Genre: Industrial| Label: Earache Records
Location: Birmingham, England | Listen: Bandcamp
Godflesh is undoubtedly one of the most influential industrial metal acts of all time, with their lethal combination of monolithic riffs and drum machine beats. In 2015, I drove 1200 kilometres to see them live in support of their reunion album, “A World Lit Only by Fire.” While listening to various Godflesh releases on the trip, “Us and Them” was brought up by one of my friends, and it turns out I had yet to hear their fifth album. As per our discussion, I learned that Justin Broadrick wasn’t particularly fond of this record, and that it strayed deeper into various electronic music influences. This description had my attention, and after the trip, I took the time to check this record out.
Released in 1999, “Us and Them” is certainly an outlier in Godflesh’s discography, but it still retains the core elements of the band’s industrial sound. The opening track, “I, Me, Mine” introduces the album’s newfound approach with use of jungle beats and trip-hop soundscapes. The typical Godflesh groove can be found, but it also falls into some electronic dance feels, and could very well be played at a club. The title track displays this well, as it is a monolithic crusher of a song, but then breaks into a very late 90’s EDM-esque outro. Sections like this sound very much like a product of their time, and could very well serve as the perfect soundtrack for a cyberpunk film. This isn’t totally out of left field for Godflesh, as they were experimenting with sounds like this on the “Slavestate” single and its various remixes back in 1991.
“Us and Them” is a long album, clocking in at over an hour. It’s a bit of a commitment to listen to, but thankfully is diverse enough that it’s not doing the same thing over and over throughout. There are a couple songs that are reminiscent of the previous album, “Songs of Love and Hate.” The tracks in question, “Bittersweet” and “The Internal” feature more melodic singing and riffing, recapturing some of that post-metal vibe from that last record. The last track, “Live to Lose” also falls into this category, and was actually recorded in 1995, so that matches up with the timeline of when they were doing songs like that.
Adding to the diversity of this album, there are plenty of looped samples, usage of break beats, and infectious low end grooves. GC Green holds his bass parts down so well, whether it’s in more dance-able songs like “Endgames” or more traditional industrial paces like on “Witchunt.” “Us and Them” heads into some really dark and suffocating territory too, especially with the track “Defiled.” The contrast of trippy samples, jungle beats, menacing vocals, and the claustrophobic sounding bass create such a unique atmosphere for a song. Again, I can’t stop picturing a film like “The Matrix” when listening to tracks like this, further cementing itself as a product of 1999.
Godflesh aren’t for everyone, and “Us and Them” isn’t exactly their most revered album. It’s not a breakthrough album like their debut was, and it strays into territory that is pretty far removed from metal. In addition to Broadrick’s intial hatred of the record after its release, GC Green left the band, and then Godflesh fell apart after one more album. Broadrick has toned back his distaste of this album, boiling it down to disliking some “cringe-worthy moments,” which in my opinion are probably some of the samples chosen here and there. However, I can’t help but enjoy these songs, as they still have massive hooks, infectious grooves, and the pronounced influence of electronic music gives this album such a unique sound. Fans of Godflesh that haven’t given this album a lot of time ought to try it again, and any metal fan that has an interest in industrial/electronic music should try it out too.