Reviewing a release consisting largely of remixed tracks isn’t something we often do here at Ghost Cult but, when the sinister Industrial harshness of Birmingham UK’s Khost is given such treatment by Justin K. Broadrick, it’s imperative to sit up and take notice. Three tracks from last album Corrosive Shroud (Cold Spring Records) are utterly transformed by the Godflesh supremo and take the lion’s share of coruscating EP (Cold Spring Records).
The Nimoy-esque narrative of ‘Inversion’ is retained, whilst the horrific roars of Andy Swan are given a boost. The Drone-like pace of the original, however, is replaced by the metallic hammering and claustrophobic intensity of Broadrick’s outfit. Damian B’s rampaging, resonant bass is also more to the fore here, whilst the mixing work sees crushing pulses of noise duel with minute icicle drops of melody.
Broadrick’s intense reworking removes any element of softness and results in the near-destruction of the nervous system. The original eastern intonations of ‘A Shadow on the Wound’, so characteristic of the Khost sound, are reduced to mere blurred echoes as Swan’s terrifying, squalling riff and guttural delivery is enhanced. It’s a stark landscape, made miserable by the constant foreboding and scorched by oppressive rasps of electronica. ‘Revelations Vultures Jackals Wolves’, meanwhile, is given such an abrasive layering of scratches and pulses that the experience is physically painful: the hostility purely technical yet utterly crushing, and monstrous in its staccato, synthetic brutality.
It is something of a relief to reach new product ‘Deadsset’ which still carries that sampled undercurrent yet seems more easily digestible, without losing any of the febrile tension. A subtler assault on the senses it nevertheless unhinges sanity, a robotic snake steadily coiling around the organs and suffocating the life from them.
That this remains a Khost product despite being mercilessly separated from dominating elements of their personality is a testament to the immediacy and savage intensity of their music. Whether any of these versions can be considered as an improvement is open to conjecture, but it’s a regeneration that does no harm to the band’s growing reputation.
In the world of post-rock, there are a lot of pretenders to the throne, but few worthy of the crown. The holy trinity of the genre in the USA falls to Russian Circles, Junius and, Pelican. As they have once before in their career, Pelican have teamed up with Allan Epley (Shiner, The Life And Times) to add his vocal prowess to their new EP, The Cliff (Southern Lord). On paper what looks like just a good match, becomes an exquisite exercise in songcraft, self-restraint, and true talent.
The main track ‘The Cliff’ has the best of Pelican’s breed working for it. Quietly epic, building slowly and entrancing you with each cadence. Hypnotic drums fall and rise in time with your breathing and brain patterns. Beating out a compelling rhythm that beckons to you follow like a spirit. The layers of guitars, a Pelican trademark, spinning motifs and head crushing waves. Added to this expert mix is Epley’s vocals which as a much an instrument as the band. If you are unfamiliar with his work, Epley has a voice not unlike a young Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees/Mad Season). Somber, but full of gravitas and character, Epley’s powerful tones weigh so heavy, it contrasts beautifully with the sunny (for a Pelican song) final stanza.
The other original song on the EP has been termed a leftover from Forever Becoming (also Southern Lord). However, it’s a track so deep and triumphant, I kind of wished they saved it for their next album. It’s like the soundtrack to sports movie, but only for the final montage part. The other two tracks are remixes of ‘The Cliff’. One remix, by Mr. Justin K. Brodrick (Godflesh/JK Flesh) is sans vocals, but enhances the dream-scape aspect of the guitars with synths and adds a heavier bass mix. Their is also an echo effect on the drums that give a surreal sleep-walking feeling to the listener as well. It definitely takes a killer track to the next level. The other track is remixed by Palms (Aaron Harris & Bryant Clifford Meyer). This track revs up the beat quotient, and adds more a dynamic flow than before. The vocals have a great delay loop on them, and some sick backwards guitars too. This release (digital or vinyl) should be enough of a morsel to tide you over until the next full-length.
Throughout his career, Justin K. Broadrick has never been willing to compromise his artistic vision. From the beginning Godflesh laid the groundwork for everyone from Fear Factory to Isis, carving out harsh landscapes of metallic industrial noise steeped in the grim and filth of the Birmingham factories that surrounded them. Since the band’s hiatus from 2002 to 2010 Broadrick indulged his creative muse by lending his talents to ambient music (Final), Techno Animal (Hip Hop) and shoegazing post metal act Jesu.
A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche Records) is as bleak and apocalyptic as its title suggests. Swan song record Hymns may have used real drums and incorporated further melodies but this is the sound of Broadrick returning to the harrowing, coldness of old with just his old running mate G.C. Green and their trusty drum machine for company.
The crushing landscapes of Streetcleaner are recalled in the merciless dehumanised beats yet the harshness of the eight string guitar has taken this unforgiving creation an even blacker more disturbing feel.
