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Hymns (Koch/Music for Nations)

On its sixth full-length, Brit industrial metal forebears Godflesh forsook machines to become them. Though a surfeit of loops and throbbing gadgetry still pulse beneath Hymns, electronics play a much more limited role in the whole affair than they have on recent Godflesh efforts such as 1999's superb, jungle-tinged Us and Them. Remarkably, though, the motorized rigidity and density that made the band's previous works so suffocating -- the aural equivalent of your big brother sitting on your chest -- have been maintained. Hymns may be Godflesh's most organic record to date, but it's cold, as if the current that no longer runs through its idle samplers now courses through its veins.

There are touchstones to the band's status among the living. Singer/guitarist Justin Broadrick's voice is much higher in the mix -- you can damn near hear the polyps forming on his lacerated vocal cords -- and free from the effects that once made his snarl sound like Satan coughing up a hairball. Blanketed in effects, Broadrick's growl was plenty menacing for sure, but now, free from processing, it's even more so. It's much clearer that the hatred is coming from a human and not a machine. This, combined with J.C. Green's subterraneous bass and Ted Parson's mechanical animal drumming, makes Godflesh as cold and unflinching as a punch press. This jackscrew aesthetic is leavened a bit on tracks like the affecting "Anthem," which is a stab at vintage Helmet, and the unlisted number at album's end -- the most contemplative and pensive song of the band's career. But then it's back to being discontented mecca-mortals. Corporeality bites.

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