Sunday, December 23, 2007

JESU — CONQUEROR

JESU — CONQUEROR

I've listened to Conqueror so much, it's almost hard for me to remember what a shock it was to hear it for the first time. I mean, it's one thing to be continually surprised that Justin Broadrick, one of the founders of Napalm Death, continues to transform himself and the music around him (Want to feel old? Scum came out 20 YEARS ago. Want to feel unproductive? Broadrick is only 38.), but it's another thing to realize just how much he's transformed in the past few years.

I mean, Conqueror is pretty. REALLY pretty.

Jesu is still heavy. The beats still crash down like metric tons of Heinz ketchup bombs. The dirge still shifts like continental plates. But on top of so much bottom, way on top, drifting miles above, are the layered, echoed guitars and a plaintive voice. Broadrick begs even as he's resigned to let the train leave the station. There's just as much horizontal space as there is vertical.

No longer do we have to dredge ourselves through the sludge to reach the higher elevations. Broadrick isn't taking us along this time. Instead, he's high above the clouds and suffering from the monumental depression that you aren't as well. It's lonely where the air is so rarified and you find yourself as Major Tom floating above a world in apocolypse.

But that's just the sound. The words aren't as reaching. All this elevation and space travel is all happening on a deeply personal level. Broadrick is talking to you, or someone very much like you. And he's talking about you and him and both of you in the great shoegazer tradition. He's a lapsed Catholic in the Church of love. He wants to believe in it, but he knows it's not true.

That's incredibly corny, I know. And the lyrics too, on their own, look a bit like the writings of a 15-year old girl. But the way that they're sung, each sylable drawn out to evoke its full meaning, and drifting above that unbelievably slow grind, it's all the more painful. And beautiful.

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