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Graduation of deceit - 28%

we hope you die, July 21st, 2020

It’s the early 2000s, and the mainstream face of metal has gone through one of the weirdest decades of its existence. The birth of groove metal, the rise of alt rock, the decline of apocalyptic self-assurance that characterised the 1980s; all took their toll on metal of all forms to varying degrees throughout the 90s. Of all the available responses from those still looking for purpose within this music, diluting metal’s ambition with vapid indie influences was probably the most disingenuous. Largely because of its ill-advised attempts to needlessly redeem metal from perceived shortcomings. For Broadrick the short attention spanned, this move came as no surprise. Godflesh were defined by their genre hopping approach, just as wild fluctuations in quality became their calling card. With the success of Sigur Ros and Mogwai around this time it was only natural he would try and bend his hallmark style in this direction in the form of Jesu. But in broader terms it was just another incarnation of metal trying and failing to adapt to circumstance, as opposed to the other way around.

Jesu picked up where Godflesh left off, pretty much without missing a beat. Stripping out the dirty groove metal elements to ‘Hymns’ (2001) on their promising debut EP ‘Heartache’ (2004) gave us an impressively unique rendering of atmospheric drone metal, with Broadrick’s trademark symbiotic relationship with his drum machine. But the follow up self-titled debut album released later that same year, despite being furnished with a bassist and a drummer, hollowed out the sound entirely to give us well over an hour of flat, lifeless post rock which develops ideas at a tectonic plate’s pace. Despite continuing with late Godflesh drummer Ted Parsons there was zero benefit to adding a live sticksman to the mix. When comparing this performance to the rhythm track on ‘Heartache’ it’s remarkable how effective a well programmed drum machine can be in outperforming the real deal in terms of imagination and creativity.

The same goes for the bass, which is tasked with playing roots notes pretty much all the way through. Now this in itself need not be a detriment, many seminal albums have got by on such serviceable bass work with only the most minimal of accents and deviations from the central framework. But no, the problem is not so much the bass – flat and uninspiring as it is – the problem is said central framework. On the rare occasions when Post rock and related drone genres shine it’s done by manipulating a sense of euphoria, through thunderous crescendos and extended ambience. This utilisation of dynamics is key as it compensates for the outlandishly rudimentary chord progressions that characterise the genre. Jesu trade in similar offerings, occasionally drumming up an atmosphere that could be described as euphoric, cathartic, but the affair is dragged out for so long with scant little variation that these emotions quickly give way to boredom.

A clutch of decent segments could be extracted into a passable drone/ambient album, or else could be lifted by a more energetic and creative rhythm section. But such basic feats of imagination were apparently beyond Broadrick and the gang at the time. One would hesitate to say this was an exercise in box ticking in order to draw in the indie crowd, one already eager to lap up such base drivel in the name of an open mind, but so on-trend is this album for the time that it begs the question. Minimalism – especially if it is to be extended out into long, meandering passages as found on ‘Jesu’ – must trade on some other facet to compensate for the lack of musical architecture. It could be tension, it could be atmosphere, rhythm, dynamics, layering, anything, but Jesu is lacking in all but the most basic nods to these things, resulting in an album that’s about as stimulating as the EasterEnders theme tune played at an eighth of the speed. It fails even on its own, minimalist terms.

Originally published at Hate Meditations

The Key to Escape - 90%

GiantRex, July 9th, 2016

For those of us who know the monotony of a Monday through Friday work week, the feeling of Sunday night is as familiar as it is desperate. At the risk of sounding like the most stereotypical braindead American metalhead in existence, allow me to state this: personally, there is no darker time of the year for me than a gray, dismal Sunday afternoon/evening in February after football season is over. Aside from the obvious signs of seasonal affective depression, the reason for this is simple: there is nothing left to distract me on Sundays from the forthcoming return of soul-crushing corporate culture and office drudgery.

