The album marks the debut of drummer Ted Parsons, and is the first Godflesh album with a drummer recorded live in the studio. It was also the band's first album to be recorded in a professional studio. Parsons later revealed that the band recorded in a professional studio due to label pressure, and described the decision as "a mistake". The final song on the album, "Jesu", became the name of Broadrick's next project after he dissolved Godflesh on April 10, 2002.
Hymns was released on October 23, 2001, on Music for Nations. A remastered version of Hymns containing bonus tracks was released on February 19, 2013. Included among the bonus tracks is the non-album track "If I Could Only Be What You Want", which was recorded during the Hymns session and previously available on the Loud Music for Loud People compilation.
Justin Broadrick stated that Hymns was a reaction to the previous album, Us and Them, which he "absolutely fucking hated" because he "lost sight of what Godflesh should be". In contrast, Broadrick described Hymns as "a new beginning" that was intended to counter the "watered down" rock associated with the then-popular nu-metal genre. Iain Currie with Bring the Noise described Hymns as "brilliant", and contextualized the album as "a reminder of how bands of real calibre reacted to that nonsensical period...when nu-metal was picking up its destructive and soul destroying pace".