REVIEWED: Jesu - 'Terminus'
In the beginning there was a man, and he gave the world new words. And those words were: “THEY BREED! LIKE RATS!”. And we listened to those words, and it was good. That man was Justin K Broadrick, who, having already written his place in the history books after his appearances in Napalm Death and Head of David, went on to carve his name into history with Godflesh, redefining heavy music in oh so many ways. Other bands had used the drum machine in combination with a guitar, but none then and few since can match the consistently titanic fire and brimstone that the Brummie outfit rained upon us.
But it wasn’t to last forever. In the wake of personal crisis, Godflesh went on a sudden hiatus; seemingly buckling under the weight, Justin did not break, finding the apposite in the opposites between the band that made his name and new venture Jesu. Godflesh was wrath incarnate, an awe-inspiring tirade smiting down on the contradictions that modern life brings us. With Jesu he has given himself an outlet for something that feels more intimate and personable, more likely to sigh than breath fire. While the first Jesu album left off from the final (at the time) Godflesh LP ‘Hymns’, in time Jesu has grown to find its own musical voice and evolved from the self-titled, guitar-focused debut to the immense ‘Conqueror’ and last long-player ‘Every Day I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came’, each sifting more and more away from blocks of guitar to something more enigmatic and dream-like, with EPs dialling in and out of the caresses of soft electronics.
And so we come to ‘Terminus’. This is a time where hardship and uncertainty was thrown into stark relief against boredom and enforced isolation. Justin offers no answers, but very human questions: what are we doing? Who are we? And just where we are headed? Timeless questions. ‘When I Was Small’ is a case in point: a litany of descending chords chiming with subtle variations of their own. Lyrically it tells a tale of trying to fit in, it is a framework of a memory to hang our own thoughts on. ‘Alone’ swings around a chopped up chant and a pulsing bass line that sounds like something Joy Division would have come up with if Ian Curtis had pulled through. Justin’s concise rhymes only emphasise the mystery of what he’s saying – who’s he talking to, what is happening? Meanwhile, the dream-like and heavily processed guitar is incessant in the dream-like atmosphere. But it’s the title track that’s the centrepiece of this record, it uses heavy post-rock influences to gradually unfold up and around us. Always measured, always wise and always absorbing, it nurtures and grows a melody tending to a delicate orchid.
‘Sleeping In’ with hisses like a weary steam train, heading towards to you-know-where in answer to “Even though you made it right/You just can't seem to end it right/Even though you made it home/It will never be the same/Because…” The classic Broadrick contradictions are also ever-present on ‘Disintegrating Wings’; amid the delicacy of music-box tinkling and the stately procession, there is the devastating truth of the lyrics that run like veins through marble. Justin’s control and presentation of his softer vocals is ever-growing and sees the finest display on this song. Rounding off this album’s second half with the final vocal tracks, ‘Don’t Wake Up’ is filled with placid control and a melodic bass line a la Mogwai, and words that fully examine the nature of a relationship on the road to an uncertain future. With one final shimmer of ‘Give Up’, an instrumental that resembles the lighter moments of Fuck Buttons, ‘Terminus’ comes to an end, lingering like the memory of a childhood home.
In an age where instructions and advice are issued contractionary to no great effect, ‘Terminus’ is perhaps the perfect record for this time we find ourselves in. It asks questions of us. It soothes us. It entertains us. A record that sifts through all the heavy thoughts we have lying within us. A record that stirs up mystery and intrigues at every listen while giving us the space to ponder. A record that sums up all the uncertainty we all find ourselves in, and all the more reassuring for it. A record humble and wise. A human record whose uncertainty leaves us at peace.
'Terminus' is out now on Avalanche Recordings