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From the opening Stakker Humanoid techno sample through the layered grating guitar noises, monochromatic drum patterns, and ever cruddy bass tones, Godflesh re-emerged in '91 ready to turn the metal world on its ear again. Much like they did with Streetcleaner two years earlier, Godflesh used Slavestate to once more vigorously challenge the limitations of extreme metal. Any reasonable expectation that Godflesh would flesh out a repeat performance of their impassionedly ugly debut was out-the-window. Sampling from acid-house kings like Stakker Humanoid (the future FSOL) or remixing tracks down to their barest dub-infused bones unsettled the normative, pushing past the aggro-industrial template and laying bare that Godflesh would repeatedly experiment and innovate at all costs, sucking in as much outside influence as they themselves unleashed. A restlessly reciprocal band in an often staid and conventional genre, Godflesh used this quick-and-dirty EP as a guide for the remainder of their career and beyond.
"Slavestate" is an all-time great Godflesh song and a perfect jump-on point for those who found Streetcleaner too alien for admission. The warped 4/4 dance floor techno quickly sinks beneath a harsh undertow of sharp guitar riffs and thumping bass but an anchor of accessibility is there to hang onto if you keep your ears open enough: there's an engaging minimalist song structure beneath the hypnotically heavy repetitions of word and tone. "Perfect Skin" is a mournful dirge, brooding and melancholy. The overt percussiveness keeps a martial feel to an otherwise submersive sounding lament accentuated by Broadrick's haunted vocals -- his first of many shifts away from the atonal yelling of his earlier work. "Somewhere Someone Scorned" is industrial metal perfection -- a sinister blend of synth melody percolating beneath spare drum machine patterns and dark guitar melodies. Broadrick and Green hit lock-step perfection on this one, matching the patterns and syncopation perfectly, bridging the gulf of utter heaviness, industrial cruelty, and a faint hint of dance floor sensation. "Meltdown" hits the Streetcleaner pressure-release valve just in time. Anyone perplexed by what this EP has proposed so far will take deep solace in this suffocatingly heavy and straightforward Godflesh banger, the programmed double-bass and twisted knots of riffage hitting the right note of anger, hatred, and despair that is Godflesh's primary triangulation.
From here the EP gets murky with some odd remixes, the quality of which will depend entirely on your disposition towards electronic musics far removed from metal. The "Radio Slave" remix of the title track is an aggressively paranoid take on Stakker-style acid-house, a bad trip awaiting anyone foolish enough to drop the needle on it at a rave. The "Total State" remix takes that same basic premise in a slightly more percussive and tribal direction. I dig both these remixes but I can see how they would fail to add value to those less interested in hybridized stabs at early 90's electronica. Ditto the dub of "Perfect Skin," the only track I don't admire. At twelve-minutes plus, it drags on a skeletal framework of dark industrial dub that gets boring quick.
Fortunately though, a best-for-last approach was taken here as both "Slateman" and "Wound '91" rival the title track for greatest Godflesh song honors. "Slateman" is a beast. The opening riff has an almost otherworldly vibe, an atmospheric layering of Broadrick's vocals heighten the effect, while Green's bass vents heavy industrial machine press tones during the crushing bridge, one of the heaviest sections of any Godflesh song ever. "Wound '91" re-interprets the Streetcleaner classic, updating it with a cleaner sound and a slightly slower and more percussive rhythmic sound. Preferring the original, I still enjoy the difference presented. And this EP is all about difference, making clear that no two Godflesh recordings would ever sound entirely the same. It is a rare band that can continually grow and contort and extend without completely alienating itself and the Slavestate EP was the first hint that Godflesh would be capable of doing exactly that.