Following the footsteps of last year’s Silver EP, it seems age has brought a semblance of calm to Jesu’s Justin K. Broadrick (of Napalm Death, Godflesh, et al). The harmonies are mostly consonant, the rhythms are driving but reassuring, the vocals and guitars soaked in delay, to an extent that would seem goofy in any other context. The soul searching is still present, but the abrasiveness has tempered into orchestral refinement.
Eight tracks in over an hour, Conqueror serves as a hypnotic escape, as calming hymnals disguised as heavy music. But it is heavy; the record crushes on nearly every song. However, the droning, doom-derived nature of the tracks is whetted by a beautifully uplifting, soul-draining angina pectoris of sorts.
A testament to Broadrick’s ever-growing skills of arrangement and production, the record swallows any and all negative space. Even at its most quiet, Conqueror fills a room. The hazy quality, delivered via the intimidating amount of layering and effects adds a Debussy-meets-The-Cure feel.
Individually, the songs on Conqueror stand on their own merit, yet distinctively cut from the same cloth, all well over the five minute mark. The title track opens the record with a layered chant from Broadrick, almost meditative, with an army of pitch-bending keyboard work. “Old Year” crushes down hard while still keeping angelic choirs above. “Mother Earth” remains peaceful throughout, before a denouement of perhaps the most active (and heavy) riff on the record. “Weightless & Horizontal” goes well over the 10 minute mark, yet never seems to veer from its purposeful course.
Equally interesting in the background or foreground, in headphones or a car, Conqueror is an aural experience that reveals more with each listen and in every context, and truly stands among Broadrick’s best work.