ustin Broadrick’s interest in sound over melody has long been documented. The drone has been the guiding force for his seminal work in Godflesh and, for the most part, with his newest project, Jesu. On last year’s Silver EP, however, Broadrick began to branch out, incorporating more accessible song structures and adventures into (gasp!) major keys. Conqueror trudges further down the path that Silver took listeners: we’ve got vocals, major keys, and even a few songs that reach beneath the six-minute mark.
That’s too bad, really, because there are more than a few times on this record when you may find yourself wishing that Broadrick’s echoed plod of a voice would simply go away. If his goal was to evoke the hopelessness of his lyrics through a complementary delivery, then he’s done a great job. Numb and numbing, Broadrick works his way through Conqueror offering up sentiments such as “I’m way past caring / I’m way past hoping” and “Try to lose yourself / Try to lose yourself” over hopeful chords that aim for tension and settle for obviousness. If Broadrick had taken Shoegaze 101, he’d know that the masking, manipulation, and mangling of vocals are key—if you don’t have something interesting to say…
Shoegaze is the watchword here. Much has been made of the obvious connection between the sound of Jesu and My Bloody Valentine and it’s hard not to hear where their aesthetic intersects. Broadrick’s meticulous attention to detail and his gear geekery are readily apparent even on a cursory listen. But in crafting sonic cathedrals, you tend to lose the emotion that helped erect them in the first place. What has set Broadrick and Kevin Shields apart from their peers is their ability to somehow do both equally as well. With Conqueror, you may find yourself wondering whether the perfect harmonic accompaniment of static (in the key of B flat) was worth the trouble.
Sure, some of this stuff is really stunning—beauty amid the static, putting it on before you go to sleep, smoking too much dope to. But it’s hard not to hear Trent Reznor in “Old Year” or your garden-variety shoegaze band almost everywhere else when you’re actually bothering to listen. The surprises are minimal, the mood sustained too faithfully for a record that doesn’t aspire to the drone masterpieces of Broadrick’s past. Conqueror isn’t a bad record, it’s just a boring one.