One of the most forward-thinking, restless and prolific figures in metal, Justin K. Broadrick has been on the cusp of grindcore (Napalm Death), industrial noise (Final) and industrial metal (Godflesh) for 30 years. Not content to settle with metal, he has also explored ambient electronica (Techno Animal), post-rock (Jesu) and off-kilter beats and raps (Curse of the Golden Vampire, The Blood of Heroes). Judging by his career arc, he seems to have started out as a hardcore noise junkie before mellowing out and delving into hazier, less violent soundscapes.
Lately, however, Broadrick, seems to yearn for a return to his roots. He reformed Godflesh in 2010, and earlier this year he released the debut instrumental album by JK Flesh, Posthuman, which bludgeoned like Godflesh and burned like machine-shop sparks. Now, for the last ever release on Hydra Head Records, Broadrick has teamed with dissonant electronic artist Prurient for the 30-plus minute split EP Worship is the Cleansing of the Imagination.
Broadrick’s three acoustic tracks are the most abrasive and corrosive songs he has issued in years – reminiscent, at times, of Godflesh minus the swarming guitars. “Fear of Fear” combines sluggish, crushing drum machine with booming, overdriven bass and vocals so severely manipulated they sound like that agonized roar of angry poltergeists. Around the midway point, the tempo quickens into a short-lived dubstep break, but Skrillex this is not. It’s only dance music for those who relish rolling in broken glass.
“Deceiver” is even more bass-heavy, backed by a skittering beat that swoops in and out and a bed of haunting electronics. Finally, there’s the “Obedient Automaton,” which integrates computerized helicopters, straightforward electronic drums, bowel-shaking samples and more screaming keys. If these songs are any indication, Godflesh will have a menacing digital makeover when it resurfaces with new material and/or JK Flesh will lead Broadrick into places most electronic metal artists fear to tread.
Prurient, also, isn’t frightened by the unknown, and while its music is less structured that that of JK Flesh, it’s even more masochistic. The brainchild of noise-music veteran Ian Dominick Fernow, Prurient creates apocalyptic walls of volume layered with squalling distortion, pulsing rhythms and punishing electronic embellishments. The highlight here is “I Understand You,” which contrasts the sound of a sadistic dentist drilling teeth with a subdued echoing keyboard melody that rings like elevator music for the damned.