After nearly two years of inactivity, Birmingham, England's Godflesh has returned with its brightest moment yet. The band's latest Earache release, the monumental Songs of Love and Hate has just seen the light of day and has managed to win over the hearts of fans and critics alike. It was heralded as "album of the month" in both extreme music magazine Terrorizer and electronica/out rock journal The Wire. With its melding of driving, heavy guitars, mechanized industrial tendencies, and overtly inventive use of hip-hop beats, Songs of Love and Hate moves the band into a new realm.
The past two years have seen major changes that affected the creation of Songs of Love and Hate. "When our last album Selfless was released we really should have made more of an effort to go out and tour," says Godflesh guitarist/vocalist Justin Broadrick, "but we let Columbia release the record in North America and then they promptly decided to drop us after the release, so we were sort of left spinning our wheels a bit trying to figure out just where to go next." One place the band did decide to venture was toward the inclusion of a live drummer on their latest effort.
Broadrick is quite adamant about how important evolution is to the group. "Godflesh is trying to progress, and to refresh itself. This for me is even fresher sounding than the last album. This is more the area I want to aim at on future releases. The new record is like a new beginning point, really."
Broadrick points to the influence of hip-hop for his decision to expand the Godflesh line-up beyond himself and longtime partner Benny Green. "I listen to more hip-hop than I do modern rock music to be honest, so that's a pretty big starting point. In the last four years hip-hop has had much more brutality than any type of rock music has, period. It just seems to be much more pure in its delivery. The beats for me are just so admirable, it was something we just had to have in Godflesh.
"We had touched on hip-hop beats on our second album, [1992's Pure]. These ideas were never fully realized. The concept was alive there, but for Songs of Love and Hate the ideas Benny and I had have been more fully realized. [Songs drummer] Brian Mantia is essentially a hip-hop/funk drummer by nature. The job he did really helped bring our visions to reality."
The other major difference on Songs is the over-all sound of the finished product. After the almost sterile feel of the band's last album Selfless, Broadrick and company made a conscious decision to move in a different direction. "I really wanted to make this record as filthy sounding as possible," says Broadrick. "Most of the hip-hop that has influenced us is really underground, where the production is really murky and the bass is pushed almost to the limits. Almost like an implosion of sound as opposed to the explosions of sound that made our last record so clearly audible. This time around we wanted to make a record that sounds really contained, as if it was all recorded in the same room, not as if the drumming and the rest of the music was separated by over 5000 miles."
"The most important thing is to retain what Godflesh is all about. There was no desire to change so much that we would become an entirely different band overnight. Obviously the record does not sound like we are trying to become a full-out underground hip-hop band, but hopefully the listeners will be able to detect the influence and appreciate why we are growing and maturing as a band."
One thing that does seem to bother Broadrick, is people who refer to Godflesh as a "metal band" they consider themselves a marginally out-there noise rock band, in the league of Big Black or the Swans. "The first time we toured the States we came over with Napalm Death, and for the most part it was the first time [anyone] had been introduced to what we were doing. These metal kids were trying to tell us we had created some kind of new breed of metal music, and were very disappointed to find out we were not metal-influenced in the least, that we actually take heavy metal and abuse it."