Review Summary: Jesu once again brings down an otherwise great EP with a lackluster track.
In a way, split albums are more interesting to analyze than regular full-length albums, because a lot of times the bands influence each others' sounds in the studio. Over the years, Envy have proven themselves to be proficient at expanding their palette, and in the case of various split EPs, taking influence from their respective partners and combining it with their classic sound to make something new. Jesu, on the other hand, don't really seem to give a shi
t who they're paired with, as they've basically been doing the same thing for a few years now.
Lately Envy have put more of a focus on interesting chord progressions and atmosphere than on being heavy, and their sound is all the better for it. The heavy moments are still there, but they are based around tension, release, and unexpected moments which makes them more compelling. "Life Caught In The Rain" is a shining example of this recent focus, showing Envy's refined guitar playing and Tetsuya Fukagawa's screaming, which has become more and more tasteful with each release, making him one of the most accessible vocalists in hardcore. The chord progressions are what stand out though. In the verses, the progression is tense despite it's relatively slow tempo, accentuated by a sliding lead. The chorus is where things get interesting; the progression descends before resolving itself to the first chord, and then ascends to repeat its downward spiral in a higher position. The last section of the song is an even more thoughtful variation of the chorus; Envy shows a compositional care not often seen in their type of music. "Conclusion Of Existence" is the most Jesu-influenced track, with no intense moments to be found. Fukagawa's spoken word performance is great as per usual, but it's the music that propels the song into greatness. "Conclusion Of Existence" is basically a Jesu song in the style of Envy, and it turns out to be better than anything Jesu have done in years. The electronic drums are minimal, unlike in Jesu's music where they are often overbearing, and the string loop just barely rising over the background noise adds tremendously to the mood of the song. "A Winter Quest For Fantasy" combines those two tracks to create one of the very best Envy songs. It starts off deceptively, seeming like another atmospheric track, but it's really the beginning of Envy's best buildup, and the climax of the song is flooring, with some of the absolute craziest drumming in recent memory. It's one of the most intense moments in their history.
Similar to their side of the Battle of Mice split, Jesu churned out one good song and one downer. "Hard To Reach" starts out with a minute of electronic discotheque drum noodling before the typical Jesu background of fuzz kicks in, and it basically stays that way for the duration of the song's thirteen minutes with a few more touches thrown into the mix. The frustrating thing about this song (and Jesu in general, really) is that it sounds nice enough but there's just nothing about it that stands out. It's typical electronic-influenced shoegaze and although not many other bands are doing what Jesu are doing right now, it's off-putting to see them make background music like "Hard To Reach" when they could be putting out songs like "The Stars That Hang Above You" consistently. Justin Broadrick's vocals are actually endearing instead of forgettable, and the tone of the electronic drums isn't as grating as it usually is in Jesu songs. The song is ethereal and dreamy, and the second half sees Jesu resorting to a buildup, but it doesn't feel generic at all. It's an individualism that Jesu have always been capable of; they just haven't been living up to it lately. The electronic drums take center stage with something a bit unconventional - a double bass beat. Broadrick's vocals continue to float above everything else, fading now into the mix with everything else, but this time they add to the mood instead of merely being forgettable. "The Stars That Hang Above You" shows that Jesu can craft an amazing song, but it also makes it more disappointing when they don't.
A typically great showing from Envy and a typically hit-and-miss performance from Jesu makes for a decent split. Luckily, "The Stars That Hang Above You" lessens the bad taste that "Hard To Reach" leaves, which makes Jesu's side a bit better than it would have been if the tracks were reversed. They're starting to stagnate; Broadrick is clearly capable of more. It's never been a question of whether or not he's able to live up to Silver - the fact that he can has been clear for awhile now. The question is when