The view from the window on the front cover of this album is, at least for me, reminiscent of that feeling, although not nearly as much as the music contained therein. Jesu's self-titled full length debut is the musical equivalent of a dismal Sunday afternoon in late winter. The hauntingly uplifting lyrics strike a dissonant chord with the harsh, gritty sound of the instrumental tracks underneath. Belying all this is a bittersweet atmosphere that captures the essence of what Darkthrone's Fenriz once called "the exhaustion of easy life."

Fundamentally, this is a post-rock album played in the style of drone or doom metal. All of the classic self-indulgences of post-rock are on unabashed display here. Jesu features guitars being used more for making noise than for making riffs, and song titles and lyrics which prominently feature juxtapositions of happiness and sadness, as well as explorations of awkwardness in human interactions. This would be a disgustingly overwrought, onanistic album if the experience was not so engaging and relatable.

The drone of this album takes a different approach than the Sunn O))), Earth, or Boris efforts that are more traditionally associated with the genre. Rather than use drone for the purpose of creating a dark, impenetrable atmosphere, Jesu employs it to create an atmosphere similar to the type of ambient music one would expect to hear in the waiting room at a therapist's office. The result is a bizarre hybrid of gurgling, distorted guitar noise and peaceful hum. Similar to the aforementioned literal meditation music, I would argue that this album is best experienced as a solitary, introspective listen.

From a production standpoint, this is a dense, many-layered effort. The drums are the most subdued of the instruments here, most likely intentionally reigned in to preserve the ambiance. In their place, the guitars and bass occupy multiple levels of the mix. At any given time, the bass is just as likely to be at the top level as the guitars, and the guitars themselves often feature multiple droning layers on top of one another. This album's bread and butter is using mixing to make holding the same chords for minutes at a time seem to go many more places than it actually does. The synth work here is neither negligible nor intrusive, serving only to support the music when the guitars or bass aren't present. The vocals are often multi-layered, processed, or otherwise distorted to blend into the drone. Frequently, the vocals seem to be floating away from the ear or coming at the listener from multiple angles. Whereas these effects would be terrible on most albums, they enhance the experience here.

The standout track here is Man/Woman, which takes on a drastically different tone than the rest of the album. In contrast to the rest of the material, the song has a malevolent atmosphere, with vocals distorted to sound demonic in a similar way to those of Glen Benton's early efforts with Deicide, and the most dismal, eerie drone to be found anywhere on the album. Perhaps what is most surprising is that it somehow manages to stand out among drone tracks on an album that explores a variety of moods, ranging from cheerful (Sun Day) to hopeful (Your Path to Divinity) to melancholic (We All Faulter) to desperate (Walk on Water). This broad emotional range is a large part of what makes Jesu as compelling an album as it is. If you are of a mind predisposed to some soul-searching, then perhaps consider this as your soundtrack the next time you go looking for yourself. You may be surprised what you find.

A mix between melancholy and monotony - 30%

SupremeAbstract, May 9th, 2008

A few months ago I decided to leap headlong into the doom metal genre by purchasing this album along with Electric Wizard’s “Dopethrone” and Sunn’s “Black One.” This is, by far, the album that generates the least feeling’s within me, being good or bad. The atmosphere it tries to create is lost on me half of the time, while the rest of the time it totally captures my attention with it’s hypnotic, droning, melancholy soundscapes.

What defines this album the most are the high pitched keyboards that define the tempo and key of each song. Sometimes they seem like they are the exact same tempo and key from song to song, other times they feel completely different. For example, the keys that fill the ending passage of “Your Path to Divinity” sounds almost exactly the same as the keys that mark the entire song of “Sun Day.” Yet in each song, they have completely different effects on me. “Your path…’s” sound forced and make me cringe, while “Sun Day‘s”’ make the song so melancholy, it sounds like the music itself is longing for but a single glimpse of the sun.

The rest of the instrumentation on this album is fairly unremarkable, but it all fits quite well for the drone genre. Low tuned, heavily distorted bass and guitar, played at a fairly slow (60-80 bpm) pace in a repetitive fashion. Nothing special, but they get the job done. The drums and bass are mixed and mastered rather well, as on a loud sound system they have quite a kick, although it does tend to drown out the guitars for the most part.

