100% Support: Bandcamp Friday Goes Local
They’re back! But wait: which they?
The Birmingham legends Godflesh recently announced a North American tour and debuted the lead single “Nero” from their upcoming full-length Purge. Obviously exciting news, even if “Nero” has not yet quite landed. What caught my eye—and what might catch not a small portion of eyes in the City Too Busy to Hate (a.k.a Hate City)—was the Atlanta show’s bill at Terminal West. There, just to the right of Prison Religion, was Irreversible. My response to my friend’s text was, “WHAT,” immediately followed by, “Dawwwwwwg,” and punctuated by, “Man that is so tight.” Now that’s news I can use.
Between 2006-2015, Irreversible was a staple of the Atlanta metal scene, though the last few years saw few, if any, live performances. Over their 9-year career, Irreversible released an impressive 8 albums, and while the band hewed to a particular formula for most of its career, there was plenty of variation and innovation along the way. To celebrate Bandcamp Friday and to support the unionization efforts of Bandcamp employees, I thought a trip down memory lane was in order. You know the deal: to celebrate Irreversible’s anticipated return to the stage, I’ll write 100 words on 5 of their albums.
This is the blueprint. Irreversible’s debut does everything you’d expect from a young band who combine the aesthetic of Godflesh, the recognizable sounds of the Cult of NeurIsis, a band name from that one Gaspar Noé film we all agreed to see once and then never again, and song titles that are seemingly random amounts of time. It’s artistic. It’s interested in presenting itself as art, as an artistic endeavour with a philosophy. What strikes me now about Age in 2023 is the same thing that struck me about it in 2006: this record is mature. “24:33” is a gem.
This is the arrival. The opening riff of “Tambora” tells you everything you need to know about Sins, Irreversible’s sophomore LP and last record that wasn’t self-released. Sins solidified Irreversible’s place alongside nationally recognized acts such as Mouth of the Architect as the new progenitors of post-metal. Huge, swaggering riffs, Jacob Franklin’s pitch-perfect vocals, and foreboding yet calm passages take the listener on the “path to truth” and elevate their soul above all matter. The album’s closing run of the triumphant and monumental “Iblis” through the manic, propulsive closer “Synaesthesia” exemplifies Irreversible’s knack for forward-thinking song writing and narrative construction.
This is the experiment. With all due respect to 2009’s Light and 2012’s Thorn, Plucked up by the Root is also the experiment that truly works. Spending much of the record awash in warped loops, undecipherable samples, and renowned tattoo artist Russ Abbott’s banjo, Plucked builds a melancholic, dendritic atmosphere, almost tearing itself apart in “Choronzon” and only finally blooming with the momentous “Not Coming Back.” It’s death. It’s resurrection. It’s the end. It’s a beginning. More than any record, Plucked left me truly stunned when the band performed it live in full at the Earl way back in 2012.
This is the challenge. Even with two albums released in 2012 and then Ashes in 2013, I’m not sure we expected Irreversible back ever again. Three massive songs—all over 12 minutes—provide the band and listener more space yet everything feels taut and claustrophobic. This is recognizably Irreversible, but something feels different. Album closer “(Husk) Corpse Pose” is not quite like any other Irreversible song: deep rhythmic cleans, lengthy solos, bright, brief plashes of shoegaze-y layered guitars. For all of that, this is a deeply unhappy, troubled record—one much less interested in redemptive cycles or bombastic post-metal arcs.
This is the end. While Justin Broadrick has always loomed large in Irreversible’s imaginarium, they saved their most sincere homage for their final bow. The album art invokes Jesu in its colour palette and fuzzy photography, and tracks such as “Undertow” channel Broadrick’s more poetic side. “Absent Help,” “Mandatory Death,” and “Fade” are all Godflesh, though, and particularly the second of those three. While “Fade” might be the album’s most accomplished composition—a perfect conclusion for the band—it is “Mandatory Death” that always and forever stands out. No apologies necessary: “I’m expiring / You’ve expired.” It’s fuckin’ curtains, y’all.