In the gloom, two figures dressed entirely in black and bearing guitars take their positions either side of the stage. The slighter of the two peers briefly at a laptop to check something. With no word of introduction, guitar and bass of fearsome power open up over a drum machine that seems to hammer directly at the heart. It’s the Godflesh vision of the ‘New Dark Ages’.

Projected behind them, lurid red and yellow images that evoke sunset on Mars or a melting Hell alternate with anonymous crucified figures and medieval religious images, among them the tormented denizens of Hieronymus Bosch’s world. All the while Justin Broadrick’s guitar grinds out coal-black chords as G C Green mines his bass at new depths. Live, the drum machine still has the same factory forge impact as when the band first emerged in the late 80s. Drum machines before them sounded like a pastoral dream; Godflesh were (and remain) the Industrial Revolution.

‘New Dark Ages’ is the first of a brace of new songs, followed by ‘Ringer’, which are unfamiliar yet at the same time forbiddingly familiar in approach. Dancing breaks out more widely as several ‘Streetcleaner’-era songs follow: it’s a rare thing to see an audience happy to be told that “You breed/Like rats”. Even better are the compulsive machine rhythms and raw riffs of ‘Christbait Rising’, Broadrick’s vocals angular and anguished as ever, a hellfire humanist. At times he jolts back, as if shocked by the same electricity pulsing through his instrument to issue in piercing feedback, while Green, a stolid giant, anchors the apparent pandemonium.

The immense volume creates pagan cathedrals of sound, constantly rising and falling around our ears. The sampled church bell that occasionally tolls in ‘Mothra’ only heightens this feeling. Yet for all the bitterness and disgust summed up in titles like ‘Spite’, ‘Bigot’ and ‘Crush My Soul’, Godflesh over the course of the set advance like a juggernaut, juddering body and spirit until a cathartic surrender is the only response possible.

Loop follow Godflesh on this night, the first of two dates with the bands switching places on the second. More than a refreshing lack of ego, it’s a demonstration of the musical kinship they feel, shown as far back as the early 1990s when, after their split, Loop lead guitarist and vocalist Robert Hampson joined Godflesh for a time.

It’s a connection forged through a similar musical intensity rather than a shared style. Opening with ‘Soundhead’, Loop immediately show that they too aren’t going to stint on volume, giving the searing riff extra sustain. The Stoogesque strength of the guitars and drums contrasts with Hampson’s almost poignantly floating voice, a potent formula that characterises the set, each song building blocks in a wall of sound that is sprayed with his psych solos.

‘Collision’ is a highlight, its groove cut across by extra slashes of guitar and an expressive, stratospheric solo. So too is ‘Arc-lite’, founded on Wayne Maskell’s tribal drumming and a simple, savage riff that captures the essence of Ron Asheton. By the end, on ‘Burning World’, Hampson, guitarist Scott Dowson and bassist Neil Mackay are all playing with their backs to the audience, but this doesn’t matter. Loop have immersed us in a baptism of fiery sound, as they too are immersed.

The chief disappointment is to learn later on that the reason for Loop’s complete reliance on classic material is the fact that the current tour is viewed as a way to bring the band to an amicable end, rather than its first unsatisfactory dissolution. Perhaps the reception they have had will prompt a reconsideration - an ear-shredding and heart-pumping night such as this proves the stupidity of declarations of “the death of rock”. To keep it alive, it just needs bands like Godflesh and Loop who create with passion, imagination and conviction - easier said than done, but they show it still can be done.


Set Lists

Godflesh:

New Dark Ages
Ringer
Like Rats
Christbait Rising
Streetcleaner
Spite
Mothra
Monotremata
Bigot
Crush My Soul


Loop:

Soundhead
Nail Will Burn
Pulse
Straight to Your Heart
Feverknife
Collision
Arc-lite
Forever
Breathe Into Me
Burning World

Encores:

Vapour
Mother Sky









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