As for Justin’s voice, I have mostly only negative comments. He sings off key sometimes (which is fairly hard to do in drone doom), his “angry” vocals sound weak. I mean, come on, you are trying to sound pissed off, but you only come across as slightly moody. His voice rarely changes from song to song, the only exception being “Man/Woman.”

I guess I’m not that big of a fan of industrial droning shoegaze post rock-ish ambient doom metal. Or maybe this album is just weak. Still, there are some enjoyable parts. Maybe it will make a good movie soundtrack one day….or maybe it will be confined to it’s mediocre niche genre.

Washes Over Me. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, September 1st, 2006

Broadrick, Jesu’s creator, is a man of many talents. A lot of the influence behind this band is seemingly taken from his previous project, the legendary Godflesh. Even the name of the band is taken from a song by his illustrious industrial band. The significance of this influence is paramount to the sound of Jesu and my review since the band are merely an evolved state of Godflesh, in my eyes. When Broadrick released ‘Heart Ache’, a fantastically powerful EP in 2004, Jesu were his own creation. He was a one man band, controlling ever facet of experimentation. There have been complaints from fans and non-fans about Broadrick’s unconventional style, resulting in a war of words between two separate parties. Some suggest Broadrick is untalented, whilst the rest argue the case that he is a musical genius. A lot of the criticisms labelled at the early material seem rather unjust, in my view. The band were formed in 2004 and recorded the first EP in the same year. There wasn’t much time for Broadrick to make the adjustments from industrial metal to industrial based drone. The two are very contrasting genres, however much they like to incorporate themes of industrial. ‘Heart Ache’ was said to have a poor production and inept musicianship since there were problems with sound effects and instrumentation, particularly present in the piano passages on the second song of the EP. However, in my own opinion, I believe there is a certain charm to Broadrick’s unique style. His whimsical soundscapes are as heavy as a heavy thing and mesmerise to the point of hypnotism. There is a strength present in the constant thudding of the instrumentation that gives this record, the self-titled debut, a hearty backbone that allows the record to base the rest of its material on.

Drone was never a easy genre to become established in. The meaty guitars and gigantic soundscapes are sometimes too much for people to handle, but given the right state of mind, this record has the ability to enforce its emotional vulnerability on to the listener and make them feel the pain that this record is based around. Whilst I myself don’t consider Broadrick to be a genius, I do consider him to have reasonable cult status and for good reasons. His sound, particularly early on, was one that seemed unparalleled. He creates distinctive drone soundscapes using a minimalist approach. The emotional complexities of the self-titled piece make up for the lack of real creativity, though there is a certain visionary skill in being able to produce something as expressive as this. I don’t hereby claim that Jesu’s debut is the best thing known to man, but I do state that this honest portrayal of emotions is a worthwhile listen. In actual fact, I do love this record, but for personal reasons and can accept the fact that it will not appeal to everyone, therefore a lot of my judgment is being based on that. I think there is a unique dynamism in the approach, which is consistent, if not a little repetitive (though I am used to that myself, I understand this will grate on some people’s nerves). The record is built on slow impacting sections which drown out the thoughts of the listener in the shape of a rumbling earthquake like sound in the guitars. The guitars are perhaps the most pivotal section of the record since they create a fair amount of the atmosphere surrounding the songs. Epics like the emotionally raw ‘Tired of Me’ are good examples of this wall-of-noise cliché that Jesu build their songs around.

