Review Summary: Justin Broadrick shows you that a good 50-minute song is entirely within the realms of possibility.
One-song records are notoriously hard to pull off. In fact, in most of music history, these 40+ minute tracks either come off as mindless indulgence, incredibly pretentious, or simply downright boring. This hardship on the part of the artists is very understandable: there aren't many that can write a decent 10-minute track, much less one that is four times as long. It's almost always less a question of talent than it is one of sheer willpower, both for the artist and the listener. The cool thing about normal albums is that you can skip around them, and say that you like tracks 1 and 5, but not so much 4 or 9. This doesn't work for 1-track albums (imagine arguing with a friend about whether 32:11-35:54 is better than 14:34-19:22. It won't work), meaning that even higher standards are set for these feats of endurance than are set for your average album.
So, naturally, one may be relatively skeptical when they hear about a guy making a 50-minute post-metal album. As post-metal is already a genre than bores the Jesu(s) out of some individuals, this experiment by genre godfather Justin Broadrick has massive potential to be a long, tedious snorefest, and one can be sure than even Broadrick himself would recognize this as a fear well-founded. But, fortunately for the Jesu fan, and any fan of sludge or drone or post-metal in general, Broadrick has neither gone the way of making 3 riffs last near an hour (Sleep), nor has he created a monstrosity of cheesy, pretentious technical indulgence (Dream Theater). Instead, he has managed to discover the middle ground. Whether they be huge, distorted, power chord riff-fests or more melodic and post-rocky parts, most parts of the song follow a central concept or pattern: basically, one can hear a part of the song and can easily identify it as Infinity. As such, the album/song avoids ever losing its focus: this keeps the album from descending into a massive pit of boring variations of the same riff.
However, on the flipside, the song keeps things interesting with its impressive dynamics. Being (somewhat) post-metal, it has its long sections of melody and ambiance, which, due to the length of the track, are even longer than normal. They are quite surreal and beautiful, much more so than most other similar bands. However, these sections of reflective peacefulness are well-balanced by shorter but very powerful periods of skull-crushing heaviness. The extremely sludgy and bassy guitar tone compliments the massive power chords, and these sections are made even better by Broadrick's breathtakingly (and surprisingly) powerful cleans, and, on occasion, his barky, hardcore-ish shouts.
There is variation in the song other than simply its loud-quiet dynamics (namely a cool little electronic intro, industrial undertones throughout, and some strings buried somewhere deep in the background at points), but that's one of its problems: there's sometimes not enough. The song would be made infinitely better if there were changes in its speed as well as its level if distortion, for the song goes at one speed its entire 50-minute runtime: slow. This plays a massive role in making the song one of the least accessible things to ever come out of the genre. For a seasoned post-metal fan, this won't be a huge problem, as one grows accustomed to not-so-instant gratification after a while. But even so: a bit more variety is always a good thing.
However, other than a few gripes so minor that they're not really worth mentioning here, that is the album's only problem. So there you have it. Justin Broadrick has proved to the world that a one-track album of a respectable length is entirely possible to pull off without it turning into a tedious crapfest
. That's not to say that this is in any way, shape, or form an easy piece of music. It is a feat of pure endurance: a song that requires tremendous amounts of patience and concentration both to listen to in its entirety and to truly appreciate, but the end result of your hard work is worth it. It is so worth it.