While this approach will undoubtedly excite fans of the band’s early works this is no mere exercise in nostalgia. The use of eight string guitar has aided the development of the band’s penchant for dissonant minor key melodies strung out over visceral minimalist beats which drive the band’s point home perfectly.
The churning riffs of ‘Life Giver, Life Taker’ and ‘Carrion’ give whole new meaning to relentless nihilistic aggression harnessing the atmosphere of their earliest works while retaining a feel which is unmistakably contemporary.
No quarter is given through this punishing ten song assault. The brutal repetition and feeling of emptiness is embodied greatly on closer ‘Forgive Our Fathers’ where Broadrick alternates from drill sergeant brutal screams to wails of torment that echo true desperation in a way that is almost too close for comfort.
The momentum never lags throughout this fearsome monolith feeling urgent and vital throughout. It may be their first full length in thirteen years but every fibre of the bands DNA has mutated into an even more virulent strain of post-Sabbath paranoia whose icy claws cannot be escaped.
The worst kept, non-secret of the heavy music world this year was that Godflesh was going to release a new album in 2014, their first in 13 years. A World Lit Only By Fire is coming out on the bands own Avalanche Recordings label on October 6th. This highly anticipated album marks the full on collaborative return of industrial/post-metal pioneers Justin Broadrick and GC Green. The band plans a lot of touring behind this release, the first dates of which will be in the UK this December.
You can hear the preposterously heavy debut track ‘New Dark Ages’ on the Godflesh Soundcloud page:
On the strength of the powerful Decline and Fall EP, the fan base of the pioneers of several forms of music were offering us just a glimpse of what was to come on this new album from the sound of New Dark Ages. From our review of the Decline and Fall EP, Ghost Cult Magazine Senior Editor Ross Baker wrote:
“Visceral, focussed and harrowing the eerie harmonies compliment the driving rhythms and wounded vocals. As bleak as anything the band has ever recorded with scant regard for any musical evolution other than their own, ‘Decline And Fall’ is a more than worthy taster for any upcoming full length for which expectations have now been raised even higher!”
A World Lit Only By Fire Track List
1. New Dark Ages 2. Deadend 3. Shut Me Down 4. Life Giver Life Taker 5. Obeyed 6. Curse Us All 7. Carrion 8. Imperator 9. Towers of Emptiness 10. Forgive Our Fathers
A World Lit Only By Fire December Uk Tour Dates
Tue 09.12.14 The Haunt Brighton Wed 10.12.14 Garage London Thu 11.12.14 Rescue Rooms Nottingham Fri 12.12.14 Sound Control Manchester Sat 13.12.14 Art School Glasgow
Curated by Swedish experimentalists Cult Of Luna, the capital welcomes a diverse bill catering for enthusiasts of many different subgenres encompassing, drone, ambient and full on extreme metal.
Spread over the different venues (The Forum, The Dome, The Boston Music Rooms) means in actuality just a short trek between rooms, allowing for most punters to catch their favourites with little effort. Following sets from P.G. Lost and the restrained beauty of Blueneck, it is over to the Forum to witness one of the heaviest, most harrowing acts currently treading the boards; Belgium’s Amenra. Singer Colin H van Eeckhout keeps his back to the audience throughout but make no mistake this is a gut wrenching performance which mines the darkest depths of the human soul. His anguished shrieks add further power to the monstrous guitars that threaten to tear down the venue. Few would match this behemoth for unbridled intensity.
After Abraham abuse the Boston Music Rooms, it’s time for Justin K. Broadrick to bring the desolate tones of Jesu to the Forum. The video backdrop displays shots of massive buildings and otherworldly landscapes, presumably to convey a sense of how insignificant we are in comparison to the things we create, yet today doesn’t show Jesu in a particularly auspicious light. The vocals remain particularly low in the mix for the first couple of numbers and material like ‘Losing Streak’ meanders in a directionless manner leaving you wondering why such a big crowd have elected to watch them. Broadrick appears frustrated with the sound set up but frankly much of this project’s output is considerably poorer in quality than his work with Godflesh. ‘Tired Of Me’ has some memorable hooks but it is the exception that proves the rule. Ultimately this is a forgettable performance for an act capable of much more.
Thankfully today’s exciting discovery is up next with Swedes, The Old Wind packing the Dome to bursting point. Featuring the considerable talents of The Ocean’s Robin Staps moonlighting for them on guitar, their brutal and dynamic post metal is enough to drag you from the funk of mid-afternoon. ‘Raveneye’ and ‘Spears Of A Thousand’ bode well for their forthcoming new album. Former Breach members Tomas Liljedahl and Niklas Quinata have delivered a sound every bit as menacing as the genre shaping act from which they emerged but the addition of Staps is a stroke of genius. His weaving guitar lines adding depth and clarity to the brutal mirk his bandmates supply. Robin will soon find himself occupied with The Ocean again. It’s incredible the tireless Berliner has the time to pack in so many projects yet each remains of the highest quality.
