow’s warriors, but it’s also nice to know bands that carved enormous paths and served as influences on so many musicians–good or bad–still are here making vitals statements and reminding everyone how it’s done.
You know who I mean. Carcass last year returned with an astonishing platter that felt like their glory days returned for a victory lap. Judas Priest rose from the ashes this year with one of their best efforts in a long time. Plus, we have At the Gates first release in nearly 20 years breathing down our necks, with the initial signs of it seeming positive. And then, we have Godflesh. Like Carcass and ATG, when Justin Broadrick and C.G. Green reunited to play shows (mostly festivals and smaller tours), there wasn’t much promise for new music from the band. Then, a cover of Slaughter’s “Fuck of Dead” was released for Decibel’s Flexi Series last year. Then in June, the band offered up a pretty promising EP “Decline & Fall” that served as an appetizer for what would come later in the year, that being their brand new full-length effort “A World Lit Only By Fire,” their first full studio effort since 2001’s “Hymns.” It was an incredibly excited thing to put on our calendars back in the spring, but would the record live up to expectations? Would it be a worthy addition to a collection that already boasts stone-cold classics such as “Streetcleaner,” “Slavestate,” and “Pure”?
Luckily we now have an answer, and it’s a damn good one. This record. Holy shit. It’s 10 tracks of unforgiving, devastating, honest Godflesh material, and it will beat the living hell out of you. Broadrick’s roar is full on again (as we know, he used more delicate vocals for other projects such as Jesu), and Green’s bass wallops and commands, reminding the world just how vital he is to this band’s penetrating sound. These guys together again as an active, recording band may have seemed impossible even last year at this time, and who could have imagined this new record would be as wholly satisfying as it is? In fact, out of all of those efforts by metal’s established guard, this one is the best one.
“New Dark Ages” is a fitting title for the first song on this record, because that’s what it sounds like it’s ushering in for us all. Eerie noises hang in the air before the bottom drops out, a thick and ugly bassline slithers through it, and Broadrick lets his howls rip, as he belts, “Don’t look back!” That’s a fitting sentiment for this band that’s hammering forward, and up next is “Dead End” that begins with sludgy guitars, barked vocals, and a mashing, chugging tempo that chews flesh. Noise spits fire at the end, leading into “Shut Me Down,” one of the most powerful tracks on the album. The guys hit on a massive groove on this one, and it could be the one that gets you maimed in a live setting. The vocals take on an alien effect, Broadrick and Green wail away with their strings, and the song has a killer crunch you won’t be able to shake. This is my favorite track on the album. “Life Giver Life Taker” lets the bass grab center stage, and the vocals are cleaner and hang in the air like a mist. The guitars take on a classic metal feel, something you don’t often get from Godflesh, and the track drifts off into the ether after it has made its mark. “Obeyed” has a doom metal tilt to it, with the ambiance threatening and foreboding, and Broadrick’s howls of, “You will never make a difference” should smother you in bleakness and misery.
“Curse Us All” also has some sludginess to it, and it is thrashy and massive. There isn’t a hint of forgiveness to this one, as the guys keep beating and pounding away, with the vocals throaty and painful. “Carrion” is terrifying at times, with mechanical-minded chaos bursting forth, as frosty, bendy riffs and thumping bass create the surrounding, one in which Broadrick’s shout of, “You are a vulture, picking flesh from bone!” sounds both threatening and detached at the same time. “Imperator” pulls back just a bit vocally, as the singing is cleaner and less violent, though the other elements of the track waste no time eviscerating your soul. “Towers of Emptiness” is chunky and hammering, with everything sounding like monsters battling robots, and the band checking out different moods from reflective to violently agitated. Broadrick howls and warbles through the track, and once it’s over, you’re not quite sure what hit you. “Forgive Our” closes the record with 7:41 of volcanic emotion. Furnace hiss greets you from the start, as everything swells and the assault comes on in a calculating manner. The beatings are meted out with a terrifying degree of control, crushing your will and leaving you an apologizing heap. The song bashes back and forth, with Broadrick and Green taking one last chance to do psychological and physical damage and leaving every bit of their anger and frustration on the line for anyone who experiences this record to absorb in full.
Godflesh could have put out anything and most people would have been thrilled. But “A World Lit Only By Fire” is one of the strongest statements in their catalog, a total triumph for this band 13 years after they last made a record. I’m not sure if this album is the beginning of a new era or their last will and testament, but whatever the answer, they could not have done a better job, built a bigger blaze, or fired as effective a shot. This is an all-time great band that remains great, and this record will punish you thoroughly.
For more on the band, go here: http://godflesh1.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://avalancheinc.co.uk/
For more on the label, go here: http://godflesh1.bandcamp.com/merch