Godflesh - 12/11/1996

Godflesh 1996

I had to drive up to Atlanta to see Godflesh, but I would have driven a lot farther than that. Godflesh was on my short list of bands that I'd waited years to see, and while I wasn't as big a fan of Songs of Love and Hate as I was of some of their earlier work, there was no chance that I was going to pass this show up. The Rosewater Elizabeth crew had already moved to Atlanta by this point and the very early days of Underwater were under way, so I somehow convinced Jeremy to put me up for a night and go with me to see Godflesh.

I had begun to collect all things Broadrick by the time this tour rolled around, and with the help of an unlikely record store in Tallahassee called "CD Exchange," I was amassing a set of Final, Sidewinder, Techno Animal, and other odd discs. There are a few artists that I've latched on to over the years who have been inspiring in their ability to put a unique stamp on anything they do: Justin Broadrick, Mick Harris, Jack Dangers, Bill Laswell, Robin Guthrie--but none did so with more variety and experimentation than than the man behind Godflesh.

When we got to the show, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the in-between-bands music wasn't more Earache metal, but instead Basic Channel type minimal techno. This had to have been Broadrick's doing, and I've always wondered why more bands don't take the opportunity to mix things up like that. After all, when you're at a loud ass metal show with a number of bands that are all going to be blazing away with Marshall stacks, it's a fantastic way to give ears a break and cleanse the palette so to speak to put on something completely different. Broadrick was one of the guys who helped me warm up to the idea that purely electronic music and muscular, guitar-driven rock could sound different but come from the same place. That undercurrent of isolation and despair and sometimes defeatism that runs through Godflesh can also easily be picked up in the bleakly minimal drones and clicks of Basic Channel records, and it's actually easy to see now how someone like Broadrick moves around into different guises but always maintains his distinct voice.

Godflesh took the stage and proceeded to pound out the loudest show in the history of loud shows. Swans was loud, but part of that was the acoustics of the venue and the way that the sound focused on an area near the back of the room that made it gut-rumbling. Meat Beat in New Orleans was loud, but that was more about a proper mix of frequencies in a small room than pure decibels. Godflesh on the other hand was simply pushing me back from the stage further and further with each song. I started out thinking that I would brave it somewhere near the pit, but by the end I was on the other side of the wall at the Masquarade where the bar sits. At one point, Jeremy had to go to the bathroom and so I walked that way with him and I remember squinting my eyes as we neared the speakers in some vain attempt to keep the sound from forcing its way into my skull, knocking bits of my brain out of my ears.

I still would have liked to have seen the Pure-era Godflesh or the Selfless/Merciless Godflesh that played long, extended dirges, but the Love and Hate Godflesh was still a great treat. Besides, Jesu perfected what Merciless was hinting at anyway, and more than a decade after this show, I'd get to see Jesu playing Conqueror which made up for everything!