Live Reviews

LIVE REVIEW: Godflesh, Zetra, Steet Grease, 229 London, 20/01/2023

Image Credit: VB

British winters are often characterised by the consistent grey clouds, punctuated every so often by driving snow, comically brutal winds and a government determined to atomise every one of your hopes and dreams. In other words, the perfect conditions for a Godflesh show. The band was ably supported by two very interesting acts.

Street Grease open the proceedings with a fantastically horrible yet very danceable sound, recalling the likes of Killing Joke (a good thing) and a harsher Grave Pleasures (another good thing). Occasionally heading into realms closer to the likes of Author & Punisher as well, this very new band grow into their set noticeably finishing with their only song on most streaming platforms, and also their best song. For a band that has only just emerged into existence, it was a show where they increased in confidence slowly but surely. Keep an eye out for Street Grease. Their stage presence is both highly aggressive yet almost comically understated, and how that will evolve is potentially incredibly fascinating. Bags of potential. 7/10

Continuing proceedings in Central London are Zetra, the band that answers the question “what if Type O Negative were fronted by the members of my bloody valentine, and liked space”; this is a huge compliment by the way. The duo’s swirling sound fills the room comfortably like a good pair of shoes, after having to resolve some minor sound mixing issues involving the synths basically not existing in the mix for the first song. The band clearly grows in confidence through the set, playing with a little extra aggression and The Darkness Is Calling is a gorgeous highlight of the set. The bands versatility in who they can be booked with (this reviewer has seen them open for Unto Others last year) and their unique sound deserve your attention if they are supporting on other big tours, and if you can get to one of their headline shows, you really should. 8/10

There is something genuinely disarming about how Godflesh casually walk on, do a little tuning and Justin Broadrick himself cues up the brutal background images playing throughout the show. If you know anything about tonight’s headliners, bleak, oppressive, and punishing are words that come to mind a hell of a lot faster than endearing. A charming chink of genuine warmth and humanity, in a musical landscape of cold, machine-like steel. The band grind through a set focused on their first run from the 1980’s to the breakup after the release of Hymns. Never in your life will you hear a drum machine sounding so malicious, like it absolutely will not stop ever, until you are hypnotised into the unholy groove. Opening with Love is a Dog From Hell, the grinding guitars and the cymbal hits from the drum machine sound like being punched in the face over and over again, so perfectly setting the tone. Both Broadrick and G.C. Green gesture for the drum machine to be turned up, quite something seeing as it already sounded like a sledgehammer to the cranium wielded by the angriest man in the world. Veins, from the 1988 self-titled EP, ups the pace. The title track from the seminal Streetcleaner is nearly 7 minutes of unbridled, magisterial hostility.

A mosh pit breaks out during Dead Head, which is as close to a traditionally recognised banger as you get with Godflesh. G.C. Green’s bass tone sounds like the hammer of God throughout, Green himself cutting a simple, imposing presence on stage left, Broadrick stage right. You get a few almost inaudible “thank you’s” from Broadrick through the set, and every one of them feels genuine and heartfelt. Like Rats hits like a reasonably large train dropped from a mountain, and so does Crush My Soul.

Yet, by the end of the set, there’s more than a few people who were cheering like their team scored a last-minute winner in a cold, bitter away fixture. Closing track Xnoybis feels like climbing out a pit one minute and being obliterated by whatever is on its edge the next. Stirring, soul crushing brilliance. Broadrick’s shouts of “I feel so much ” stir the soul brilliantly. Godflesh live works so well precisely not because it’s angry men putting on a show charging around a stage telling you to “open this pit up” or “move the fuck up” in the eye-rolling cliched way so many bands do. Nor is it because of any hyper speed riffing and excessive technicality. It’s the horrifyingly hypnotising horribleness that keeps people invested. There’s no posturing, no gurning at a photographer trying to look like you’re handy in a fight, and none of that horrible “how y’all doing tonight” fakery that would have made little to no sense at the band’s popularity peak, and even less now from a band this far in.

Birmingham’s most oppressive export proved that they remain completely vital and purposeful, and their thirty-plus year old songs have lost absolutely none of their punishing power. The long-awaited next album cannot come soon enough! The squalling guitar feedback is a perfect coda to a perfect set, harsh, vile noise swallowed whole by an enraptured audience. Their lyrics may be despairing and hopeless, but this performance was anything but. 10/10

Written by: Louis Tsangarides