Jesu: Jesu

Kevin Jagernauth

Ex-Napalm Death/Godflesh mastermind Justin Broadrick finds his way to the light through dense layers of metallic sludge.



Label: Hydrahead
US Release Date: 2005-01-25
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

Around the age of 15, I started my first band, Insanity Starts at Lake Erie (don't ask). We were a trio consisting of two guitarists and a drummer, and because none of us were brave enough to sing, we were also instrumental. As we loved Sonic Youth and our drummer loved jazz, our songs were certainly interesting and definitely noisy. The reason I bring this up is to highlight the fact that not every teenager who picked up an instrument has an embarrassing or eccentric "first band" story. Sometimes you just hit the ground running. Such was the case for the now legendary Justin Broadrick, who at the age of 15 joined Napalm Death, a band that would redefine the most extreme edges of metal music. From there, Broadrick went on to form another hugely influential group, Godflesh, who after four short years, disbanded in 2002.

Broadrick, certainly never one to rest on his laurels (I haven't even touched upon his countless other projects including Techno Animal and Final) released his newest endeavor, Jesu's, two-song, 40-minute debut EP last year, entitled Heart Ache. 2005 has already been off to a helluva start for metal fans with new releases by Cursed, High on Fire, and Buried Inside. Well, metal heads better reach into their wallets one more time, because Jesu's debut full-length is great.

With eight songs clocking in at around 70 minutes, the album is every bit as expansive and epic as one would expect. Falling in line with Neurosis and Isis' most recent work, Jesu offers a distinctly more hopeful edge to their otherwise aggressive, yet somber journey through viscous, molasses-slow metal. But what becomes immediately apparent upon listening is how beautifully constructed and wonderfully subtle the album really is. Album opener "The Path to Divinity" runs for nearly four minutes consisting of nothing more than a bludgeoning bass riff, minimal trebly guitar, and clockwork percussion. However, slight variations and the sheer hypnotic power of the riff keep the listener entranced. Then, with an almost hymn like entrance, Broadrick's melodic singing breaks through the sludge, carried on the wings of an organ line, to appear only so briefly, and then disappear again under the weight of the music.

Indeed, Broadrick's modus operandi seems to be trying to marry the most devastatingly heavy music possible with airy, almost pop-like vocals. And it works. "Friends Are Evil" takes the sort of half-noise, half-grunge riff that Nirvana specialized in and slows it down into a syrupy consistency. From the opening of this harsh track, one simply couldn't imagine the beauty that would follow when Broadrick finally steps up to the mic (complete with the sort of pitchshifting production on his vocal line that would make Cher smile). The result -- as it is with most of the songs -- is incredible. His voice cuts the otherwise impenetrable wall of noise wide open, creating an enormous, airy space.

Only towards the end of the album, on "Man/Woman", does Broadrick turn to his growl. The track itself is possibly the weakest on the album, and that's simply because the vocal treatment is so ordinary. The rest of the album juxtaposes an extreme musical atmosphere with delicate vocal melodies. On "Man/Woman", the vocal and musical extremes cancel each other out.

Jesu's album, for the most part, is terrifically built. Though the shortest song is seven minutes long, Broadrick keeps each track interesting with electronic flourishes and pulsing noise combined with an unbelievably rhythmic backbone. Unfortunately, the album never achieves a truly cumulative power. With such a long runtime, one nearly expects a triumphant final act, but it's never delivered.

However, much can be forgiven an album as good as this. Broadrick's new statement is a sophisticated step forward and shows a tremendous progression for this already legendary metal pioneer.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.