This writer’s seen some deafening gigs – Electric Wizard, Slayer, My Bloody Valentine, Swans and Motorhead all stick in the mind – but when a suicidal or sarcastic punter tells Godflesh to “turn it up” halfway through their first Brighton show in over a decade, we’d willingly trade our great great sight line for something further from the speaker. This is oppressively, punishingly loud; the bass seems like an immovable bottom-end force, felt more than heard, but barely audible beneath the diamond-cutter sharp, feedback free, clear guitars of Justin Broaderick and a programmed kick drum that feels like it’s realigning your internal organs. This is the musical equivalent of the boiling frog analogy – early on G.C Green’s bass is counterproductively dominating proceedings but is overtaken by Broaderick gradually creeping his guitar into the red and way, way beyond.
Godflesh’s comeback A World Lit By Fire – their first album in 13 years – is a crowd-pleaser. It fits perfectly alongside their classic debut Streetcleaner and career highlight second album Pure in the place where early Swans, Black Sabbath and Metal Machine Music meet, so the decision to open with six tracks from it is only a very minor disappointment. The Killing Joke inspired ‘Life Giver Life Taker’ was the pick of the new ones, the double kick drum threatening to set off a weather event. The maelstrom produced when they delivered back catalogue classics was awe-inspiring, most people were mesmerised, paralysed by sound while ‘Christbait Raising’ raged around them. During final song ‘In Rats’, as the intensity becomes almost too much to bear, I’m hearing tribal drums that aren’t there and guitar harmonics that are the creation of either my brain or my ears.
Broaderick left with some choice words about The Haunt’s strictly imposed 10pm curfew, which disappointingly leaves both band and audience feeling a little short changed, though it feels churlish to blame this on the venue. The curfew was a given, and the economic reality of small venues means that the club night program is just as if not more important to the survival of the venue as concerts. It was almost perfect as it was, another 15 minutes may have been too much.
Opening the show were Black Shoals, whose drum machine and 2 guitars with a theatrical female front was starting to wear thin until their last track. It had a funereal drum pattern, one guitar tremolo picking, the other playing a huge doom riff, all complimented by some chanted clean vocals, and was by some distance the best thing they played. Prior to that they came across as very much in thrall to the industrial black metal of 666 International era Dodheimgard.
It was no surprise to learn that Birmingham 2-piece Khost were the full tour support for Godflesh. They traverse the same sort of cold, industrial metal as the headliners. It was a weird set, their guitars were dense, impenetrable walls of sound that became desensitising, to the extent that it was difficult to work out if the crowd were transfixed or if it was just a group of thousand yard stares. Clearly there was something diverting about them as 30 minutes fly by in what feels like under half that.