While it’s likely to be overshadowed by the release of a new Godflesh record in June, Justin K. Broadrick has teamed up with Dirk Serries of Vidna Obmana and Fear Falls Burning in the collaborative duo Loud As Giants and their debut album Empty Homes is out this week. Despite the moniker, Loud As Giants isn’t trying to go toe-to-toe with Broadrick’s main unit in terms of heaviness. Instead, Empty Homes explores the intersection of drone and shoegaze.

It seems appropriate that the original idea for this project was spawned when Serries, as Fear Falls Burning, opened for Broadrick’s Jesu. For if Jesu revealed a more ambient and nuanced side of Broadrick’s approach to music and sound, Loud As Giants feels like a further abstraction of that concept. Fear Falls Burning, after all, was nothing if not abstract.

The album begins with “Monument.” Clouds of electronic haze rise from the silence and mingle, shifting in and out of each other, sometimes sounding like one sonic mass. A low bass drone soon joins in, presaging the arrival of more traditional instrumentation. A guitar riff slowly unfurls, and intriguingly, as it moves from one chord to the next, the previous notes continue to ring out underneath. While one could take an educated guess about the division of labor, the piece congeals into a cohesive whole.

“Estranged” is an exercise in slow build, the nebulous drones arriving like a storm on the horizon. The rhythm of this piece is accelerated but seems to translate into a feeling of floating rather than intensity. A heavily distorted guitar figure cuts through, but the song never feels like metal. Instead, the guitar is merely the lightning in the approaching clouds. A heavier drumbeat emerges in the back half of the tune, adding another layer of meditative intensity. 

“Room Three” simultaneously nods to Broadrick’s techno persona JK Flesh while also coming the closest to shoegaze of anything on this record. Skittering cymbal work dances around bass thuds, but the drones remain soothing to the ear. This almost feels like the beginning of an Underworld tune, but the promised release never comes. The final two minutes strip away much of the sound and feel much more subdued, like falling asleep into a dream. 

Empty Homes closes with the appropriately titled “Isolation.” The drones here sound like they are emanating from deep space, guided by a bit of electronic percussion. The guitar riff wouldn’t sound out of place on a Cure album but it fits well in this context as well. At times, a second guitar seems to provide a counterpoint, yet much like the drones, they seem to blend into amorphous unity. 

While Justin Broadrick will forever be associated with his industrial-metal juggernaut Godflesh, to ignore everything else he’s done would be criminal. And his choice of collaborators can always send his fans down a rabbit hole of truly remarkable music, since their own artistic merit is without question. So add Derek Serries to a list that includes Kevin Martin, Jarboe, John Zorn, and many others. And add Empty Homes to the list of albums that you shouldn’t miss out on in 2023; it will be a wonderful complement to that new Godflesh album, and a highly rewarding experience on its own.

Todd Manning

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