Long Live The New Flesh
Justin Broadrick is a man who has never stood still. Whether channelling his creativity in its various forms or adding his mark to an increasingly significant number of collaborations and remixes, the demise of Godflesh in 2002 was never going to be the end. Ever a shining example of musical and innovative prolificacy, he has managed to keep himself more than busy during the intervening twelve years, most notably with his crushingly heavy pop brainchild Jesu. Whist a clear departure from his former day job, Jesu certainly shares traits with Godflesh; a sure-fire inevitability with such an idiosyncratic creative force at the helm. Yet make no mistake, Jesu's pop sensibilities (brilliant as they are) have been left entirely where they belong and this outing is unsullied Godflesh, through and through.
Having wandered off in various directions during the band's initial lifespan, A World Lit Only By Fire feels like a homecoming. It does away with the more hip-hop-influenced structures and sounds of Songs of Love and Hate (brilliant as it is in its own right) and the often-maligned drum'n'bass experimentation of Us and Them, harking back to the Godflesh EP and Streetcleaner days, which to many is seen as the optimal vision for the band; yet this absolutely does not feel like a band repeating themselves.
This was never something Godflesh were going to rush into, and despite the news of a reunion with bassist Ben Green and newly booked gigs birthing a fresh buzz of excitement and anticipation in 2010, it would be another four years before new material would see the light of day. Once that day arrived however they wasted no time in returning to form, and if sparks were lit with the Decline and Fall EP, then this release is aptly named indeed.
As New Dark Ages unleashes the album's cold annihilation upon the world, the dominance of Godflesh over a musical plain that is both intrinsically clinical and instinctively organic continues; the drum machine-fed industrial wasteland melding with distorted guitar drones and G.C.'s merciless molten low-end to create a sound that sounds as natural in 2014 as it did in 1988. The forbidding death march of Obeyed is truly a return to the likes of Streetcleaner, while the digitized beast that leapt forth from Broadrick's throat twenty five years ago roars back to life with the arrival of Carrion; the synthesized demon risen again. Justin's newly brandished eight-string guitar provides the desired octaves for the pummelling Shut Me Down and Curse Us All, each song meticulously carved around a devastating riff that further highlights the true songwriting prowess of this stalwart duo.
The appearance of clean vocals within Imperator will be no major shock for fans of the band, yet the warm emotive fuzz of Jesu remains locked away, proving once again that Broadrick's knack for creating apocalyptic melody is not to be questioned. The duo rely on industrial discordance and sonic textures to build the world around them; a world of fire and steel brought to life by a brilliant mind and fuelled by its loathing of humanity's stagnation.
With the passage of time comes a production naturally superior to recordings that were brought to life a quarter of a century ago, and with Justin's years of experience behind the mixing desk comes a refined sound that is tailor-made for the band; clinically cold yet glowing with a dense, mechanized hell.
The album title points its poignant finger not so much toward a regression, but perhaps a resignation of the human race and its lack of progression in the areas that truly count, and in a 21st century world dominated by technology and rife with destruction, Godflesh are arguably more relevant now than ever before. Streetcleaner may have been the landmark release, but A World Lit Only By Fire is as strong as anything the band have released to date; a caustic lesson in industrial brutality from the two men who have influenced so many.
This is far more than a derogatory reformation of ageing pioneers or a trip into nostalgic bliss - it is a resurgence of the bile that builds up in the minds of those who visualise darkness within the bowels of the world around them. Broadrick may no longer be surrounded by the day-to-day life that helped spawn this demon of drone and dilapidation, but some fires burn on long after they appear extinguished. Released on Justin's own Avalance Inc. label, this is the sound of a creative force without constraints or boundaries, of two men jumping back on the wagon to reach creative peaks many thought long abandoned. Godflesh have returned and are doing what they do best; and ultimately, nobody does it better.