Birmingham’s deadliest industrial metal machine.
Combining metal, electronica and hip-hop may not be out of the ordinary today, but back in the late ‘80s it was practically unthinkable. That didn’t stop musical genius Justin Broadrick from trying however, and inventing industrial metal in the process. Having just left Napalm Death after recording the A-side of their epoch-defining ‘Scum’ opus, Justin’s restless sonic vision led him to slow things right down to a punishing crawl with his new band Godflesh in 1988. Along with bassist G.C. Green, the pair decided against drafting in a drummer, and opted for one of the most pounding, oppressive sounding drum machines ever put to tape instead. This gave the band a sound unlike anything that had come before, colliding heavy riffs in the vein of Black Sabbath or Swans with the relentless, otherworldly pulse of techno and avant-garde industrial music.
Earache Records released the pair’s debut album ‘Streetcleaner’ in 1989, a monolithically heavy record that redefined how a metal band could look, sound and operate. Its slow, brooding grooves were a world away from the lightspeed death metal and grindcore that the label specialised in at the time, but shared a similarly abrasive approach that saw it appeal to metal die-hards and open-minded electronic music addicts in equal measure. Godflesh’s impact was not just felt throughout the underground, but in the mainstream too, with acts as big as Metallica and Danzig championing the band, whilst their influence on acts like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails is readily apparent. Never one to rest on his laurels, Justin kept pushing the band as far as he could, incorporating boom-bap hip-hop beats on records like ‘Pure’, whilst later albums like ‘Songs Of Love And Hate’ and ‘Us And Them’ brought in aspects of drum’n’bass, house, breakcore and other forms of electronica to create a particularly heady, vibrant clash of different styles.
After experimenting with a live drummer on 2001’s ‘Hymns’, the band broke up, with Justin continuing to create atmospheric metal as Jesu, as well as going on to further explore electronic music with projects like JK Flesh, Council Estate Electronics, Greymachine and Techno Animal (the latter alongside Kevin Martin who would later become renowned in grime, dancehall and dubstep circles as The Bug). Godflesh reunited in 2009 however, and have since released a pair of studio albums that prove they’ve lost none of their mechanical force or forward-thinking mindset. The pair’s live show sits somewhere between a metal gig, an underground rave and an apocalyptic sermon on the end of the world, and the deafening stomp of their drum machine will surely feel right at home amidst Boomtown’s eclectic stages.