Review Summary: Jesu's debut full length album is slow paced and repetitive, however this works in its favour. Each song has its own character, thus making it very varied, whilst establishing a trademark sound.
Justin K Broadrick is a true innovator in the world of modern experimental music. In 1983 Justin K Broadrick joined Napalm Death as a guitarist and Fall of Because as a drummer. He then joined Head of David as a drummer in 1986. The one that many of you will know him for, however, is Godflesh, formed in 1988, a crushing industrial rock force and one of the most ingenious bands ever. He also had a strange industrial-hip-hop project called Techno Animal
So a member of Napalm Death during the famous and amazing "Scum" recordings and founder of an amazing cult band whose fans included the late and great John Peel. How's his latest offering, jesu?
(please note that I have not used capitals for the band name and song names simply because jesu themselves do not)
on this album jesu are:
Justin K Broadrick (vocals/guitars/bass/programming)
Ted Parsons (drums/percussion)
Diarmund Dalton (bass on songs 1,3,4 and 8)
Paul Neville (guitars on song 7)
Right from the off this Album is something of a statement of intent, “your Path to divinity being the track that welcomes us to the jesu sound. Slow and repetitive are often bad ways of describing an album but in this case I think they are merely accurate adjectives that do nothing more than describe the way this music is delivered. There is a lot going on here, based around a simple ongoing slow pace. The aforementioned opener actually goes through several different moods all aided by different electronic additions, dividing the song into different movements and moods. Whilst generally depressing as a song, the uplifting electro-organ track, added about a third of the way into the song, actually gives it something of an introspective feel, with allusions to space rock. This feel is reinforced when the core guitar, bass and drum rhythm is cut out and the listener is left feeling as though they are floating.
With this excellent opener under his belt Justin moves into what I consider to be this album's best track; “friends are evil”. The song begins in a way that can only be described as crushing, with a riff that feels as though it has a literal jagged edge. This crushing feel is literally a diversion from the song's true intention, as it is swiftly mutated and transformed into an epic, sweeping and melodic song, led by Justin's sad and monotonous vocal. This song is of particular importance to me on this album because it represents a truly important part of jesu's sound. Very little of the components that make up this song are soft or melodic, but through clever writing and use of effects this track is both of those things, something that can be truly inspiring on the first listen.
As I move on with album review I want to be very careful, as I am no longer going to describe the individual tracks in such detail, but I do not want to give the impression that this is an album with just a couple of good tracks. I just feel that the double header of “your path...” and “friends are evil” are literally breathtaking openers and also aid me as a reviewer to outline the main power and style of jesu's sound, which is essentially soft simple melody painstakingly grafted on to crushing and heavy minimalism. There are no real standout tracks, as I often find that other than than two first tracks, I do not know the songs individual names, and think of this as an album that must be listened to all the way through.
As the album continues each track begins to make use of different spins on the already established sound. “tired of me” being the first track to make use of a higher key, creating an almost positive feel despite this being the most depressing track so far. “we all faulter” has one major thing setting it apart, which is that it's feel of continual rising almost turns it into an anthemic sing a long, well by jesu standards at least. It is interesting to note that, whilst this album cannot be described as varied, every song has its own character, and after repeated listens this becomes more and more apparent, this is almost a reward for the attentive listener.
There are a few criticisms I feel I must level at this album, with specific reference to “Walk on Water” and “Sun Day”, and they are that these two specific tracks feel too long. This is a strange feeling to me as jesu songs are all fairly long, the shortest on this album being just under 8 minutes. These two tracks have many good points, they enjoy the gradual build up style that has been present for much of the album, and they grow as they go along, in true jesu style, but they can create a feeling of boredom relatively quickly, and they never dispel it. This suggests to me that they cling too religiously to the repetitive side of things, without growing as much as the rest of this album.
The album does regain pace after this minor low point, “man/woman” being a particularly welcome surprise, as a screeching, soaring intro is led into a crushing anti-melodic piece, rattling, heavy and terrifying. The album ends with another deceptively upbeat track, I'm not sure why but this track very much hits home from the off, it can't help but make me happy, though I am fairly sure the lyrical content is fairly unhappy. There are no real new elements to this track in particular, though I suppose that it is probably the most straight up rock track, however it still makes full use of jesu's full array of electronic tricks and sound manipulation and in fact ends with the use of them.
Overall, this album is impressive and works on many levels. On a personal note, this album felt like something that I could do, that it was a style that was achievable. I have neglected to rate it too highly however, due to the fact that, having listened to the more recent work of jesu, this album is merely the first step into a much more evolved sound.