Godflesh @ The National – 18th September 2015

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When the UK’s “Home Of Metal” project was established to recognise the city of Birmingham as the birthplace of metal music, they chose five bands to focus on that they saw as the most influential bands from that city. Those bands were Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Napalm Death and….. Godflesh.

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Formed almost 3 decades ago, the Birmingham duo have been rightly recognised as pioneering the genre of industrial metal, and have been cited as an influence on bands as diverse as Metallica, Ministry, Danzig, Converge, Korn and Faith No More. Tonight is their first ever appearance in Montreal, and only their second show in Canada. The show is part of the city’s fantastic Pop Montreal festival. Motorhead are playing just a few yards up the street, but, for me, this is the place to be for anyone who wants to witness heavy music unlike anything else out there.

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Just after 10pm Justin Broadrick (guitar, vocals and programming) and G.C. Green (bass) wander onto the National’s stage in front of an eager crowd. “Welcome to Montreal” shouts one fan as they strap on their guitars and Broadrick sets up the backing track on his laptop. The vocalist signals for the bright spotlights to be turned off. Their music suits the dark! They then set the scene for the night as they launch into the opening track from last year’s A World Lit Only By Fire album, New Dark Ages. Its stomping, threatening rhythm instantly reminds you of what Godflesh do better than any other band…. brooding, desolate and immensely heavy soundscapes with electronic beats, droning, discordant guitar and powerful, intermittent bass.

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The grinding sludge of Deadend and the relentless repetition of Shut Me Down follow, and the crowd are already captivated, nodding their heads in unison to the beat. A brief technical issue interrupts the flow for a few minutes, but it’s soon rectified and the band continue with as much intent as ever.

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It’s seven songs into Godflesh’s set before we hear anything recorded before 2014, and 1989’s Christbait Rising is greeted like a true classic by the fans. It’s impressive that songs that were recorded a quarter of a century apart sit side by side perfectly, proving that the band Broadrick set out to create in 1988 remains as true to its original ideals as ever. Streetcleaner and the programmed power of Spite keep the mood as stark and mesmerising before Crush My Soul, the only song from 1994’s Selfless album to be played, ends the main set in furious style.

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There’s virtually no chat from the band between songs. Oftentimes the spaces are filled with screeching feedback and atmospheric samples. Visually the band members leave the projections behind them to hold your attention as the musicians pummel away at their instruments either side of the stage.

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They encore with a true Godflesh classic, Like Rats. “You breed, Like Rats”, Broadrick screams into his microphone with all the disgust he can muster. As the song concludes, Green drops his bass and wanders off into the shadows, leaving his bandmate to rinse ever last drop of feedback from his guitar for a few minutes before a simple “Thank you”.

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I’ve been lucky enough to see Godflesh a number of times since they’re inception and tonight demonstrated that, despite a hiatus and some extreme personal problems along the way, they still seem at the peak of their songwriting and performing powers. An absolutely immense performance!

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Setlist:

New Dark Ages
Deadend
Shut Me Down
Life Giver Life Taker
Carrion
Towers of Emptiness
Christbait Rising
Streetcleaner
Spite
Crush My Soul
Encore:
Like Rats

Review and photos – Steve Gerrard

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