Okay, I am saying it. This just might be my number one album of 2007. Whatever I thought of Jesu prior to this record went completely out the window. Conqueror is absolutely breathtaking. The audible space that this record fills up is mind-boggling. It is lush. It is sweet and pretty. I am listening to it over and over again and struggle with the fact that this is probably the record that I fall in love with for the entire year. I had one last year; this is it for 2007. Justin Broadrick and company really outdid themselves with Conqueror.
Conqueror rolls in like a lazy summer afternoon; the title track is a wonderful example of how the boundaries of heavy can be pushed to make extremely beautiful pieces music. Broadrick continues the pop-ish direction that Silver leaned toward; when you listen to the vocals, it is plainly evident, and the lyrics are rather ambiguous. The dynamics create a thick, lumbering behemoth of a song that seems as though it is going to rumble over the listener and engulf their conscience while at other times it tiptoes along quietly.
The aspect of Conqueror that I find myself drawn to is they way that all of the aural space is full. Jesu fill each song with guitars, bass, drums, drum machines, keyboards, and ambient sound. It is thick but not oppressively so. An example of this would be the track "Old Year." Making its opening remarks with a strummed almost clean guitar line before the bass begins laying down its lethargic, plodding rhythm. It sounds like the whole proceeding is going to come apart at the seams. The guitars slowly morph in sound while continuing to play the same notes. The keyboard parts give the song a nice atmospheric element that fills the aural space completely and packs it with lots of sound.
"Transfigure" is an animal all to itself. It comes in a wave of sound that washes over the listener in a completely unsuspecting manner. It could almost be considered anti-climactic but that is not quite the right term because it constantly builds tension without having an immediate release. The guitar melody is excellent. It is prominent but does not over power the rest of the instrumentation. The keyboard part in this song harmonizes well with the vocal part. There is an excellent part of "Transfigure" which pops up several times that is more aggressive sounding while at the same time maintains the melodic sheen that the album has. It seamlessly melds with the rest of the track that pushes it another level of dynamicism. This is quite possibly one of the best songs that Justin Broadrick has written to date. It is heavy but ultimately tuneful and, perhaps importantly, accessible.
Conqueror contains a heavy mood that permeates the entire record. Broadrick described that mood in an interview in the March of 2007 issue of Decibel:
At first, it was the sound of resignation. Giving up, like, the battle's over, I just want to be cocooned in the womb. I was completely free to make this music I'd been trying to get out for a long time but hadn't really touched on, with pretty melodies and this huge sense of melancholy, sadness, and loss. That's probably the strongest emotion that I do still go through every day. It's the sound of isolation, to some extent, the beauty in that and the sadness of it as well. The bottom line is if it makes me feel like an emotional wreck. That's what I'm trying to do, things that really hit my heart.
"Weightless & Horizontal" exemplifies these statements perfectly. The song has a despondent mood that threatens to pull the listener down with it. The lyrics seem to taunt the listener with the line, "Try not to lose yourself." The repetition in the lyrics adds to the melancholy that the song exudes. Even the sparse keyboard section, magnifies the feelings that are prevalent. The triumphant emotional build that emerges throughout the song is a seemingly sarcastic smack in the mouth that wraps the song tightly around the pervading mood that it so perfectly generates.
With Conqueror, Jesu also lays down some incredibly grandiose sounding songs. From its flange affected keyboard introduction into its vicious bottom dropping rhythm, "Brighteyes" is a song about contrasts. It has an immense vocal hook, something that is almost unnoticeable given the sloth-like tempo that the song maintains. The keyboard melodies are actually beautiful and bring to mind something akin to an uplifting number heard in a church or even replace "Pomp and Circumstance" as the de facto music for traditional graduation marches. "Brighteyes" definitely has this type of grandiose element to it.
Jesu close out Conqueror with an almost hopeful sounding track entitled, "Stanlow." The bouncing rhythm and simple melody really interact with the vocals well. The music is soothing, and the vocal arrangements have a choral effect. "Stanlow" serves as another example of Broadrick bringing Jesu ever closer to pop music territory while still maintaining its experimental edge and monstrous sound.
The artwork and overall package presentation is excellent. The US version reminds me of the type and style that Nine Inch Nails has for The Downward Spiral. The artwork is crisp and clean and truly fits the recorded work well. The import version is equally incredible with a plastic slipcover that is reminiscent of the deluxe versions of Sonic Youth's Dirty and Goo, as well as a host of other "deluxe" records like those. The import version of Conqueroralso has a second disc that has the tracks "Sun Down" and "Sun Rise", which are to be vinyl only tracks on a 12" due out on Aurora Borealis.
Even while listening to the closing strains of Conqueror again, I am still struck by the beauty that this album carries in its sound. Seriously, the record has just about everything. The packaging is tremendous. The album itself is top notch. It is without a doubt a fantastic record.
9.5 / 10
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Ah Justin Broadrick how you torture my twisted mind with your teasing Jesu EPs and side projects and reunions and remixes (dear lord does this man make a ton of ...
Posted Oct. 4, 2014, 8:50 a.m.
Hydra Head Records is set to release 3 reissues on Oct. 7, an LP of Jesu's Conqueror and cassettes of both A World Lit Only By Fire and Decline ...
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