Godflesh / Malhavoc @ Lee’s Palace, Toronto on 21st August 2018
Nearly three years have melted away since English industrial metallers Godflesh haunted this city. This show is one of five of North American dates, following their appearance at Psycho Las Vegas fest. This is just their second live show in Toronto since their 2009 reunion, so it’s a rare sighting of these lads and a must for anyone that derives pleasure from nauseating and punishing metal.
The only support for tonight is Toronto’s own Malhavoc. This industrial metal troupe have a storied history that begins in 1983 – predating many renowned legends in the genre – and have four albums to their name. Their sleazy take on the genre is very indicative of the ‘90s, with ample sweaty goth club rhythms and danceable segments, exploring sounds that would be replicated in the nu metal genre. The vocals of front man Jimi LaMort are the disturbed ‘90s rock kind and unfortunately come across as whiney. A mirror sits at the front of the stage, reflecting the ceiling of Lee’s Palace, its intention unclear. The clothes each performer had decked themselves out in are mismatched compared to their band mates. The entire experience is a bizarre one – and not in a good way. It feels too amateur for a band that has been around for over three decades and the music sounds so painfully dated. Not the best appetizer for the headliners.
Finally, the agents of aural oppression, Godflesh take the stage with “Anything is Mine” from their sophomore album Selfless. The opener spews doom-like grit adapted from Celtic Frost. G.C. Green’s bass tone strikes like a mallet, giving the instrument the room to breathe it deserves, a facet often forsaken by metal bands. This is chased down by “Messiah”, cleaner but more sombre and introspective than its forbearer and features Justin Broadrick utilizing deadpan vocals, rather than his idiosyncratic growl-shout hybrid.
When the set approaches its midsection, the Birmingham natives stop playing older songs and launch into a block of new Post Self selections. This second reunion album was released last year and exhibits plenty of dehumanizing darkness. Half of the album is represented, with particular highlights stemming from “Parasite”, the title track and “Be God”.
Godflesh’s anthems to the disillusioned summon hazy nightmares of choking smog, carcinogenic steel works and corrosive acid rain. They are undeniably destructive but in a piecemeal grinding way, rather than instant annihilation. Presumably their industrial hometown can be held responsible for the sound these two men emit. They barely acknowledge the crowd, no words uttered in between songs. Unlike other performances they’ve done in the past, there is no projector screen. However, their stage presence is energetic as they headbang vigorously over their instruments, backed by the indomitable programmed drums.
Despite its tyrannical tone the music is varied, at times catchy and unusually addictive – real masochist fare.
When one of the band’s most popular songs, “Like Rats” from the genre-standard Streetcleaner, rises to the surface, the punters emit a roar of appreciation and the compact mosh pit (well… it’s Toronto after all) sees the mercury soar. This feels like a great way to conclude the set but many fanatics still await the title track off Streetcleaner. Sure enough, this song from the debut feeds these loyalists’ wishes and sets the mosh pit aflame again. This heavy-hitting closer is the kind of response that Godflesh should expect. Lee’s Palace remained as busy at the end of the show as when Godflesh first took the stage and for good reason.