Album Review : Godflesh - Post Self (2017)
Bands like Godflesh don't have casual fans. People need to either commit to their music and try their best to understand what they're going for or simply get out of the way. They don't play music you can bob your head to and singalong. Most of them have little to no lyrics anyway. The band release its eight full-length album Post Self last week and man, it's one brutal and pounding record. Not their most groundbreaking effort, but it's steady and reliable the way a steamroller is. Why should you take interest in a Godflesh record in 2017? Well, that's one interesting question Post Self raises, so let's try to answer it.
One thing you need to understand about Godflesh is that they're making music the old fashioned way. Post Self is an album where every song is conceptualized in relationship to one another. It's not, like, four or five singles and filler. They would've scrapped the titles, cut the breaks between the songs and told me the album consisted in one extremely multilayered industrial track and I would've believed it. Justin Broadrick and G.C Green's music has this sort of consistence and reliability. So, you kind of have to take Post Self as this powerful monolith. Once you press PLAY and go under, you're under for its entirety or you're missing the fucking point of it.
Post Self reminded me a lot of Godflesh's iconic record Streetcleaner (one of my all-time favorites) on a surface level. It's got the thudding bass, the whining, lingering and methodical guitar riffs that sound like the hallways of hell itself and, of course, Justin Broadrick's trademark half-growls, half-howls that make you feel uneasy about yourself. Post Self has the same prowling, unrelenting mid-tempo cadence than Streetclearner has, too. But the comparisons stop once you get into the nitty gritty of the record. Post Self might have a monolithic structure, but it gets quite detailed and creative inside of it. Once again, this is not surprising, Godflesh has always been good at evolving and experimenting within set parameters.
This is not the most accessible of Godflesh's record. It is definitely a harder nut to crack than their previous release, the excellent A World Lit Only By Fire. Post Self leans more on the industrial and post-punk side of the band. Mirror of Finite Light is perhaps the most extreme example the album has to offer. The structure of the song is very loose and lead by drums, guitar and vocals come and go, it's really exploring particular moods and ideas. Be God doesn't have much of a structure at all. The only way I can qualify this song is that it's a collage of electronic sounds and eerie sample set to a thudding bass. It's a purely industrial song, safe for the bass and a quiet post-punk guitar riff that drifts in halfway to finish in an creepy, almost monklike serenity.
What are the particular moods and ideas Godflesh are exploring on Post Self? Glad You Asked. The idea of transcendence is very present on the record. Not exactly a new theme for the band, but they're attacking it in a way I believe is now. There are ideas of transcending transcendence on Post Self, which I find super interesting. Concepts of finitiness (Mirror of Finite Light), mortality (Mortality Sorrow) and endings (The Cyclic End) are evoked. Songs like Post Self and Pre Self also allude to the idea of non existence. There are little lyrics to interpret on the record, but the ideas of getting over the egoistical wish of living forever is a Godfleshian concept, if you will. Post Self is about getting over your ego, your self, accepting death and even embracing it. There's a vulnerability and even a surrender to it that shapes its identity.
So, there you have it. Godflesh is not the easiest band to like. They require commitment and a musical curiosity. The same can be said for most industrial bands, I guess and Godflesh always wrapped their music in a nice rock bowtie, so they're not the most idiosyncratic artists in the genre. Post Self is more of a reliable release than a groundbreaking one, although details and specifics that are entirely its own. Where the album really works is on a conceptual level where it stands unafraid to explore new ideas. I'd say Post Self is a good Godflesh record. It may not have the sturdiness of a classic, but it doesn't try to be. It's an introspecting and challenging listen that will call those who feel called upon and no one else. Uncompromising music tends to do that.