esu is the brainchild of Justin Broadrick, former member of two legendary bands: Napalm Death and Godflesh. Jesu only nominally contains elements of either of these things. It’s metal, but it’s hardly the one-dimensional speed romp of the former or the vital mix of industrial and metal of the latter. Godflesh, after melting heads everywhere beginning in the late 1980s until the group rightfully disbanded in 2002, became near its end close to laughable (the reissue of the stunning Messiah notwithstanding). That’s why it was a decided possibility that Jesu would be the sound of an old warrior trying to lamely relive past glories. Wait, this is Justin Broadrick we’re talking about. So should we be at all surprised that Jesu is both left-turn and stunningly awesome at the same time?
Jesu is, simply categorized, the type of doom metal that Hydra Head and others have championed—the type brandished by Isis and Neurosis. These are simplistic comparisons, but they’re also incredibly apt. Tracks are glacier-paced monuments to allowing chords to crash against one another, making for enlightening moments of dissonance. In many cases, it’s as if Broadrick is in shoegaze-mode, letting things play out simply to see how they interact with one another. “Walk On Water” is a clear example here, in which Broadrick unleashed echoed vocals over a laboring riff, the aforementioned cymbal-ridden percussion and what sounds like an organ. Each element plays its piece over and over, hammering its ideas ad infinitum, allowing the mind to wander and, ultimately, engage with it on a level other than the immediate visceral one.
Of course there are other instruments involved: Ted Parsons seems to be the only other full-time member of the group, contributing cymbal-heavy drum patterns to the tracks in which Broadrick doesn’t allow his programming to fill in for the percussion. In some cases it’s even hard to tell what’s programming and what’s merely effected guitars (near the end of the epic “Friends Are Evil,” for example). That’s not to mention the heavy low end that anchors the proceedings with portentously hammered out basslines. Rarely does the playing inspire jealousy, by any means, but it’s clear that the whole thing is elaborately and lovingly constructed. Then again, that’s hardly the point because Broadrick is obviously more interested in creating moods and textures than technical proficiency.
And on that account, Broadrick has succeeded admirably, because like his peers Neurosis, Isis, and even Sunn0))), with Jesu he is now a firm part of an ever swelling movement that is making this brand of doom metal one of the most interesting and melodically satisfying sub-genres going right now.
Reviewed by: Michael Bennett
Reviewed on: 2005-02-11