Supersonic Festival Birmingham
23 October 2010
Given the current enthusiasm for reunions there are very few significant bands in the rock’n’roll graveyard left uninterred. The unexpected reappearance of Godflesh is exciting not just because of the defining nature of the duo’s Sabbath / Swans / Big Black hybrid, but because guiding force Justin Broadrick had moved on to so many other projects since their (perhaps overdue) split back in 2002 that it was easy to assume that he’d navigated too far beyond his brutal roots to ever want to return.
As he takes the stage tonight though, it’s clear that he’s taking this very seriously indeed. His recent long hair and beard are gone, hacked back to the shaven skull of old, while a Stranglers Raven t-shirt boldly proclaims allegiance with those patron saints of dogged individuality. Supersonic festival is becoming something of mecca for reunions ”â last year saw Broadrick’s old outfit Head of David make a surprise return, and this year also sees noise overlords Swans back on stage. While head Swan Michael Gira has taken great pains to distance himself from literal re-runs though, there are no such issues here. With clean-shaven bassist GC Green anchoring stage left, a crescendo of feedback lurches insistently into Like Rats, and all of a sudden it’s like 1989 never went away. Broadrick, backlit and shrouded in dry ice, lurches and spasms as though wired directly into the mains, Green wrenches out abrupt chunks of harsh bass noise over the drum machine clatter.
However, the visceral thrill of hearing these songs live at all is initially dissipated slightly by the curiously low volume. Attributing this at first to hearing damage inflicted by some of the previous acts, the mounting cries of ”Ëturn it up’ between songs indicates that something un-rock and roll is indeed going on with the PA. The crowd can be heard singing ”â well, grunting ”â louder than Broadrick himself. At the start of Avalanche Master Song, the bass-line, which on record sounds like a mastodon dry-humping a wrecking ball, is actually being sung louder by the gentleman stood directly behind me.
Happily, by the time the mutant dance rhythms of Pure and Crush My Soul start to kick in the volume has risen, and the necessary levels of tinnitus are properly courted thereafter.
The gig closes with Broadrick swaying cobra-like before his amp, conducting an extended spell of tidal guitar feedback. As the crowd step out into the cold night of a newly Tory-ravaged landscape, it truly seems like Godflesh never went away.