Few albums can match the absolute hopelessness and bleak desolation as Godflesh's Streetcleaner
. One of Earache records' seminal releases, Godflesh would eventually be lumped into the category of "industrial metal," but on Streetcleaner
they prove to be something entirely different.
One of the reasons Godflesh has been labled as industrial is because they use a drum machine instead of a drummer - in later albums they would also incorporate the use of samples and loops which made the classification a bit more applicable. On this album, however, it is easier to think of them as "progressive doom metal with a drum machine."
is completely unrelenting - it never lets up, not for a second. Through the 60+ mins (if you count the bonus tracks), you are submerged in an introspective, tortured, self-loathing hell which is at times rather uncomfortable, but entirely rewarding as a listener. Justin Broadrick (vocals, guitar) once stated that Godflesh was unique in that, though their music is heavy, their lyrics come from a position of weakness and defeat. This makes the music backing the lyrics all the more profound and meaningful.
With the drum machine driving the music, one can assume it is mathmatic in its approach and almost hypnotic at times. Broadrick's playing is absolutely unique, dischordant, and punishing, and he utilizes ear-piercing feedback more effectively than anyone before him. The vocals are usually shouted, occasionally with a pitch-shifter employed to darken them up. At other times, Justin sings in a quiet moan which futher drives home the mood of desolation.
G.C. Green provides the bass guitar which is completely over-processed with distortion and compression. I have spent years trying to recreate this bass sound as it is an incredibly effective distorted and wet sounding bass. Godflesh was one of the first bands (with the exception of Carcass maybe) to tune down to such extremes - the bass strings sound as if they are just hanging off of the neck.
One of the reasons Streetcleaner
gets a "5" rating is because it plays so strong as a whole - though I've listened to it hundreds of times, I cannot bear to skip a single track as that would disrupt the mood that is so effectively created by this album. Christbait Rising, A Dream Long Dead, Mighty Trust Krusher,
are all stand-out tracks here. Nothing but the possible exception of Devastator
really presents itself as "filler."
Godflesh would go on to produce over 10 more albums, and though many on them are worth checking into (particularly Pure
), they never could create the minimalism and outright claustrophobia created by Streetcleaner
. Over 15 years later, I still find myself pulling this album out and appreciating its brillance, if you haven't, you should.