Jimbob Isaac brought his new trio Hark, looking to remind people of the power of his former act Taint. Decent on record, the Welshmen struggle through a set of downtuned riffola where the band fails to keep time on a number of occasions. Jimbob is a highly engaging figure up front and the band has some punchy material but serious work must go into tightening up their live shows if this performance is anything to go by.
God Is An Astronaut put in a wonderful showing in the Forum. A shining light amongst the murky depths of the rest of the bill, numbers from ‘All Is Violent All Is Bright’ woo and seduce excited punters with uplifting major chords and infectious rhythms. Intricate without once falling into the mire of self-indulgence, they inject hope and light standing out amongst the darkness of their peers today.
God Seed’s nocturnal Black Metal would perhaps suit the more BM orientated Incineration Festival across town, yet Gaahl and the boys are in fine form. There may be no naked bodies crucified onstage this time but the brutality of the music is menacing, eschewing the need for such trappings. ‘A Sign Of An Open Eye’ begin their menacing set and guest appearance by Cult of Luna’s Johannes on ‘Alt Liv’ adds a new edge to the brutal track. Concluding their set with the vicious ‘Prosperity And Beauty’ and current track ‘This Is From The Past’ demonstrate this is an act unafraid to acknowledge their origins, but preferring to forge forward rather than rely on the Gorgoroth name. God Seed exemplify the primal bleakness of black metal and how powerful it can be.
All that remains is the colossal might of the headliners to deliver a much ballyhooed set of crushing, desolate post metal. Bathed in eerie blue light, the band remains as enigmatic and compelling as ever. A couple of songs in, the stage is suddenly plunged into darkness. When the lights go up original vocalist Klas Rydbergand Gaahl lend their voices to ‘Ghost Trail’ adding even more unbridled intensity to this haunting epic. It’s a moment which sends shivers down the spine and reminds us how potent the sound of this act is and how insignificant we seem in comparison to the sheer power of it all.
For all their might and bombast, Cult of Luna proves just as compelling on the fragile ‘Passing Through’. Its graceful open chords ring out through the Forum while the audience catch a reprieve from the intense catharsis only to embrace the vulnerable beauty which briefly surrounds them.
“In Awe Of” lures you into a clandestine universe where the dystopian worlds conjured by novelists like Orwell are brought to mind. This performance is more than a mere retrospective with Rydberg contributing to the piece with such a vigour and zeal you could be forgiven for forgetting he departed the Umea outfit before it was composed.
‘Leave Me Here’ from 2004’s ‘Salvation’ opus lacks the clean vocal delivery but still feels every bit as haunting as on record as it brings the curtain down on a set which many will speak of witnessing for years to come. Electing to take a break at what is the peak of their creativity, Cult Of Luna’s absence from the music scene will be felt by many but by the same token it will mean they are rightly revered and respected for their uncompromising approach to their art and methods of achieving their creative vision on their terms only.
Justin Broadrick has always been a mover and shaker. Active in underground music with many projects from the Drum ‘N’ Bass assault of Techno Animal to Final’s ambient elect-drone, the Birmingham musician is a key underground figure whose influence can be felt from Fear Factory to Isis. Reforming in 2009 having played a smattering of shows but little more Broadrick has finally birthed a new four song EP from his most famous musical endeavour with the promise of more to come. Before the Brummie industrial icon can dish out the punishment it’s time for Alt rockers Loop to woo the audience with their droning riffs and throbbing bass. The venue is just over half full as but the band still receives a positive reaction with many shaking their bodies in time to the rhythm. Relying heavily on repetition you found yourself swaying in time to the soothing molasses of feedback. Hypnotic and alluring this trance inducing spectacle is fine for a kick off but nothing prepares you for the harrowing sounds of urban decay that follows.
The stark contrast between the terrifyingly bleak and nihilist sounds of Godflesh from Loop’s warm psyche could be felt by all in attendance. Justin Broadrick’s scowls intensely while thrashing at his guitar and bellowing like a wounded animal. The hour and ten minutes over which Godflesh inflict their scathing assault upon the bewildered crowd is as claustrophobic as is it compelling. The catacombs of The Cockpit cater for Godflesh’s Molotov cocktail of neurosis over grim industrial sounds.
New number ‘Ringer’ is dished out early and gratefully received by a crowd many of whom probably felt they would never hear a new Godflesh track. Material from the newly released Decline and Fall EP is foul and depraved, harking back to their early material without being an exercise in hopeless nostalgia. ‘Like Rats’ and the bruising ‘Christbait Rising’ are dispatched with frightening efficiency sounding as vicious and life affirming as ever. Crushingly devoid of humanity save for Broadrick’s anguished tones, no intensity has been lost in the thirteen year absence between recorded works.