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Review: Godflesh – Post Self

Godflesh made their live return in 2010, played a string of successful shows and slowly worked their way toward making Decline and Fall and A World Lit Only by Fire, two releases that saw the duo justify their return with what were the best releases that they could put out at the time. However, with growing distance from AWLOBF there was an increasing sense of apprehension regarding the possibility of Godflesh doing better.

Well it’s fair to say that Post Self is a very strong record that is better than D&F and AWLOBF. It is much less straightforward and a bit more minimal than some of the past Godflesh albums, and has an increased focus on texture and atmosphere. Post Self is also fairly loud in some places, yet it contains a surprising amount of breathing space.

The title track works well as an opener, but may be the weakest track here. It seems to mostly serve as a bridge between AWLOBF and Post Self, but in doing so feels a little less consistent with the rest of the album. However, from there the songs have a stronger sense of identity regarding where they fit on Post Self.

The most straightforward songs on Post Self are the first three, although they still have an increasing amount of experimentation as each track passes. It is once the fourth track begins when the album completely opens up and becomes more abstract.

“Be God” and “Mortality Sorrow” are quite monolithic, intense and gripping. “The Cyclic End” and “The Infinite End” push out more and have an underlying sense of unease that gradually develops. “Mirror of Finite Light” and “In Your Shadow” are more low-key and, along with the angular “Pre Self” have a significant focus on texture and are the least straightforward songs on the album.

Guitar still plays an important role, but it sees itself used more often for additional texture or punctuation rather than as a driving force. At times the guitar seems to unfurl and spiral, whereas others it seems to push and pull with the rhythm. Oftentimes the more reduced role the guitar plays allows for more space for other sounds and textures to come to the forefront which helps in establishing the songs as mood pieces.

As Ben Green’s bass is significantly more prominent than on previous releases his playing comes to the forefront and in many cases is the lead instrument. There’s less crunch this time around, but the bass still throbs and drives as powerfully as it ever has. At times it works against the other sounds in order to alter the mood of a song and does so to great effect. Despite the bass having a more overt role, it still works well with the drum programming in maintaining the structural integrity of the songs.

Plenty of tracks make use of more muted and less traditional drum programming that still retains a highly rhythmic nature. Whilst more muted, the programming underscores more of the mood and expansive nature of the tracks without dominating the sound. Something more standard would have worked. However, the songs would have ended up being much more narrow in scope and suffered as a result.

Justin Broadrick’s vocals are still in as fine a form as they need to be for Godflesh. His harsh vocals seem to have become even more abrasive and intense without going into excess, whereas his cleaner singing possesses a lot of tension. His lyrics are as terse as always and match each song and vocal line well.

Where Justin’s vocal performances really shine most are when they become more of a sound of the music than they are vocals sitting on top of the music. Godflesh have always used vocals to good effect, but it’s not often that they’ve felt like they’re meant to be the main focus of the songs. On Post Self this is reinforced. Sometimes this is through the use of effects which go a long way in lengthening and expanding the vocal sounds and sometimes this is more due to enunciation.

Justin Broadrick has said that Post Self is more of a mood piece than the previous album and it really shows. However, Post Self is also a record comprising of body music. Whilst some people have drawn comparisons to Us and Them, it’s just as fair to say that Post Self is also close to Streetcleaner; much more so than AWLOBF is to Streetcleaner. Streetcleaner was a little more direct, but both it and Post Self are both records comprised of body music that rely a lot less on a fuller guitar sound and are in many ways an exploration rather than a direct assault.

In stripping back some of their elements and choosing to focus on their more experimental side, Godflesh have produced a fairly consistent work that shows that their heaviness is not something contrived. It’s not just in the riff for Godflesh; it never was. They’ve always sounded as though they are more interested in the exploration of texture and sound in order to create something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Post Self is more than the sum of its parts. It is an excellent album that can be celebrated as one of Godflesh’s finest.

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