For those of you who don't know Jesu (and trust me, most of us are duly ashamed at this point), think along the lines of Envy, who Jesu has done a split with, and Isis. Jesu embodies the lighter side of post-metal and a heavier side of post-rock, creating a median between the two genres to create something as influential as Explosion in the Sky's Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. The band shares a bit of the same sound, as well as taking some ideas from bands like Pelican and hashing up some ideas for Ascension that fans have longed to hear since the release of the last true full-length, Conqueror, in 2007.
"Birth Day", the second track on the record, showcases an excellent example of the sound the band has perfected. It opens with heavily distorted, low-tuned guitars, a slow drum beat, and an ethereal synth that plucks sharply like an electronic harpsichord, everything chugging away in discordantly wonderful beats that slog forwards lethargically, while Justin Broadrick sadly chants, "You don't recognise it /It makes me proud / You don't care for it at all / My head in your clouds"; in the moment, all of this comes together to somehow establish a moment of inner peace, despite the auditory turmoil being thrown at the listener at 60 beats per minute.
On "King of Kings", the ninth track on the record, the feel of the track is more like typical post-rock, keeping a steadier beat, similar to Mogwai's Rock Action, in a slow, drudging yet effective beat. On top of that, the guitar slowly pushes forwards in a power-chord driven manner, until the song dies away into a whirlpool of acoustic guitar and fading distortion, a relaxing break from the wall of mixed harmonies that continually crashes into the eardrum, with the sounds at the end of the song continuing flawlessly into "Ascension", the last and title track of the song.
Overall, I thought the record was well written, if not depressive as hell. It was great to hear a return to more guitar-driven music, instead of a leaning towards electronica, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's just nice to hear that bands are sticking to their original sounds, instead of being influenced by other, potentially more successful (but not always) musicians that use different effects. Perhaps one of Jesu's most melancholy releases, Ascension was surprisingly very easy to listen to. My only question is whether they plan to stick to the sound they've been moving towards or not, since they're kind of stuck in between at this point. Nonetheless, I'm interested to see where they'll go after this.
Pick up the album here.
2) Birth Day
4) Broken Home
5) Brave New World
6) Black Lies
7) Small Wonder
9) King of Kings