Review Summary: Despite Justin’s hatred towards it, Us and Them is still a satisfying listen worthy of the mighty Godflesh name.
Godflesh was quite possibly one of the most influential bands of the 90s, whether it was realized or not. Countless acts have cited them as an influence since the 90s, and their sound is certainly evident in bands such as Neurosis or Isis. As for Godflesh themselves, Justin Broadrick has always been a very important creative force in all of his projects. Whether it be his immature, brutal beginnings with Napalm Death, the beautiful “doomgaze” of Jesu, or the robotic walls of sound incorporated in Godflesh, Justin Broadrick really is a visionary when it comes to creating an atmosphere. Up to this point, Godflesh had gone under many changes in sound, including the groove of Pure
and the more accessible route of Selfless
, and Us and Them
is yet another drastic change in sound.
Right when the opener “I, Me, Mine” kicks in, you know that Godflesh have reinvented themselves once again. Instead of using the groovy drum machine rhythms that almost mimicked a real drummer, they’ve decided to use drum and bass-influenced rhythms. Now, this mix of techno and metal sounds like it might not work, but it actually does quite well, giving the album a very intense and racing feel to it. On top of that, Justin still uses his growls and dissonant guitar leads, but there is still a focus on electronics that is quite new to Godflesh. The Swans influence is coming out as normal, with the very nihilistic approach to lyricism and the rhythmic vocal approach reminiscent of Michael Gira. The giant amount of noise is also rather new for Godflesh, with nearly every song ending or starting with a wall of noise. Of course Godflesh had noisy tendencies, but they’ve really used them to their full potential this time.
This could perhaps be the most experimental and diverse Godflesh record, with every track being at least slightly different from the one that came before it. Certain songs will be danceable the way they were on Pure
, some will be crushing the way Streetcleaner
was, and some will be sort of accessible the way Songs of Love and Hate
was. Most of them seem to be based around groove and noise though, which isn’t unlike their past material, but the scatterbrained approach is new. Justin Broadrick has called this album an identity crisis; something that he made in a hermit state. The album seems to partly prove both of these statements, but the end result is still rather fulfilling. Sure, certain ideas don’t quite gel together, but the mix of techno and industrial metal actually sounds good most of the time. The aforementioned techno rhythms are new, which pick up the pace by Godflesh standards, but the hallmarks of former Godflesh releases are still inside this beast. Overall, this is easily the most electronics-based Godflesh album by far.
Us and Them
will serve as an interesting place in the career of Godflesh, but it certainly won’t attract any new fans. The overall approach to songwriting is interesting, but it sometimes feels unfocused or undeveloped. Justin sounds like he’s doing most of the work due to the overwhelming use of electronics compared to former releases, with house influence being evident. One interesting way to describe it would be Aphex Twin and Godflesh collaborating; the techno-esque beats, noisy passages, extreme metal vocals, and overall dense atmosphere make this perhaps the most unique Godflesh release. To end it with one final thought, this a peculiar place for Godflesh, but an ultimately satisfying listen in the end.