Among the many downsides of entertainment conglomerate mergers is the way hordes of indie labels snapped up by the majors in the '90s and '00s have had their catalogues vanish into the ether. Case in point: Big Cat, a UK label currently owned by who the heck knows, the vast majority of whose releases exist only as pricy out-of-print CDs or YouTubed bootlegs. Among them, and richly deserving a reissue, is God's Anatomy Of Addiction, a thunderous fusion of jazz and industrial rock that has none of the pretentiousness of the former or the inflexibility of the latter.
The two most consistent members of God across its lifetime were saxophonist Kevin Martin and Godflesh's own Justin Broadrick. Each incarnation of the band featured a klatsch of other musicians, chiefly bassist Dave Cochrane, double bassist John Edwards, sax and clarinet player Tim Hodgkinson of Henry Cow fame, and drummers, plural, Lou Ciccotelli and Scott Kiehl. Larger bands too often get musically aimless, but nothing here sounds like noodling. Even the longer tracks -- upwards of fifteen minutes -- have sustained propulsion and power. And the shorter tracks don't only have one idea to beat to death; they change up hard.
Godflesh fan that I am, I'm fondest of the tracks where Broadrick's dropped-D guitar is heard most prominently, like the opener, "On All Fours". But through his snarl and screech, the rest of the band's sound grew on me fast -- the klonking drums, the molten bass, the hell's-mouth vocals (again, in part courtesy of Broadrick). A good place to start since it has fewer of the oddball jazz accents that come to the fore later in the album: push-and-pull time signatures, longer multipart compositions, etc. Some of the longer cuts with more conventional structure do feel like they could have been compressed -- e.g., "Lazarus", where the trilling saxes in the opening go longer than they really need to. But that's mainly me second-guessing how roughly those passages will wear on heathen (non-jazz) ears, not an actual defect.
Some of the most violently inventive music that came out of the '90s underground drew on jazz. The god-emperor of that kind of music was "thrash jazz assassin" John Zorn, so it comes as no surprise that Zorn featured on an earlier God album, Possession. If God most closely resembles anything he did, it's Painkiller, his collaboration with bass player Bill Laswell and Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris, although Painkiller tended more towards either sub-minute armor-piercing blasts or sidelong doom-bient meditations (see: Execution Ground), while God's more song-focused. Both, though, have flames to court: Painkiller, burning thermite; God, the sky-reaching swirl of a bonfire.
I've mentioned before I a lot of my musical education unfolded backwards. From the likes of Godflesh and harsh noise I learned about extreme jazz like Peter Brötzmann; from them I went to John Coltrane's Ascension -- which at times makes even this stuff seem mellow in comparison -- and then to Kind Of Blue and Duke Ellington and the urbane delights therein. God I picked up at about Step 1 1/2 along the way, and it's stuck with me since, not merely because it can peel the wallpaper and thus make the easier to repaint the place.
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