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Jesu - Conqueror

Surprising as it may sound, Justin Broadrick has been citing The Byrds, Red House Painters, and Teenage Fanclub as influences on the melodies that inhabit Conqueror, the second full length release from Jesu, Broadrick's new musical vehicle since splitting Godflesh. You might be hard pressed to spot them though since Conqueror draws upon rock, metal, industrial, electronic and ambient music. The real surprise of Conqueror is the influence of the shoegaze bands of the nineties: Ride, Swervedriver and especially My Bloody Valentine that Broadrick teases into the Jesu sound.

That said you can still detect the skeletal bones of Godflesh on 'Old Year', the sludge chords and pummeling rhythms, and Broadrick's elongated wails. Here though they're softened with dreamy keyboards and chiming guitars. It's the exception to the rule as much of Conqueror revolves around Broadrick's most song based writing to date. 'Transfigure' and 'Medicine' are awash with warm, fuzzed-up guitars and Broadrick's morose melodic voice lost in a haze of nineties shoegaze, while 'Medicine' expands into soft-synth patterns and treated vocal melodies. The electronics of 'Mother Earth' quickly give way to layers of guitars, it's chord progressions feeling as though they will build into some anthemic indie track (it does actually remind me of Snow Patrol) but it's all stripped back to lone guitar chords before entering into a protracted series of cyclical chords and percussion, underlayen with atmospheric synths. Broadrick is such a skilled arranger that you barely notice sounds entering or leaving the dense sound layers. Conqueror is all together more compact than last year's Silver EP, with less reliance on the electronics in favour of a more live rock band feel.

Conqueror really hits it stride, albeit at a snail's pace, on 'Weightless and Horizontal'. Broadrick's voice floats over droning chords and dreamy atmo-synths, carefully cutting back to silence before regrouping in a different form. It reflects the hopelessness captured in Broadrick's curt nihilistic lyrics. And when he repeatedly sings: "Try not to lose yourself" on 'Weightless and Horizontal' it's difficult not to. Another good track is 'Brighteyes' with Broadrick's echoed and layered voice fronting a warm shimmery glow of guitars, enveloped in a haze of foggy guitar drone.

There's little movement away from the sound template running throughout Conqueror and much of Jesu's previous releases you fear that Justin Broadrick may have swapped one musical straitjacket for another. Still it's a real slo-mo, smouldering piece of work. For more information go to www.hydrahead.com