EP Review: GODFLESH Decline & Fall
Somewhere in the 90's my musical tastes fragmented enough that it no longer made sense to have a "favorite" band – the likes of Slowdive and Iron Monkey appealing to different sensibilities/moods that didn't entirely invite direct comparisons – but back when it still felt important to have a #1 I closed that era out with Godflesh.
I've always liked to think of myself as never having been an apologist for any band, but Justin K. Broadrick was about the closest I knew of to an artist that could seemingly do no wrong (largely because his more so-so efforts turned out to be the obscurities that I didn't track down until much later… which is exactly why you don't make your heroes immortal in the first place. No harm, no foul). I think his Biomechanical remixes of Pantera were the first efforts I came across that seemed at least somewhat phoned in. Admittedly I gave Broadrick the benefit of the doubt on his mediocre Curse of the Golden Vampire project, mostly because it was co-directed by Alec Empire, a talented artist who has nonetheless had a tendency to favor quantity over quality, especially back in the 90's.
Shit, I'll even own up to digging Us and Them, the hip-hop-experiment-that-kinda-wasn't, although it was admittedly the first significant chink in the Godflesh armor. Even Broadrick hates that one, however, so it wasn't all that surprising that following a too-safe return to form (2001's Hymns), he decided to close the book on his main project of 14 years and jumpstart the now legendary Jesu in its place.
Never having gone a single year during the Godflesh era without recording at least one side project or collaboration (typically several), Broadrick spent the first half decade of his new band's existence dedicated almost exclusively to Jesu material. Of course, beginning in 2009 he started making up for lost time in a huge way, so it was really only a matter of time before he got the itch to jump on the industrial horse again.
Godflesh always put out some of their strongest work in the EP format – Merciless may be pound-for-pound their best work – so it's all the more satisfying to see their first material in 13 years continuing the streak. Decline & Fall is a serious motherfucker from start to finish. "Ringer" has an absolutely savage central riff that almost seems written with sole purpose of teaching new school industrial dabblers like Batillus who really runs this shit.
"Dogbite" has an odd familiarity to it that initially seems to cop the band's own "Spite" (Pure, 1992) but diverges enough to establish its own identify while still recalling that song's jilted rhythm. "Playing With Fire" gives a similar case of deja vu, this time being more reminiscent of the hip-hop-via-EBM experiments of Songs of Love and Hate, although it's frankly more successful than about 80% of the material on that album so don't go thinking "outtake" here. "Decline and Fall" closes out with another instant classic of a riff, a worthy bookend to the sickeningly infectious "Dogbite".
Broadrick's greatest strength has always been that he not only has the ability to write deceptively simple riffs in his sleep, but also he has an uncanny knack for being able to pinpoint the precise line between where repetition goes from entrancing to simply monotonous. The only conceivable downside to this EP is that it will serve as a constant reminder how long we have to wait until September, when the full length A World Lit Only by Fire drops. In the meantime Decline and Fall has highway mileage written all over it.