01. Heart Ache
03. Aureated Skin
04. I Can Only Disappoint You
2010 Hydra Head Records
I'll spare you the obligatory first paragraph history lesson on Justin Broadrick. He's made a lot of records. A lot of great records. Let's cap it at that.
What we have here is a double disc release that, in the wake of a few Jesu records that haven't carried any real weight, is Broadrick's most interesting material of the last few years. The first disc is comprised of the two tracks from Heart Ache, the first proper Jesu release, while the second is a collection of four songs of which -- and this is how the story reads -- were originally conceived in 2004, yet not fully finished until just this year. If you pull out the Broadrick timeline, you'll see that the tracks would fall right in the neighborhood of Heart Ache and Self-titled, thus conjuring up images of Jesu's glory days where songs fit snuggly between the worlds of droning melody and metallic heaviness. Interesting, indeed.
As for Heart Ache, I'll spare you the details on that release as well. It's been praised almost endlessly (though Self-titled still remains my record of choice) and rightfully so, thanks to the evolutionary ground it occupies as one project's sound bleeds into the next. The huge riff with the reverb-drenched and echoing vocals at the five minute mark of "Ruined" remains one of my favorite moments in either Godflesh or Jesu. If you are Heart Ache-less, this release is worth picking up for those two twenty-minute tracks alone.
But Dethroned is really where most of the talk is going to be. Both "Dethroned" and "Annul" hold true to the expectation of chunky, Godflesh-like heaviness that would come with the year in which they were written. The latter, in fact, has one of the meatiest guitar parts to have appeared under the Jesu moniker. However, what wasn't expected was such a strong reliance upon singing through a vocoder. Sure, Broadrick's singing has always been effects-laden, typically indulging in generous helpings of reverb and delay to fill out that desired hazy atmosphere, but the singing in these tracks is just a hair shy of being too comically processed for its own good. Ultimately, these two songs are some of his best since Sun Down / Sun Rise came out, but reigning in the vocal effects would have been wise.
"Aureated Skin" lacks that 2004 feel and instead possesses the songwriting style one would associate with Opiate Sun. It's slow-paced, big on vocal melody, and relatively catchy, but it's also forgettable in the span of Jesu releases. "I Can Only Disappoint You" might be the only track on this release that sounds truly new or different, as it feels sparser and more emotionally heavy than almost everything in the six years preceding it. It emanates both depression and vulnerability, and for that, I applaud Broadrick in his ability to convey that mood. However, from a musical standpoint it is also about as forgettable as the track it follows and likely to be lost amongst the smattering of tracks from splits and EPs that are strewn throughout the Jesu discography.
So here's a release that sounds both new and old, heavy and sparse, boring and memorable. Despite the mixed feelings received upon listening, Heart Ache and the first two tracks of Dethroned remain as quality examples of the Godflesh/Jesu intersection and are arguably the heaviest Broadrick songs post-2002. That's good enough for me.
Bottom Line: These six tracks effectively span the entire range of Jesu material and offer a mini-overview of the different corners of the project's sound. In the end, Heart Ache is just as unbeatable as we already knew, and Dethroned is a bit of a toss-up at moments, though still very listenable and more worthy of attention that the few releases that preceded it. When you average that all out, this is a worthy release.