Our top ten Godflesh songs looks at one of the greatest and underrated bands in the industrial metal genre. The origins of Godflesh go all the way back to 1982 when Fall of Because was formed by Paul Neville and GC Green and in 1984 they enlisted Justin Broadrick as a live drummer. Broadrick joined Napalm Death whilst still continuing to play with this project. However, he left both bands when he was asked to join Head Of David in 1986. He was in them for two years before he left in 1988 and contacted Green to reform Fall Of Because. However, this time round Broadrick took on vocal and guitar duties, and they employed a drum machine. This was when they named themselves Godflesh.
They released their self-titled ep in 1988. 1989 saw the release of their debut album Streetcleaner which saw Neville rejoin as a second guitarist. This album is considered to be a classic of the industrial genre, inspired by the bleak landscape of the city of Birmingham, much like Black Sabbath’s music twenty years earlier. Neville left again soon afterwards to concentrate on another project. Their next album Pure was released in 1992 and was even more mechanical in nature.
After their label Earache Records signed a deal with Columbia, they released their third album in 1994 which had a higher production and was less machine-like with a focus on more traditional metal riffs. After the Columbia deal ended , Godflesh released their fourth album Songs of Love and Hate 1996 which featured an actual human drummer in the form of Bryan Mantia. This album, which also had a dub version, was very experimental and this experimentation continued with the next album Us and Them in 1999. Broadrick said that at the time he hated this album and that whilst making it he was going through an identity crisis. The final album of the band’s first stint together Hymns was released in 2001 and featured Ted Parsons from Prong on drums. After the release of this, Godflesh entered a state of turmoil. Despite the fact that the album received a positive reception, Broadrick was not happy with it. After Green left due to being frustrated opening for bands who were influenced by Godflesh, Broadrick suffered a nervous breakdown and Godflesh disbanded in 2002.
After Godflesh ended, Broadrick started a new project called Jesu which he had much success with over the next decade. Him and Green reconnected in 2010 and it was announced that Godflesh had reformed. They played several concerts and festivals over the next few years before releasing a new album in 2014 titled A World Lit Only By Fire. The album was successful and received positive critical acclaim. In 2017, they released Post Self which was also very well received. Here is a list of Godflesh’s ten best songs.
# 10 – Streetcleaner
Kicking off our top ten Godflesh songs list is the title track from their first album released in 1989 which is largely considered to be their magnum opus. The song is extremely crushing, particularly the guitar sound which invokes a hellish atmosphere that really gets across the band’s nihilism. This is a song that proves that a band can be extremely heavy without having to be fast and frantic.
# 9 – Post Self
Next up we have the title track of the band’s most recent album released in 2017. It was released as a single just before the album came out on Justin Broadrick’s own Avalanche label. The song is also the album’s opening track and the only cut on the album to feature a traditional metal riff. It was received well by critics.
# 8 – Ringer
Next up is a song from the band’s ep released in 2014 titled Decline and Fall. Their first material, since their reformation, it was well received by critics as a return to form. The song is very slow and down tuned and even resembles Korn to an extent, a band who have much mainstream success with influence from Godflesh.
# 7 – Crush My Soul
This next song is taken from Selfless released in 1994. It was released as a single in 1995. It had two remixes that were included on the Selfless/Merciless compilation released in 1996. The song had a video directed by controversial artist Andres Serrano which caused some offence due to its content which was seen as blasphemous. The video was shown to Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett who was so impressed with it that he decided to use art by Serrano for his band’s album Load. Hammett also at one time called Godflesh his favourite band.
# 6 – Xnoybis
Here is another track from Selfless. It was released as a single in 1995. Broadrick has stated that the song is about spiritual transcendence much like the rest of the album. The song is a rare kind in the Godflesh catalogue due to the fact that it features a piano. There are several different versions of the song, including an eighteen minute dub mix.
# 5 – Mothra
Here we have a song from the band’s second album Pure released in 1991. The title is taken from a Japanese film released in 1961. It is a very grinding and machine-like song that has a very down tuned guitar sound. The song is one of the few Godflesh songs to have a music video which was rather David Lynch-esque in its visual style.
# 4 – Slateman
Here is a non-album single released in 1991. It was released initially through Sub Pop and then through Earache as both a seven inch and twelve inch. It was later re-released in 1996 along with the “Cold World” single. Along with its B Side “Wound”, it was also included on most later reissues of the Slavestate ep. The single’s cover is a photo taken of Godflesh playing live when they supported Nirvana in London in 1991.
# 3 – Pure
At number three is the title track from the band’s second album. Here Justin Broadrick showcases his love of hip hop with this track that has a very danceable beat. The beat is in fact sample from a song by Eric B and Rakim titled “Let The Rhythm Hit Em.” Decibel magazine named it as one of the band’s best songs.
# 2 – Christbait Rising
Just off the top spot we have a song from Streetcleaner which is considered to be one of the highlights of both the album and the band’s career. It features a very heavy guitar riff and an extremely mechanical drum sound. It is another song where Broadrick was influenced by Eric B and Rakim where he stated that this track’s beat was based of their song “Microphone Fiend.”
# 1 – Like Rats
At the top of this Godflesh songs list we have the opening track from Streetcleaner which is also one of the band’s most celebrated songs. Starting off with a wall-of-feedback introduction, the song then quickly descends into one of the most pummelling and apocalyptic songs ever written, with its grinding guitars, heavy bass and Broaddrick’s vocals where he sounds like something out of a dystopian nightmare as he scream his misanthropic lyrics about how human beings “breed like rats.”
Feature Photo at the top of the page. Grywnn, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Godflesh Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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