Hearing Jesu for the first time was revelatory, in large part because I’d never experienced a sound so brash yet seductive. Justin Broadrick’s studio approach to metal was certainly loud but his focus sought expansiveness instead of sheer volume. Giant webs of treated guitar bend around you, enticing any latent nostalgia or frustration bubbling underneath, and revealing emotions you hadn’t paid notice to.
Ascension, the long-awaited full-length follow-up to 2007’s Conqueror, makes its trade by exposing emotion. Every song but the closing title track sports not only a massive armor but the most delicate, melodic underbelly. Detuned acoustics feed drama through the blustery opener ‘Fools’, a yawning ambience offsets the heaviness of ‘Small Wonder’, and a disembodied choral adds to the awe-like intensity of ‘Birth Day’. Even with the inclusion of rocker ‘Sedatives’, Ascension remains super sludgy with long passages dedicated to Broadrick’s patient, earth-shuddering sadness. But like the best Jesu release (in my opinion, that’s Lifeline EP), that sadness comes equipped here with a palpable sense of liberation. Acquiring the taste for Jesu may be an uphill battle, but the rewards within the hour-long Ascension are worth fighting for.