Review Summary: They're back, baby.
In their first real
full-length since 2007's acclaimed Conqueror
didn't really count), Justin Broadrick and Co. have made a massively triumphant return to their beginnings. On his blog in a March 2010 post*, Broadrick stated that he felt Jesu
had strayed from its roots, divulging that "Jesu, first and foremost, was intended to be a guitar oriented project," and that he had decided to form Pale Sketcher
as a means to further explore the electronic side of Jesu
. This means that he was now free to express, without restraint, the heavy dream-pop influenced metallic drone that made earlier Jesu
efforts such a hit in the first place, and this could not have been a more timely decision. The collective's more recent efforts, namely its split with Battle of Mice
and 2008's Why Are We Not Perfect?
EP, had showcased a distinct divergence from its roots, with electronic bits dominating crushing guitars and ambient dreamscapes overwhelming the massive power chords that made Silver
such powerful records. When a new full-length was announced in March of 2011, hopeful fans were left to wonder whether it would be a return to roots effort like Broadrick had implied or a further exploration into the project's quirky electronic influences that had so unbalanced its more recent efforts.
is everything a loyal fan could hope for and more. Electronic elements are still fully present, but these were present even in highlights of the Jesu
back catalog such as Silver
: they are and always have been an integral part of Jesu
's identity, and this will not be changing any time soon. However, the strength of Ascension
and the group's previously mentioned early records is that the electronic backgrounds and soundscapes are nothing more than complements to the power chord-centric base of the music rather than its focal point. They are beautiful accents to the crushing drop-tuned behemoths that we all remember from masterpieces like Star
that make a sudden and welcome reappearance in Fools
, Brave New World
, and almost every other song on the album save for the electronic closer Ascension
. While this effort serves as a complete return-to-roots for Jesu
, it's not self-plagiarism in the slightest. From the new-found focus on acoustic guitar-based elements to some of Jesu
's fastest tracks yet (Sedatives
is a prime example), Broadrick is not a man who will run out of ideas any time soon.
However, no matter how welcome the return of Jesu
's original guitar-centric leanings are on Ascension
, there is one aspect of Broadrick's art that is more important that anything else that also makes a hugely powerful comeback on this album. While crushing power chords enhanced songs in earlier efforts like nothing else could, the most powerful element in Jesu
's stronger efforts was always their emotion. The title track of Silver
was not a masterpiece of drone because of its immense drop-tuned power chords: its brilliance lay solely in the pure emotion it conveyed. Simultaneously expressing desolation, sadness, triumph, and, above all, unrestrained hope, this track and others like it were human feeling incarnate. Ascension
is not as brooding and desolate as Jesu
's self-titled, nor is it as hopeful and triumphant as Silver
, but it would have been unfair to expect it to achieve the soaring heights of these titanic epics. It is the band's first proper effort in four years, and any expectations of perfection would have been unrealistic, but even if it is not quite
as hugely emotional as these earlier albums it easily hold the distinction of being Broadrick's most powerful output since 2006. With Ascension
has created the most powerful, heaviest, and most emotional record that could be expected of them, and for that, it is one of 2011's most resounding triumphs.