Review Summary: A return to miserable form.
When Justin K. Broadrick revived Godflesh a few years ago, it was inevitable that his post-metal project Jesu would take a back seat, although it never fully went away for too long. In the time since his last full-length under the moniker, he provided the instrumentals for two Sun Kil Moon/Jesu collaborations that were unfortunately released when the widespread fatigue towards Mark Kozelek’s artless journalistic ramblings was palpable; and then there was the heavily loop-based EP Never
from earlier this year, a twenty minute release that bordered on interminable. Yet even after those meandering and half-baked projects, Jesu’s fifth (or sixth, depending on who you ask) full-length Terminus
arrives not with renewed spirit, but with deep loss and hopelessness. Given the depressive nature of Jesu’s back catalogue, this isn’t particularly surprising; what is, however, is that it’s the project’s best album since their debut.
The earth-rumbling distortion of earlier works has receded even further into the past, but Terminus
is still a heavy
record. Loneliness, depression, and regret permeate these songs, as evidenced simply by glancing at the tracklist (see the miserable suite of “Disintegrate”, “Don’t Wake Me Up”, and “Give Up” that brings the album to a close). Over wooly slowcore riffs, greyscale electronic textures, and sparse percussion work, Broadrick delivers a nakedly emotional vocal performance, perhaps a career best; it strains as he goes high, and quivers as he sinks lower. Vocals and lyrics were never the main draw for Jesu, but the airier arrangements shed more light upon the despondent ruminations on loss and destructive patterns. Terminus
can be moving in a way that Jesu hasn’t quite been before.
It’s also front-loaded with some of Jesu’s best songs to date: “When I Was Small”, the title track, and “Sleeping In” are the heaviest songs on the record, featuring exquisitely heart-rending riffs and trudging tempos, while the sample-heavy “Alone” is one of his most complete electro-pop excursions. The record sinks into a wallowing mood as it goes into its second half, toning down the distortion and emphasizing Broadrick’s wounded singing. And yet, songs like “Alone” and “Give Up” re-affirm that Broadrick originally started Jesu as a way to explore more conventional pop songwriting. Despite the dejected emotions that seethe through the songs, he often imbues them with subtly gorgeous vocal melodies.
Even so, Terminus
is a decidedly more lo-fi and stitched together album than what we’re used to from Broadrick. Throughout the record, frequent collaborator Tim Parson’s drums drop out for a split seconds, and verses and choruses feel roughly taped together, creating a subtly disarming sense of unease. The low, overdriven guitars suffocate the low end, and the haphazard mixing pushes every element into the red. These aspects might come off as lazy, or give the album a rushed feeling. But I don’t think I’m giving Broadrick too much credit when I saw these shoddy aspects only strengthen the notion that Terminus
is a skeletal, brittle document of someone at a brutal low point. I can see all of this being a huge turn-off for some listeners, and maybe it shouldn’t work, but I think it does in some strange way.
is raw and haggard where earlier releases like Silver
felt immense and impenatrable. As ever, Broadrick’s lonely wail is surrounded by lush instrumentation, acting something like a defence against crushing isolation and loss—a distraction, a compensation. It’s ominous, then, that the last track “Give Up” is an instrumental, albeit a relatively upbeat one. Throughout Terminus
, Broadrick sounds strengthened by the arrangements, as if the melancholic riffs themselves can inspire true healing; not hearing his voice on “Give Up” darkly adds to the album’s tangible feelings of finality. Seeing as how Terminus
is one of Broadrick’s strongest works, released some thirty years into his career no less, hopefully that’s not the case.