ustin Broadrick is prolific, but this is ridiculous. His Jesu project has five releases in 2007—the full-length Conqueror, the Sundown/Sunrise EP, a split LP with Eluvium, the Lifeline EP, and the Pale Sketches odds-and-ends compilation. One of extreme metal's most influential figures, helping found Napalm Death and Godflesh, Broadrick naturally produces quality work. However, the trajectory of Jesu's releases suggests his quality control is slipping.
It's not as simple as liking Godflesh and hating Jesu. Sure, switching from one to the other was Broadrick's sea change. But his long discography has been endlessly mutable. No two Godflesh releases sounded alike; battering ram drum machines gave way to sampled breakbeats, which yielded to a human drummer. Jesu, too, has changed. Its monumental debut full-length combined Godflesh's monolithic nihilism with a newfound sense of redemption. Since then, Jesu's sound has leaned increasingly towards redemption. The trouble is, redemption sounds pretty flat.
Silver, the follow-up to Jesu, held much promise. The EP experimented with different speeds and feels, opening up Jesu's possibilities. Sundown/Sunrise, originally slated for release afterwards, was also tantalizingly sprawling. Broadrick had complained about Godflesh's strictures, but on Conqueror, he donned new ones: major keys. By themselves, major keys aren't limiting. However, they are when they're pressed into the same shapes repeatedly. Basically, Conqueror was a Ride album gone metal. The undercooked split LP with Eluvium made Jesu go limp further.
Lifeline rights Jesu's ship somewhat. The sound is crisp and booming, a welcome change from the miserably dull mastering of Conqueror. Its four tracks are distinct and catchy; Broadrick is becoming increasingly deft with melodic hooks. The title track is Ride redux, while "End of the Road" is essentially extremely slowed down pop punk with a lush, pastoral outro. They're marvels of sonic architecture, yet completely devoid of tension. "You Wear Their Masks" has a huge hoover bass line, recalling Broadrick's '90s dabbling with drum 'n' bass. But despite its scintillating, harpsichord-esque licks, the song muzzles its bass line with tame drums. Hearing Broadrick pull punches is disturbing indeed.
"Storm Comin' On" succeeds the most, replacing Jesu's weak link, Broadrick's vocals, with Jarboe. She plays both chanteuse and augur; her cooings, alternately sweet and desperate, meld with strings and guitars into poignant textures. Broadrick also throws in a few chords more imaginative than usual. This is the only track here with any tension. The Jesu of old dragged listeners through hell and back before offering redemption. Having redemption handed out on a plate is much less rewarding.