The guitars, reinforced by powerful percussion that includes impressionable hi-hat and cymbal sections that wash over the listener like forceful waves of melancholy, mixed with angst. There are many raw qualities to this record, which in turn makes it sound even more unique against its peers. The constant rumbling sound, for instance, was a first for me to hear in this manner. It plays an imperative role in creating the wall that was previously mentioned. The bass, which is audible, though not as important to Jesu as the guitars or the esoteric programming, is accredited for some of the ample soundscapes. Broadrick’s vocals are very strong. Although he’s not the greatest vocalist in the world, his melodic and honest voice bounces well off the gigantic distortion caused by the guitars and systematic percussion. His voice doesn’t reach as high as others’ might do, but he’s consistent and puts a lot of emotion into his performance, which is all you can ask for. His lush vocals tend to lull the listener into a hazy reality which boarders on the fictional. Listening to him can be equated to reading something like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. His voices takes you to surreal places and on vast journey’s across barren landscapes and through majestic forests, ‘Sun Day’ would be a good example of this. There are a number of clichés which can be used to describe the Jesu self-titled epic, like a rollercoaster of emotions. Much of the material seems to be based on creating a low feeling in the listener and ebbing it throughout their body with the vibrations of the constant distortion which plagues the listener throughout. Although no one likes to feel low, Jesu make it sound desirable, which is why I keep coming back to this record, years after having heard it for the first time. Even the lyrics show a significant pattern in Jesu’s material, showcasing the undertow of the record with a splice of negativity. ‘We All Faulter’ is a great example of this;

“And you're a disease,
but you're a disease that I’m underneath.
And you're just like,
and you're just like all the rest.
'Cause we all falter.”

Highlights; ‘Tired of Me’ and the enormous ‘Sun Day’.

Desperation - 90%

noinnocentvictim, December 3rd, 2005

This album is desperation. Not in the negative sense, but a rather calculated view into the emotion of desperation. This album isn't necessarily dark by any standards, but it is rather... dense, and difficult to listen to initially. By "dense," I mean the music seems to be miles away, and to truly get to it you must swim through layers of mud.

This album is distance. You won't feel any closer as the music progresses; you will simply feel farther away from reality. By feeling farther away from reality, you can connect and associate with the music's distance from standard sounds.

This album is eternity. Every song, no matter how short, sounds droningly long, as though the artists have found a break of reality and have slipped into eternity. Every single time you listen through, you turn into an endless being, distant from human existence, and finding it difficult to live at all.

This album is true melancholy. The deeper it goes, the farther it gets and the more desperate the sound becomes, this album finds your core emotions - something beyond material lyrics can express-and screws around with your feelings. You'll feel like you've entered a dreamy state, and as though you're going to float off, when suddenly pain of the tones offered in this album haunt your core.

I have listened to this album countless times, and yet haven't found a single outstanding track. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole, and thus while there are no amazingly good tracks, there are no bad tracks to use to contrast here. It lacks a real reference point, as each song is equally unique and they all deserve to be listened to again and again.

This album is not essential. However, it is still a great listen.

Broadrick is a genius. - 95%

caspian, October 23rd, 2005

I've never listened to Godflesh, indeed I only know JK Broadrick from the few remixes of Isis and Pelican i've heard. Still they've all been really, really good, so when I saw this CD in my local shop I had to buy it.

The first thing you notice with this album is the unique CD booklet. It's made using weird materials, and while the artwork may not really fit the album (in my opinion anyway) it's really good. Aaron Turner has designed a lot of great album covers and this one is just as good as say, the Celestial design or the Australiasia design. But enough of that, it's time for the music.

This album is really quite an amazing one, and totally unique. It's slow and heavy, but a lot of it is really ethereal, even the heavy parts. The whole thing sounds really alien, I definetly haven't heard anything like this before, ever. The strange production would really account for this. Don't get me wrong, the production is incredible, just really weird. The guitar's are really, really distorted, but it's not a metal distortion. It's just... strange.

The songs are really really strange too. There's always a lot of background stuff going off, whether it's just static, and additional guitar line or whatever. The music consists mainly of big, slow guitars with ethereal, fx-treated guitar lines floating over the top of the whole big thing. Sometimes, the whole thing will just be a 2 note guitar line, drenched in sound effects, ebbing and flowing in the background. While these parts go on for a while, they don't repeat endlessly, and most people shouldn't get bored with 'em. The vocals are pretty cool too. Broadrick isn't the most amazing singer ever, but he does have a good voice, and like everything else in this album, it's filtered through a few effects. It fits really, really well with the whole thing though. His voice is like an instrument, drifting into and out of the mix. The whole thing is complemented nicely by the drums. The drums don't do anything difficult, but they do sound fairly epic, and they give the songs momentum. The huge sound of them fits really well in the whole scheme of things.. You need big drums for this kind of music.

