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Jesu - Conqueror

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 6 / 3 / 2007

Jesu - Conqueror
Label: Hydra Head Records
Format: CD


Surprisingly mellow and subdued second album from JESU, the project of Justin Broadrick, the former frotnman with Napalm Death and Godflesh

In a career spanning over twenty years, and nearly as many bands, Justin Broadrick has carved a unique sonic path; consistently exploring the edges of aural experimentation. His first band, Napalm Death, which he formed at the age of only 15, essentially created a whole new genre of music; grindcore. Their seminal 1987 release, 'Scum', combined the most aggressive elements of thrash and hardcore metal to create a merciless, demonic audio assault. For the few capable of listening to it this marked the progression of the human race from dumb apes to salient animals, and the band was catapulted to small scale celebrity with Broadrick feted as a small town demigod. The story has continued along similar lines since. Broadrick is a hero to a small clique of extreme noise terrorists and virtually unknown to everybody else. After Napalm Death his next project of note was Godflesh which was similarly progressive, merging industrial with metal to create a virulent new strain of music. Although tame by the standards of the new century, witness Whitehouse and Merzbow, the early Godhead records were heralded by a growing audience as destructive masterpieces. Although their debut album, 'Streetcleaner', bought their music to a wider audience they were outshone by Nine Inch Nails and Ministry in terms of sales and critical acclaim. With these projects behind him Broadrick appears to have mellowed with age, and his new alias, JESU, is a comparatively subdued affair. Broadrick has seesawed into the antithesis of his earlier recordings, the same weight and intensity remains, but there is a new depth and texture to the recordings. This is perhaps related to a reported nervous breakdown Broadrick suffered after the demise of his former ensemble, or perhaps this new ambience signifies a simple search for new audio territories. Either way the change is refreshing and rewarding. 'Conqueror' is the second full length from this new outfit and is a continuation of the territory explored on their eponymous debut. The eight tracks that make up the duration of the album form a cohesive whole and rarely deviate from an established pattern. They are uniformly slow and lumbering, unfolding over periods of up to ten minutes to reveal serene and long forgotten landscapes. Each has layers of synth and organ as large as astral plains, sustaining tones over vast periods and building the feeling of lurking in underwater depths surrounded by formless, nameless, spectral fears. The simple drums offer only the most leisurely of propulsion, and at times the record is almost hypnotic with melodies stretched out over such exaggerated periods that they lose all form and begin to dissolve under their own weight. The album is essentially a solo project for Broadrick, who plays guitars and bass on the album, as well as manning the production and mixing duties. But the one element that contributes more that many others is the exceptional production. Broadrick manages a wide scope of sounds with extraordinary dexterity and never lets the colours blur. Each planet sized riff fits neatly into the mix and no elements are allowed to overshadow others; the smallest timpani embellishment is given the same weight as a celestial drone and everything is clearly discernable. The only track the deviates from the established theme of the album is 'Medicine', which utilises a distorted monster of a guitar riff to build atmosphere and tension before heavy drums enter to build a more conventional song structure, as fragments of the Godflesh days to shine through the darkness. Throughout 'Conqueror' the basic instruments of rock music are pushed to their functional limits, but here they are given some time off, and used in a virtually pop style. Broadrick also ‘sings’ in something approaching a traditional style here and there are strong elements of the empathy and heartache that form the backbone of the album. The feeling is of meandering rivers that never seem to meet the sea, flowing through great counties at the fall of once mighty empires. One difference from previous JESC recordings is the vocals. It is Broadrick himself who stands out, as his wispy vocal lines soar high above the valleys and caverns down below. Each line is crisply delivered and discernable; sounding as though it were being sung from the other side of a monstrous cavern, echoing and gaining strength as it travels. The lyrics are close to choruses, as they repeat time and again, building simple rhyme structures and forcing themselves upon the listener. Occasionally they sound a little overwrought and indulgent, but mainly they provide some much needed counterpoint and a rival focus to the rumbling drones. Conqueror is a touch more accessible that its peers, including Isis, Pelican or Sunn 0))). But this is a criticism as well as a recommendation. JESU lack some of the scope, grandeur and sumptuous opulence of the genres other practitioners, and can become over relianton the layers of fuzz, slipping into a quiet desperation and helplessness. But overall it is a rewarding record and one that improves with age, the stripped down nihilism, filtered through what can only be a baffling array of peddles keys and blinking lights, grows warmer with time, especially when played at nerve damaging volumes. A rewarding life at one beat per minute.

Track Listing:-
1 Conqueror
2 Old Year
3 Transfigure
4 Weightless & Horizontal
5 Medicine
6 Brighteyes
7 Mother Earth
8 Stanlow

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Lifeline (2007)
Blissful and redemptive post rock with a touch of punk-metal and industrialism on new EP from Jesu, the latest project of ex-Napalm Death and Godflesh star Justin Broadrick

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