Genre: Industrial Metal | Label: Earache
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: YouTube
Back in 1989, former Napalm Death guitarist Justin Broadrick released his debut full length with his new band, Godflesh. For those expecting an extension of his work with the seminal grind act, “Streetcleaner” would come as a surprise. However, for those who have followed the trajectory of Broadrick’s career, Godflesh’s sound comes as no surprise, as he had been involved in a couple of noisier experimental acts, Fall of Because and Head of David, that foreshadowed the industrial sound that Godflesh would be known for.
“Streetcleaner” is an album made up of two recording sessions on the LP, with an additional session’s tracks added onto the CD version. As a result, the CD ends up being over an hour long, but kind of plays out like you’re listening to three distinct, yet cohesive EPs on one disc that adds up to the quintessential industrial metal album.
The first five tracks feature the line up of Justin Broadrick and his longtime collaborator, JC Green. These tracks are probably the most groove driven ones on the LP, but make no mistake, they are devastatingly heavy. The album starts off strong with one of Godflesh’s most well known tunes, “Like Rats,” which displays a ferocious groove with a noisy bridge section. Following that, we get “Christbait Rising,” which is arguably the grooviest track on the record, taking an old school hip hop influence on the main beat. As a side note, whenever people talk about how metal and hip-hop shouldn’t mix, I feel this track proves that sentiment wrong. Thankfully, Godflesh’s hip-hop influence is strictly seen in the beats, and there are no attempts at rapping. The vocals are aggressively shouted and drenched in reverb, which is as far as the Napalm Death connection goes in terms of the music.
The next five tracks are where things start to get cold and induce feelings of anxiety, isolation, and defeat. These tracks were recorded with a second guitarist, Paul Neville, who was also a member of Fall of Because with Broadrick and Green. In fact, the tracks “Mighty Trust Crusher,” “Devastator,” and “Life is Easy” can be traced back to this early incarnation of Godflesh. These tracks in particular have an approach that could be compared to early Swans. Due to the dual guitar attack of Broadrick and Neville, there’s emphasis on discordant lead work that bands like Pitchshifter would incorporate into their interpretation of industrial metal. The final track of this part of the album, “Locust Furnace,” is an excellent display of desolation and wraps things up nicely.
As I mentioned before, the CD has an additional third session worth of tracks from an unreleased EP known as “Tiny Tears.” These tracks were recorded between the recording of this LP and their debut eponymous EP. They are a little more riff based, just like the Godflesh EP is, and have more in common with the first side of the album (which may also have to do with the absence of Neville on these tracks as well). “Wound” is the standout track from this part of the CD, as it’s main riff is heavy enough to bring down a city block’s worth of buildings.
“Streetcleaner” makes one thing clear: Godflesh was carving a path for many industrial acts to follow, as well as quite the precursor to the rest of the band’s career. Later in their discography, Godflesh experimented with quite a variety of sounds outside of metal, including some more dance oriented EBM/trip-hop/etc sounds. None of that is really found here, as guitar/bass/drum machine is the main driving force here. There is a reason this album is seen as a classic, and anyone who’s wanting to hear proper industrial metal needs to have this in their collection.