Call me crazy, but if I was a band made up of two geezers and a laptop I probably wouldn’t ask another band made up of two geezers and a laptop to support me, particularly if they operated very much within the same musical sphere as me and were the sole support with no-one else to act as a buffer between acts. Justin Broadrick, however, is a man who plays by his own rules and pretty much does exactly what he wants to do, and so it was that Khost, an industrial sludge band comprising two geezers and a laptop, supported Godflesh on this tour in support of A World Lit Only By Fire, their first new studio album since 2001’s Hymns.
Ostensibly the brainchild of ex-Iroha man Andy Swan, aided and abetted in the live arena by Warlock-wielding second guitarist Damian Bennett, Khost deal in monolithic industrialised sludge drone with a twist of ethnic ambience. Bearing at their core, a resemblance to early Godflesh, but owing more to the stripped-down bulldozing endlessly-circling two-chord approach of the plethora of nineties Godflesh knock-offs in execution, Swan embroiders this decidedly monotonous base with laptop-generated basic drum-machine rhythms, deeply buried, effected vocals, a plethora of unearthly ethno-ambient vocal samples, muezzin wails and, of all things, Peruvian pan-flute pipings to create a melange of sounds that, to my ears, managed to come off as muddled and boring.
A lack of dynamics also managed to render the actual sonic differences between each track null and void, further adding to the monotony. All of these factors, combined with the low volume coming off the stage and the unengaging stage presence, hoods up, heads down, went some way toward leaving me totally nonplussed by the duo. I was a little puzzled as to exactly why Bennett was needed, too, as he didn’t really seem to do much aside from double Swan‘s parts. Whether or not this was down to the lack of volume, I couldn’t say, but having listened to the two tracks the band have on their Bandcamp site after the fact nothing there struck me as unachievable by one man.
I figured I should give the recorded incarnation of Khost a listen in the interests of fairness in order to help me decide if the band really were as sonically uninteresting as I found them or if, perhaps, they were simply one of those bands not well served by live performance. However, I pretty much came up none the wiser as the two tracks present on their Bandcamp page were pretty much just a thicker, more consistent version of what I heard tonight.
As I said at the outset, I was heavily reminded of the wave of semi-industrial doom merchants that rose up in the early nineties in the wake of Godflesh‘s emergence onto the scene – hell, one of my earliest bands was pretty much such a thing – and, to be brutally honest, I got over that pretty quickly after hearing the nth similar-sounding pastiche, so I think that Khost will only really serve as either a source of nostalgia for those who just can’t get past the nineties – there’s a fuck of a lot of them about – or else a ‘new’ sound to those who probably weren’t born at the time.
I just know that, personally, I found a little of Khost went a very long way indeed.
Thankfully tonight’s main event were on the continued top form that I’ve witnessed since seeing them at Damnation a few years ago, and really served to throw the weakness of knock-offs like Khost into serious light. I’ve heard more than my fair share try but no-one can match the sound of Godflesh in full flight. Sure, Justin K Broadrick was suffering with a heavy cold that, in his words, made his vocals sound “like Devourment or some serious death metal band”, but that roughness only served to add to the mechanised brutality on display this evening.
Last time I interviewed Broadrick, for the releases of the pre-album Decline And FallEP, he did say that the next round of live shows would feature mostly newer tracks, with a handful of classics in the latter half of the set and, true to his word, that was pretty much the say the set panned out.
Opening with A World Lit Only By Fire‘s opening track New Dark Ages – a track whose loping central rhythm reminds me strongly of early classic Dream Long Dead – the duo, completed, of course, by bassist Benny Green, sounded and looked totally commanding and utterly punishing, with the pummelling, clanking rhythm supplied by the combination of Broadrick‘s laptop’s drum patterns and Green‘s filthy Stranglers-influenced bass dealing out some serious damage and Broadrick‘s hoarse, phlegmy, vocals and unique guitar heft well and truly sealing the deal.
I confess that I’m not yet familiar enough with the new album to be able to tell you exactly which tracks were played, but there were a good five or six and I recognised a particularly nasty rendition of Carrionin there. When Broadrick claimed that the new material was more singlemindedly relentless than the material on the EP, he really wasn’t lying, and it really does melt faces live. Long gone is the winsome introspection of Jesu, replaced with the scornful howl and spiteful ire that most had thought long gone from the man’s soul, although, oddly, the fire of the delivery contrasted quite roughly with the un-self-conscious amiability of his between song crowd interaction.
The latter part of the set was given over to ‘classics’, for want of a better word, and so full-throated renditions of Streetcleanertracks Christbait Rising, Streetcleaneritself, Puremonster Spite, and Selfless MTV ‘hit’ Crush My Soulwere busted out in uniformly bruising fashion. I was happy to hear Broadrick using the pitched-down vocal harmoniser effect on the Streetcleanertracks again, after it was so conspicuously missing from their Roadburn performance of a few years ago. The inhuman edge it gives the already unpleasant vocals really adds so much.
We even got an encore – a somewhat traditionalist move for the duo that surprised me slightly – in the form of a blistering rendition of Streetcleaneropener Like Rats, before Broadrick and Green left the stage, looping feedback ringing in the audience’s collective ear’oles.
I may not have thought much of Khost but you can be damn sure I was happy to have witnessed another smasher of a Godflesh set.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson
Photos by: Lee Edwards