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Godflesh
Songs Of Love And Hate Reissue Mark Eglinton , February 19th, 2009 08:14

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Formed in Birmingham in 1988, Godflesh had a pretty good stab at redefining what the term industrial was all about. They were obviously heavy, but this was an incongruous alloy of metal lords Black Sabbath and extreme electronic pioneers Whitehouse machined to be oppressive as inhumanly possible.

It should therefore come as no surprise that some of Godflesh's early work could be described as challenging, and at times almost unlistenable. That said, nothing sounded quite like them and that, as a rule, was a plus. Originally available in 1996, a period of uncertainty for British metal, Songs Of Love And Hate puts down a pretty solid waypoint for where industrial metal was at the time. In many ways, in fact, it can be said to have defined the genre while at the same time clearing the path for new direction.

No less oppressive than previous material (despite the novelty of a 'human' drummer) but much more traditional in structure, Songs Of Love And Hate had a fluidity and grandeur previously unheard in Godflesh's output. It represents a band consolidating a genre they'd previously threatened to expand off the page. Lyrically simplistic (familiar themes of alienation, contradiction and a spot more alienation), most of the tracks follow a more user-friendly verse-chorus format. Sonically though, it's as impenetrable as ever, eschewing any attempts at gloss. It's lo-fi still, but possessed of compact potency via familiar great lumps of guitar and harrowing bass – a difficult balance to achieve.

Yet more than this, Songs Of Love And Hate is a fulcrum for Godflesh. Earlier material like the bewildering Streetcleaner and Pure were like nothing we'd heard before, extremely hard yet rewarding listens. Post Songs Of Love And Hate (as the dub version that accompanies this release, and Us and Them demonstrate) came dabbles with hip-hop and drum and bass previously untried in this forum, which paved the way for other things completely - not all of them welcome. This record, though, stands resolute as a unique snapshot of a shift in the Godflesh trajectory, as well as being their most multi-faceted release. Accessible? Comparatively. Experimental? Less so. Yet this is nevertheless a mighty attempt at duality which compromises neither their raison d'etre nor core spirit. Oh, and 'Frail' might be their career highpoint.

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