Musings on metal and its evolving demography

Godflesh, Cut Hands & Pharmakon @ Irving Plaza on 4/10/14

Last night, wifey took me out for a night of industrial/noise lovin’ at Irving Plaza. She had gotten us tickets for Godflesh last year, but the tour got cancelled due to visa problems. That all got straightened out and we were able to see them live for the 2nd time – our first was at the 2013 Maryland Deathfest. They honored the tickets that were purchased last year too!

The show was great. Irving isn’t huge, so its just personal enough – and we were right up at the stage, so everything was about 5 feet away – which is really helpful when you get to my age.

The opener was an artist called Pharmakon. Its a solo project from a chick named Margaret Chardiet, from NYC. We both loved her sound. She surrounded herself with a bunch of electronic devices that I’m not familiar with and did a bunch of screaming and beating out rhythms with her hands and later with drumsticks into what looked like an electronic washboard. She looped the sounds, tinkered with gadgets and erupted with agonized, screamed vocals that strongly remind me of Michael Gira from Swans (which is a good thing). She’s someone to follow. It was so much like early Godflesh crossed with early Swans. Her set was around 20-25 minutes.

Pharmakon

Pharmakon

Cut Hands

Cut Hands

Next up came Cut Hands – another solo-act from an older British guy named William Bennett. The sound was electronic/noise coupled with African beats. The visual show going on behind was mesmerizing. I really dug his percussive pieces a lot – repetitive tribal rhythm built with layered percussive sounds. If he’s back in NY again, I’m definitely going to try to see him. I think his set was around an hour.

I’ll probably write a little more about these two acts later, when I’ve investigated them more. But, on to Godflesh.

I first heard Godflesh back around 1993 on a local death metal show called Monday Night Mayhem, on WSOU, Seton Hall’s radio station. The song was Predominance. I remember being completely mesmerized by their sound. It wasn’t metal, but it was extreme, and so much harsher than the industrial sounds that I was familiar with from acts like Ministry. I hunted them down at local record stores but wasn’t able to find anything until a year later when the Merciless EP and Selfless album were released.

Those albums shaped a large part of my personality for years to come. I wore out the cassettes, listening to them virtually every day. Because of Godflesh, I found bands like Scorn, Pitchshifter and Swans. Although I was primarily a death head, the sonic experimentation that they introduced me to paved the way for me to discover so much other music – from ambient soundscapes to chant, jazz fusion and indigenous music from all over the world. I was somewhat close-minded when it came to music until them. Death metal had spoiled me and I found it hard to identify with and appreciate other types of music. The utter bleakness that Justin Broadrick, G. C. Green and their machine cohorts were able to convey completely changed my sonic palette. Then they disbanded.

There are three bands that I love more than any other: Joy Division, Carcass and Godflesh. One of my dreams was to see them play, here in the US. I know that I’ll never see JD – Ian Curtis isn’t available anymore. But I had hopes for the others… until both Carcass and Godflesh ceased to exist as active bands – the former in 1995 and the latter in 2002. I had lost any chance to see them.

Years passed, and finally, in 2007, Carcass reformed to play old material. They did a tour of the US sometime around 2008. It sold out before I could get tickets. Then, in 2010, Godflesh announced that it was also reforming to play older material. I was ecstatic! I had a chance to see both of them – simply because they existed again!

Wifey discovered that Godflesh was playing the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. We booked tickets right away and saw both them and Napalm Death (along with a bunch of other great bands). We followed up by catching Carcass at the 2013 Deathfest. I could now die 2/3rds happy and then catch Ian Curtis in the afterlife and finish up.

So, anyway, that’s what happened before yesterday. Then we saw Godflesh play with two other really nice acts and it made my night.

Godflesh

Godflesh

The set was all older material – a lot from Streetcleaner, some from Pure and Selfless, and a smattering of others. I was really happy with it – although they didn’t play Pulp or Life is Easy. I remember hearing Like Rats, Streetcleaner, Pure, Crush My Soul, Slavestate, Mothra and Christbait Rising. I also imagine that I heard Tiny Tears, Wound and Deadhead. There were a bunch more, but my poor, tender head can’t quite place them. Maybe other bloggers or reviewers will give a more accurate accounting of the set list. Mine also isn’t in order. 😉

Also, I’ve read in the past that G.C. Green is a very shy person, and both the wife and I remarked that he left the stage like Batman when the set was over, then returned for one more song, and left again – only this time he just dropped his bass and ran. He must truly not like being up in front of people, but I enjoyed his playing nonetheless. Bass players just don’t get the attention that they deserve. Justin wouldn’t be able to go off into outer space the same way without Green holding down the fort with his pummeling rhythms. So, if G.C. ever reads this – don’t run off – we want to see and hear more of you! You’re the 2nd part of the equation for one of the most groundbreaking experiments in industrial/noise on the planet!

Take care.

[edit 04.11.2014]

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