One of the best things with this album is the kind of vibe it sends out. It's not exactly what you would say is a 'raw' album, but the whole album has a really organic feel about it. There's a very warm, welcoming thing throughout the entire album. While a lot of this album is fairly sad, you won't feel depressed through much of this album. For every part that's sad, there is a part that's joyful. That's fairly strange for a metal album, the only other band that I can think of doing that is maybe Pelican.

This is a must buy album for all metal fans. It pushes the boundaries of metal, indeed, it pushes the boundaries of music. I've never heard anything like this, and I don't think I will until I buy the first Jesu EP. You all need this album. If you think your Fantomas CD's, or your Avant Jazzcore collection is the most out there music ever, think again.

Best thing since "The Mantle" - 96%

translucent2you, March 29th, 2005

Man, this album is fucking GREAT!!!!! I have been a Godflesh fan or a while now, and when I heard about Jesu, I figured it would either be retreading Godflesh, or retreading the very spaced out and droney sounds of some of Justins’ other side projects. And the thing is, is that he is making the same sounds, except that he is bringing them to their logical, fucking badass conclusion.

Nothing on Jesu’s full-length debut will surprise you, it will just prove to you that Justin Broadrick truly is the genius that everyone has been parading him as all these years. It has the basic industrial framework of Godflesh, but it isn’t aggressive. It’s as mellow as some his side projects, but still incredibly powerful. It also manages to feel incredibly organic. Godlfesh used a cold, alienating industrial sound well to their advantage, wheras this is almost the opposite, managing to sound incredibly warm and inviting. But the real defining element of Jesu comes once he has already built up this grandiose droning structure, when you hear the melody. I am not sure if melody is the right word, because sometimes it will only only shift between two notes for several minutes, or just experiment with one note. But whatever he does, it it one of the most heart-wrenching things I have ever heard in music. Jesu’s first EP was called Heartache, and though I haven’t heard it yet, I have no doubt that it’s title would just as well describe this album. It is just that emotionally raw.

Now there are moments of the album that at first don’t seem to fit in. The first minute or so of “friends are evil” starts out very Godflesh like, and you think that he is going to go into a heavy track, but then it flows perfectly into more droning perfection. The last few minutes of “man/woman” pulls the same kind of trick, except since it is at the end (and really is something straight ot of a Godlfesh album), it doesn’t work as well, but it is redeemed in the last song.

Some people are saying that the album is too long, but I know that there are lots of albums that I have looked back on after several years and wished there had been more. Anyways.

Standout tracks: “friends are evil”, “tired of me”, “we all faulter”, “walk on water.” (aka tracks 2-5)

JESU - 93%

aeric7734, March 20th, 2005

First and foremost, it is important to remember that Jesu are not a Godflesh clone in any fashion. I believe that is the stigma that JK Broadrick will have the hardest time living down, because Godflesh were in every way one of metal's pioneers. Due to his innovations I don't believe bands like Fear Factory, Nihil, and their contemporary ilk would have had much to work with. I could go so far as to say that without the work of Godflesh, the incredible Blut Aus Nord would have had no inspiration to be putting forth the rich, dense material that they have either. But that's beside the point...

Jesu are in every way their own band, and while they carry similarities to the aforementioned Godflesh, they have at the same time their own identity. The music on this album is uplifting and at the same crushing, devastating yet at the same time calm. The massive sound that goes into the droning of the guitars and the percussive pounding of the drums can only be described as monumental and huge at the aural level. That aided by the fact that of the entire tracklist, the shortest song comes just under seven minutes... meaning that those with short attention spans might do well to steer clear, as they might easily (though not understandably) become bored by the musical effort contained on this disc.

I wish that more people in this particular musical vein could consistantly be as innovative as Justin K. Broadrick, who has always strived to make music in every way as emotional, heavy, and uncompromising as possible. With Jesu's self-titled album I believe he succeeds on a level he hasn't in over a decade.