Like the author of the first review for In All Languages, Godflesh's career retrospective, I am amazed by how overlooked this album is (at least on Amazon). Being a recent convert to the band (I bought this album as an introduction about 18 months prior to this writing), I am by no means an expert on the group, but thanks largely to this double disc collection, Godflesh have quickly become one of my favorite bands. I decided to give them a try after reading how many of my favorite drone metal bands--especially Isis--cited them as a reference. Now I can say I believe the hype, and then some, and I really have In All Languages to thank for getting me into the rich musical experience that is Godflesh.
Justin K. Broadrick, how do I worship thee? Let me count the ways.
A band like Godflesh is unique because their material is highly influential on the extreme/drone/post-rock scenes that are exploding today, but they weren't considered very successful in their own heyday. Yes, they were 'ahead of their time', but the songs collected on In Languages are all still potent enough to enjoy today. Without Godflesh, Isis and their growing number of drone metal followers may very well not exist.
Professional music journalists have a tendency of misfiring when they label Godfleh's sound or musicial genre. This is probably because during the years of their existence, the band walked the line in many different sounds and scenes. First things first, they are NOT grindcore, but because Justin played guitar for the first half of the first Napalm Death album, they are habiutally mislabeled as such. Godflesh, over time, have synthesized a unique recipe of heavy metal, grunge, drone, trance, ambient, noise rock, drill n bass, and other genres to make it hard for anybody to put their finger on. Although they are hardly the definitive band in the industrial genre (which is a good thing), I tend to think of them as the cream of the experimental industrial crop. Is Nine Inch Nails too moody or poppy? Rammstein too drab or Kraut for you? Does Ministry feel too repetitive or...stupid? Try Godflesh and be amazed!
One thing this collection accomplishes admirably is demonstrating the spectrum of Godflesh's musical evolution over the years. Disc one is the real retrospective, culling all of their 'hits' (note: US listeners will probably not recognize any of these as hit singles, since the band is more or less a cult classic outside of the UK). Starting with early, highly influential material such as "Like Rats" and the immortal "Streetcleaner" and ending with songs that would predict the work of Broadrick's next band, Jesu, disc one is a timeline of Godflesh's material, and it just gets better as it goes on. Winding through song highlights like "Xynobis", the danceable groove of "Crush My Soul" and the eerie, brooding "Mothra", this collection has the most essential tracks of the band's career. The last five tracks on disc one feel sort-of like a Godflesh 'hangover' to me (if you'll allow such an inane analogy), because they take the oppressive nature of Justin's excellent guitarwork and infuse it with sadness, yearning and loneliness. In short, the material goes from being just sonically heavy to genuine emotionally weighty songs, a sign of things to come for Godflesh's final album (Hymns) and Justin's aforementioned post-Godflesh group, Jesu.
Disc one would be worth the price of admission alone, there's really not a dull track to be found. "Avalanche Master Song" and "Spite" are a little too repetitive to be catchy, but literally every other song has a riff, drum break, or other refrain that is bound to get itself lodged inside your head for months afterwards. It's the rare band retrospective that is both consistent enough to listen to from start to finish, but with enough changes to make it exciting, and give each track something special to take notice of.
The second disc of the collection is slightly different. The obligatory collection of b-sides and remix tracks that are usually thrown in in this type of 'best of' package, there isn't much to write home about here. It gives something for die-hard Godflesh fans to get excited about, but me being a new fan, not much on the second half could sustain my attention. However, some tracks are either memorable or surprising enough to mention here. For instance, the included extrapolated versions of "Crush My Soul", "Slavestate" and "Xynobis" are, in my mind, of equal interest as their original, more succint mixes. Mellow, electronica-influenced tracks like "Flowers" and "Empyreal 2" show off the band's more ambient side, and help to 'flesh out' the spectrum of the group's songwriting capabilities (no pun intended). Generally speaking, the songs here are too long, repetitive, or just plain dull to keep my attention for long. Overall, disc two seems very padded to me, and I very seldom can stomach all 13 tracks at a time, but it does have some interesting odds and ends thrown in, especially for established fans of the band's work.
In terms of aesthetic and sound, I would say Godflesh's closest musical 'relatives' are bands like Can, Isis, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, early Soundgarden, late 80's Cure, and Earth (I said they were diverse). Fans of the band may be interested in Justin' innumberable side-projects, including Jesu, Final, Techno Animal, and Napalm Death, if you're in search of heaviness of a different color.
When considering what both discs have to offer, in spite of the somewhat malignant nature of disc two, this collection is really a top notch look at an amazing band. If you haven't heard the band before, this is absolutely a great place to start (it worked on me!). Godflesh are one of those bands that, after listening to this album just once, I immediately wished I'd discovered years beforehand. If you're into heavy metal, drone, and/or electronica, chances are, you'll feel the same way. I can't recommend this collection highly enough, get it now so you can be proud of yourself sooner!