Friday, July 13, 2007
Jesu - Heart Ache
The long-awaited Jesu review; this went through at least eight revisions. I am still not 100% satisfied, but it is a lot better than when it started. May go back and tweak a few things later, but for now, enjoy the review:
When it comes to devastating and brutally heavy music that is also simultaneously highly emotional at the same time, Jesu is quite naturally found this list, somewhere close to the top. "Heart Ache" is the debut album from Justin Broadrick's band Jesu, after the traumatic dissolution of his seminal industrial-metal band Godflesh. While this album firmly establishes many of the trademark elements which would be found on future releases, albeit in many different forms, there are several unique aspects to this album that cause it to stand out on it's own. Having dissolved Godflesh in 2002 on the eve of a major tour, Jesu was the expression in which Broadrick shed the self-imposed limitation previously set when creating records as Godflesh. Thus, the entire album was created, arranged, and produced by him, arguably the purest expression Jesu has yet to offer.
Consisting of two LONG (19:42 and 20:13 respectively) tracks, entitled "Heart Ache" and "Ruined", both feature the same basic principles: huge low-end guitar riffs (which do not quite reach the 'drone' territory they would explore on their self-titled sophomore album), mechanically precise percussion (via drum programming) and a host of auxiliary instrumentation.
"Heart Ache" is the more upbeat (in terms of tempo, not in mood) of the two songs, as the crisp guitar chords are accented with various mellotron layers (of varying effectiveness, unfortunately), abstract "guitar noise" lead lines, and (thankfully) a clear bass guitar backbone. The most memorable section of the song (around nine minutes in) arrives when the song shifts into slowly ascending guitar notes over an insistent drum beat, as if it is the aural representation of time swiftly drifting out of your hands in the midst of your misery. It is a powerful segment, and it can easily lead to imagining a music video, populated by your own frustration and melancholy. Meanwhile, Broadrick's soaring voice floats over the mix, resulting in one of his strongest vocal performances yet (which is surprising, in my opinion, because I had alwasy viewed that Broadrick's vocals, at times, were one of the weaker elements of Godflesh). There is not much variation in the song overall, but that is what enhances it; the gradual overlapping of the various segments towards the end is really quite effective.
"Ruined" takes a different approach, with a slowly developing piano melody. Towards the end of the song, a clean electric guitar melody shyly joins in as the piano melody increases in complexity. This brief tranquility is brusquely sandblasted away with even rougher guitar rhythms than the first song. The vocals are especially harsh towards eleven minutes into the end, as Broadrick finally distorts his vocals somewhat to screamed repetitions of the phrase "Rise, Rock!" (I have yet to hear a suitable explanation for what exactly he means by this, but it is clearly open to multiple interpretations). The ending of the song is quite impressive, as strings and several clean guitar layers/lead lines are brought in, leading up to an impressive acoustic guitar solo backed by (what sounds like) treated piano and mellotron strings.
Very impressive, even for Jesu standards. Though it is difficult to assert whether it is "better" than other Jesu releases (they are all good, in my opinion), this certainly stands out on it's own. From here, Broadrick would unite with several former Godflesh members to record their landmark self-titled album.
In a word: awesome.
PS - It's too bad that The Eye interviews had to use those particular live videos, for they illustrate vividly how much Broadrick's live vocals pale in comparison to his studio recordings.
Also, found a good YouTube vid of Black Boned Angel playing live (thanks Blizzard Over The Swamp) and have included it in my Black Boned Angel review.
Jesu Official Site
Dry Run Records ("Heart Ache")
Hydra Head Records ("Silver" & "Conqueror")
Temporary Residence ("Jesu/Eluvium Split")
In The Flesh (fansite)
MTV Justin Broadrick Interview
The Eye: Interview One
The Eye: Interview Two
The Eye: Interview Three