It had been so long. Ok, so nobody is calling Justin Broadrick a slacker. There is pioneering industrial, jarring post-punk, dense metal, council estate electronics, and time as a member of Napalm Death on his resumé, and he’s pretty much released something new every year since 1984. And he hadn’t even neglected Jesu really. Fresh mixes of old records keep emerging, and an all-new EP appeared a few months back. But the last Jesu full-length, the last chance to spend significant quality time in a new part of Broadrick’s lush, unique world, was some seven years ago now.
Despite that, it felt like there was reason to reserve excitement about the arrival of ‘Terminus’. That earlier EP was almost exclusively electronic and felt a little lightweight and experimental compared to Jesu’s best work. Even by Broadrick’s own admission, Jesu should be a guitar band. And then, even though the first taste of ‘Terminus’ did feature guitars, it didn’t inspire much excitement. Debut single (surely an artifact of the Spotification of music, Jesu don’t do one-track singles) ‘When I Was Small’, felt a little stilted, and kind of fullscreen compared to Broadrick’s usual panoramic vision. Thankfully, in context, the track works much better. Everything works better. ‘Terminus’ is terrific.
The almost lo-fi quality of ‘When I Was Small’ is actually a neat taster for the overall tone here. There are less slow-chugged chords. There is more sepia-toned atmosphere. It feels up close and personal. It’s Jesu zoomed in. It’s about as far from the metal genre that Broadrick has ventured on a Jesu full-length, but closer than ever to the destiny of “Pink Floyd played at 1/4 the speed” that he always saw for the project.
‘Give Up’ incorporates subtly warped electronica and drum machine beats to fantastic effect. ‘Disintegrating Wings’ displays both deep space bliss and Broadrick’s unmatched knack for tapping into feelings of melancholy and nostalgia. And despite featuring squirrely, distorted vocals and lyrics about being in hell, ‘Alone’ might the leanest, neatest, most digestible Jesu song ever written. It’s simultaneously reminiscent of the grime and grunge of 90s shoegaze, and the hyper-modern eerie intensity of, say, Blanck Mass. There’s even a hint of Oasis in there.
That doesn’t necessarily mean any of this is easy listening. ‘Terminus’ is 51 minutes long and, like most Jesu records, great changes in tempo and tone are rare. If you don’t catch Broadrick’s drift by the third track here, you never will. In fact, even though there is more dynamic variation here than on 2017’s excellent epic ‘Every Day I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came’, it’s a less immediate effort. It feels much more weathered and worn. If that record was carved from stone, this is hand-stitched and fraying. It’s a quality that might disappoint people looking for concentrated heaviness, but it feels authentic, absorbing, and, sure, kind of timely.
That album title suggests a final destination. Maybe even an ending. And there’s always a chance that Broadrick puts this project on pause for another decade, or moves on to something else entirely and never looks back. But if anything, this feels like a new beginning. It’s an older, greyer, satisfyingly weary sounding Jesu. And it’s wonderful.