Classic Album Review – Godflesh “Selfless” 1994

  Selfless occupies a sweet spot between Godflesh’s sludge industrial and drum ‘n bass periods, and it contains an embarrassment of riches. “Xnoybis” sounds like a child’s pot-and-pan marching band as interpreted by construction machinery, “Crush My Soul” is as infectious as it is twitchy, and “Anything is Mine” is still a perennial contender for Heaviest Riff Ever Made. Don’t believe me? Here it is:

All this is capped off with “Go Spread Your Wings”, a mammoth dirge of terrifying empty landscapes containing nothing but a Hitchcockian level of dread.

It’s obvious what charms this album had for a younger me, what with its bottomless pit of nihilism and whalloping sound, but it wasn’t until very recently that I figured out the secret at the dark heart of Selfless: It’s a stoner rock record.

Sure, it’s what stoner rock would sound like if Stanley Kubrick got hold of it. The guitars hold no fuzzy warmth, only loose-stringed snarl, but the riff-based construction and reliance on trance-like repetition are tried and tested weapons of the druggy doom set. And I think that’s the real magic of what Selfless did for us back in 1994, it showed us a new way to be heavy. Heavy didn’t have to be bombastic, it could also bleak, or trippy, or even uplifting (Justin Broadrick’s post-Godflesh project Jesu leans even further in this direction, creating almost worshipful sounds from the same instrumentation).

Selfless is truly a special record. Do yourself a favour and give it a listen, and if you come across the accompanying EP Merciless, so much the better. It is also a work of genius, but for me pride of place must go to Selfless for making an album-length statement of earth-shattering heaviness. 10 out of 10

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2 Responses to “Classic Album Review – Godflesh “Selfless” 1994”

  1. Great post! I was always more into Streetcleaner and Pure, but Selfless feels more balanced out. I have Merciless as well. Just love that dry, nihilistic sound of theirs.

    • Try Hymns, which might be their best work ever. I wouldn’t score Hymns as highly as Selfless has a cohesive sound throughout the record. But Hymns is awesome. Plus, new record on the way at long last!

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