Review Summary: The sophomore high
Godflesh needs no introduction at this point in time given their hugely overarching influence on everything known to man that combined lock-step beats with the slow, crushing sounds of down-tuned riffing and a sprinkling of UK power-electronics. Justin Broadrick (main vocals, guitar, programming) and G.C. Green would go on to inspire everything from industrial metallers Fear Factory and most of the nu-metal electronic bands (too many to name) all the way to lighting a fire under the proverbial bum of post-metal titans Neurosis and their cousins in Isis and Cult of Luna. What really make these tid-bit facts so much bigger is that they did it on the strength of their debut album Streetcleaner
. But let’s be honest here, most bands who come into a scene with a genre smashing album as large as Godflesh’s debut often times put out their best and most refined quality music later on in their career but are largely overshadowed by their “most influential work”. Pure
marked a sudden end to an era – a stroke of genius that kept the form of industrial juggernaut Streetcleaner
– and created what should be considered Godflesh’s magnum opus in their expansive discography.
In 1991, Broadrick and Green released an E.P. called Cold World
that was a departure from the toxic industrial factory of Streetcleaner
and would set down the foundation for what would become Pure
. With a much needed injection of emotion/ melody from that crucial E.P., it was the cathartic surge that really made Pure
pulsate with a bit more substance and helped smooth out the jagged edges of their influential debut. Right off the bat, ‘Spite’ manages to mingle in an infectious, danceable beat with that classic staccato guitar riffing Broadrick has leaned on for most of his career. Tracks such as “I Wasn’t Born To Follow”, “Predominance”, and “Pure” are excellent examples of how dynamic Godflesh had become from one album to another showcasing a more varied approach to the rhythms and harder hitting sections under a light not cast from the cold-steel hands of the makers industrial machine-like traits. Broadrick belts out his vocals over these melodically more inclined tracks but it still sounds like a Godflesh patented sound through and through. Leave it to “Monotremata” to really test your patience with a crawling riff that sounds an awful lot like the chugging mechanics of early Swans or most other post-metal bands but with Broadricks subtle guitar tricks – squeals, noodling, off tune chugging – these fine tuned touches play into the chugging guitar parts as if he’s making the riffs come to life. “Don’t Bring Me Flowers” is what I feel the turning track is on Pure
where the record really gets interesting. Not only are Broadrick’s croons more noticeably up-front, the drive in the tempo and atmosphere seem to have picked up in perfect duelling fashion making for a tense and anxiety ridden tune. By the time the twenty-one minute “Pure II” comes along, you might as well turn out the lights, close your eyes and be taken away by a sonic soundscape that can only be described as being dragged dead down the dingiest alleyway in the middle of a cold February night drizzle; UK power electronics at their best.
With the rhythm attack and riffs upfront and the hard charging grunts of Broadrick pushed way into the mix, the album is more or less a lesson in audio instrumentation and less about actual songs and singles. Pure
is and will always be one of the most criminally overlooked albums in Godflesh’s/ the entire industrial genres history but it seems to be a well-kept secret which further engrains albums like these into the realm of cult-status. Even if you take away its significance within the industrial genre, Pure
holds up as not only an example of a sophomore high but a rare feat in how something so dirt-greasy could be turned over into something polished and tuneful.