Justin Broadrick used to play guitar for Napalm Death (that’s right, Napalm Death). He once did some drumming for Head of David, has played in Final, experimented in Techno Animal, hung out for a bit in Curse of the Golden Vampire and once upon a time was also involved in both God and Ice. Oh, and he fronted Godflesh. Holy shit indeed. If I had known all of this before hearing his most recent project, Jesu, I would have grown my hair, thrown on some paint smeared jeans and hung around that shady grindcore area of downtown Toronto a little bit before playing the CD. You gotta be in the right mindset for that kinda stuff (I speak for indie kids and music lovers in general), unless of course you’re one of the animals making it.
I’ve been reading around the net and some people are comparing this release to efforts from labelmates Isis and Pelican. Now, both of those bands have been steadily progressing since their inception (read: fucking wicked), but neither of them has yet to make an album like this self titled debut release from Jesu. I’m not going to pretend like I am an aficionado of metal and all of its subgenres, because I’m not, really. But every year there is another ‘great metal album’ and I try to listen to them all. Some of them, I’m sorry to say, aren’t as groundbreaking as all the hipsters say they are (when said hipsters feel like switching from indie to hardcore…just for the day). I own a bunch of good metal albums but quite a few of them do not resonate with me the way a lot of their reviews say they should (you know where this is going, don’t you).
Jesu is another fucking story. Can we combine the terms shoegaze or dreampop with metal…Shmetal? Metalgaze? Dreametal? Whatever. You know what I’m trying to say and this should excite you, cause if you’re like me your favorite thing about metal is the sheer heaviness of the sound—not riffs, yells or darkness. Add the standard elements of dreampop to this droning heaviness and what you get is a monolithic, cathartic slab of heavy fisted glory-doom. Yum.
Since the first time I put Jesu on my stereo, I knew it was going to be one of my favorite releases of the year (it still is), in fact that’s why I decided to wait so long to review it, to measure it against most of the other releases throughout the year—Ok fine, I’m lying. I was just enjoying it so much I forgot to write a review. But really, nothing since has matched its unique tones, subtle electronic nuances and wonderful, gloriously long and droning chords. I don’t know what it is, maybe I was particularly depraved of anything dreadfully/hopefully heavy at the time, but Jesu just works. Heck, CBC Radio 2 (Canada’s premier indie radio on a big-time radio station) played a Jesu song. All of the bands songs are almost ten minutes in length.
So the songs—I guess I should shut my little hyperbole-filled mouth and tell you more about them. “Your Path to Divinity” begins the album with one of its most droning tracks, these drones in turn coloring it with various warm tones. The drums are used to keep a moderate pulse—it’s the guitars and long drawn out organ/synths that smother the song. Add Broadrick’s vocals, distant yet affected, which he uses to create yet another layer of tone, and you have yourself one of the most beautifully heavy album openers to come out in years. “Friends Are Evil” begins with a hulking, crunchy guitar banging out a mutilated melody until those electronics come back in, high pitched and throbbing all over the place. The mammoth (I’m running out of synonyms for ‘big’) “Walk On Water” is the albums centerpiece, a long drawn out number that leads into “Sun Day.” “Sun Day” is excruciatingly beautiful. It begins with lovely electronic keys—yet another moment on record that is evidence of Broadrick’s wicked keen sense of space and tone—and builds towards a heartbreaking coda. The line “You’re my heart” is repeated by Broadrick who sounds like he is belting it a few miles away; it is one of my favorite moments of music this year. “Man/Woman” comes right after and it is the only song here that returns to some typical metal sounds but this is much welcome after the serenity that has come before. The whole album is balanced very well.
I’ve been listening to it for months and I’m still not tired of it. Everyone is shitting themselves talking about bands like Art Brut and yeah, they’ve made a cool record, but please don’t forget about stuff like this.
/june 15th 2005/