Monday, September 29, 2008

Lifeline EP - Jesu

Lifeline EP

Hydrahead Records.

SCQ Rating: 82%

Welcome to ‘Drone Doom’ – the apparent result of fusing metal, shoegaze, ambient and electronic elements into one hybrid style. It’s also a ridiculous label, perhaps the most embarrassing since ‘folktronica’, and through use indicative of every lame sentiment ever hurled at critics. Moreover, terms like ‘Drone Doom’ damage the music in question, lending unnecessary baggage to one Justin K. Broadrick, the man behind the Jesu moniker, who is responsible for all instruments and production. Fabricated genres aside, Jesu is the latest in a line of projects that began in 1985 when Broadrick joined Napalm Death as a new guitarist. A year on, he was invited to join Head of David, this time as their drummer. Soon after that gig wrapped up, Broadrick created Godflesh (1988-2002), an industrial-metal group, produced a bunch of records for fellow label-mates (Isis, Pelican), established his own record label (Avalanche Inc.), and gave birth to Jesu; the first project where he is alone at the wheel, able to take any direction he desires.

And steer the vessel he has, from the originating muse of industrial music to My Bloody Valentine-styled shoegaze, and now, with Lifeline EP (his fifth, count’em, release of 2007), a stronger attachment to electronic production techniques. The steady percussion on ‘You Wear Their Masks’ remains human-made, but the distinctions between that and a drum-machine are becoming as blurred as the swells of guitar. More telling than this sound of metal melting into moody textures is the prominence of ambience here; from the onset of the title track, Lifeline EP carries on down the same electronic path as an appendix to the Conqueror full-length. Keyboards provide the melodies here, circling around each other in a frothy glow while the guitars move like shifting plates, slow and grinding. It’s at once downtrodden in its heaviness and uplifting in its sonic beauty.

It’s exciting to watch a band so prolifically intent on sound exploration, where fans can only theorize where they’ll travel next. Despite a remote metal influence, Lifeline EP has inducted Jesu into the shadowed margins of post-rock or alternative rock, a destination this band has been leaning toward for the past few releases. Whether that’s a graduation or demotion is up for debate among purists and indie-fans, but the sound unearthed in Jesu is as heavy and calming as thunder, and worth supporting in every transitional release along the way.

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