As clichéd as this sounds, I’m more than happy to admit that Jesu’s music has helped me through a bad patch or two. I’m probably not the only one who perhaps finds their music therapeutic – in some ways, it can be doomy, chilling, melancholic; in others, relaxing, euphoric, and truly immersive. Whichever way you view Jesu, Justin Broadwick has certainly crafted some of the most emotionally stunning music of recent years through his post-Godflesh project.
Recently, Jesu had moved away slightly from heavy, droning guitars in favour of ambient, synth-layered soundscapes, such as on ‘Why Are We Not Perfect’ and ‘Christmas’. ‘Ascension’ sees a return for those guitars and rumbling basslines for more tales of struggle and woe; unfortunately, the album as a whole is a little disappointing.
It’s got some great tracks; the opening couple ‘Fools’ and ‘Birth Day’ are certainly well worth anyone’s time. But it suffers at that point from a weak middle section. ‘Sedatives’ almost seems a little upbeat thanks to its slightly faster drum beat and the next few songs that follow it either don’t feel like they’re given enough time to develop, or seemingly meander on without delivering that crushing blow to the sense.
That said, ‘Ascension’ does hit the desolate spot perfectly at times, particularly as the album wears on. ‘Small Wonder’ in particular awash with powerful riffage and hazy synth, capturing head first that classic Jesu sound, and ‘December’ and ’King of Kings’ are bleak and beautiful, extracting every last drop of fragility for Broadrick’s vocals. But for me, it doesn’t hit the same raw nerve that ‘Conqueror’ did at times. Not that I was at all comparing it to that album – ‘Ascension’ stands up competently within its own flame. Just not to the lofty heights that preceded it.