I, like other music lovers, should perhaps be getting very concerned about just how many gigs that I’ve attended in recent years that are a reunion or return of an “old” band. The same goes with re-issues of “old” albums, repackaged, remastered and resold to fans that quite likely already have the original.
I’m in two minds about the whole thing, I have to say. On the one hand, this is giving me the chance to see bands that I thought I’d never see, either having been too young or simply not having the chance the first time around – and in the case of the reissued CDs, gives a new lease of life to some bands and a potential new audience too, and not to mention some of the remasters have been much-needed. On the other hand, this move towards nostalgia in the music industry is deeply worrying – an admission, perhaps, of creative bankruptcy in an industry that failed to grasp the nettle of the internet early on and is now paying a vast price for doing so.
I approached this gig, though, with an open mind – and how could I not? It featured one band I’ve always wanted to see (the headliners), one I was intrigued to see (Goatsnake), and one I wasn’t all that bothered about (D.R.I.). It was a little concerning early on to realise that for D.R.I., the venue was only half-full, and the upstairs level was closed off, suggesting that ticket sales had been a little sluggish. Although, maybe that was because not that many people were actually that bothered about the first band. As my friend noted during their set, the problem with the various US hardcore punk/thrash crossover bands from the eighties is that most of them sound rather interchangeable nowadays. Yeah, many songs have killer riffs and some great moments, but most of it is stretched out far too long, like punk songs played at thrash song lengths. And each of the bands of this ilk seem to use an identical guitar sound…and well, sadly, I was bored long before they finally said thanks and took leave of the stage.
Things improved markedly by the time Goatsnake took the stage, as for one the venue had filled up, and there was an air in the crowd of something approaching excitement. Exactly why this was, was proved about thirty seconds into Goatsnake cranking things up – they were plainly and simply awesome. Their sludgy metal was of course underpinned by a fearsome, rumbling groove, but crucially had much more going for it than just stoned grooves. Greg Anderson’s guitar licks were damned impressive, too, but the star of the show was unquestionably Peter Stahl. Smartly attired in a dark suit, his soaring voice added a totally new dimension, almost soulful at points like Life of Agony gone much, much heavier. It was fascinating stuff, and a reminder that not all sludge metal was/is mired in clouds of dope smoke – this band had a clarity that make their music surprisingly accessible.
Accessible isn’t really a word I could ever begin to use to describe Godflesh. All the way through a career that began back in the eighties, Justin Broadrick has carved out a sound broadly slower and heavier than any of his peers, and assisted in the development of the nascent genre of industrial metal along the way, too. And this gig was a (very) loud demonstration of why Godflesh remain relevant even now. Remarkably, the rumbling, brutally loud sound cascading from the speakers was created by just two people – guitar and bass – on stage, and their electronics providing the backing. And from the very start as Like Rats steamrollered the crowd, it was clear there was no mood of celebration or of turning a new page.
Avalanche Master Song
Devastator/Mighty Trust Krusher
Life is Easy
Crush My Soul
This was a run through the old stuff – indeed, I think I counted no less than eight songs from the now twenty-two year old debut Streetcleaner, not that anyone was complaining particularly. And like any Godflesh song should be, this was all music that confronts and assaults the eardrums. Low-tuned basslines attack the gut, savage guitar riffs attack the ears, and punching beats attack every other sense.
One minor criticism, perhaps, was that with one album dominating proceedings to such a degree, it was perhaps inevitable that at points songs appeared to bleed into one another without any real variety, but this is maybe a little too harsh. Especially as the other stuff played really was worth the time, too. In particular the end-of-set three strikes of the best songs from Pure, and especially an absolutely crushing take on Mothra.
Despite going on way beyond eleven (I thought there was a curfew, obviously not), there was still time for an encore, and I was delighted to hear one of the few moments where Godflesh ever moved beyond a grinding crawl – the planet-sized assault of Crush My Soul, that somehow managed to squeeze even more volume and heaviness from an already punishingly loud setup.
Yeah, so this was unashamedly yet another lineup of bands coming back for a second bite. But it was generally very good entertainment indeed, and compared with many of the less-than-inspiring “new wave” of bands in these realms, I think I’d take this every time. That the new bands don’t match up is not the “old” bands fault. Time for the new to pull their socks up.