Jesu – Conqueror
|By Srikanth Panaman|
|Tuesday, 23 October 2007|
|Jesu‘s first releases, the Heartache EP and the self-titled album were awesome, and were in familiar sonic territories if one’s familiar with Justin Broadrick’s previous band Godflesh. But when Justin was showing signs of calming down on the last EP called Silver, I was worried about what this was leading to and how it was going to sound on the full length album to come. What I have here is a really awesome digipack complete with a cute slipcase of their 2007 full length album called Conqueror. So what’s the verdict, you ask?Jesu does indeed progress in this new found style influenced by the guitar layering and atmosphere building ideas as displayed and pioneered by those shoegazing bands from over a decade or two ago. This album is not as straightforward and one dimensioned as that sentence might hint but I was just giving the ol’ heads up. Also I had to mention it, now that shoegazing is becoming a frequently used term in your favourite metal forums all of a sudden, when all those bands were completely treated as no-way-dude by the metal folks back then. You now have the whole post-metal scene which borrows a lot of these ideas, you even have a one-man black metal project turned into a substandard shoegazer band called Alcest which is apparently quite kvlt in the Necro and Grim©® circles. Jesu though, is one band that does it absolutely right.
The title track begins in a pretty usual way. Industrial noise, programmed drums and then the sludgy big riff. It’s still signature Justin histrionics but there’s a few layers of trippy soundscapes and the soft poppy vocal lines that simply serve as another instrumental layer and not as the mouthpiece of the band. The second track Old Year is a little darker and eerier than the first but all the aforementioned elements are still intact.
Transfigure again begins with this slow brooding yet beautiful riff-melody accompanied by those vocals I was talking about earlier. How marvelously there are minimal changes yet the riff resolves to the same three note melody. Around 4 and a half, I was trying to figure out where they were going to take this, when there’s this near-minute-long subtle melody bit over the riffs that soon closes the song out in style.
Weightless & Horizontal begins with just eerie synths, joined then the big riffs and then the vocals. Later when these vocals go unaccompanied for a couple of lines with the guitars joining in again, though expectedly, was a cool little touch that would’ve sounded just corny and done-to-death in most other hands. They do the same with the synths going unaccompanied and this time both the vocals and guitars go crashing in. Ten epic minutes go by without boring the shit out of you. Just pointing out the little nuances in songwriting which otherwise is quite minimalistic except the grand sonic sequences which translates to something new to notice every time you spin this.
Brighteyes is the band both at its the heaviest and softest. At the same time. The downtuned, palm muted, slow, sludgy guitar chords for the tragic sounding laconic pop melody is an idea that keeps working on this album but the contrast is on full display right here. The drone that these guys are known for come out in flying colours on this song too. One of the picks of the album for me. Wait a sec, come out in flying colours? Have you heard anyone who’s not a teacher or a boring uncle visiting you as a kid use that term, till right fucking now?
Another thing that you’ll feel by the end of this. As heavy, intense, distorted and sludgy as this can get, there’s no denying the fact that this can be the most uplifting music this side of…everything. It’s the progressions for sure, the mood and the atmosphere built around them, not to mention the melancholic vocals that add to the dream-like music throughout the album. And damn good and understated job by Ted Parsons (Prong) on the drums too. This is ace, different from the earlier sounds and different from everything else out there; still is ace.