Music Reviews
Opiate Sun

Jesu Opiate Sun

(Caldoverde Records) Rating - 6/10

 Despite his insanely prolific schedule and involvement in no less than five bands (among them the notable Napalm Death and Godflesh), not even Justin Broadrick can escape the inevitable clutches of predictability. By the time his Jesu moniker had turned four years of age, the ex-metalhead had crossed eleven releases off his to-do list… including three in 2008 alone. And with each split release or extended-play unveiled within months of each other, Jesu’s sneak-attacks grew increasingly linear, showcasing a speedy change-of-heart from sludgy post-rock to industrial electronics. One year since his synthetic love climaxed on Why Are We Not Perfect EP, Broadrick breaks the chain with Opiate Sun; a left-turn for home that should reward old fans without completely deafening his fringe following.

Announcing his return to hard-rock roots, opening track Losing Streak is a well-paced collision of crashing cymbals and guitar distortion that recalls the fist-pumping bravado of his 2006 EP Silver. That song’s sanguine vocal hooks are compounded on the following title track, which drives a slower, penetrating groove for Broadrick to imbed with slowburning guitar arpeggios. By the time Deflated kicks in with its chugging metal verses, any doubts that Opiate Sun was designed to be Jesu’s return-to-form should be sailing out the window. Of course, the “metal” in Jesu remains largely cosmetic, its wall-to-wall guitar blasts, always chest out to confront first-impressions, are merely make-up to disguise Broadrick’s identity as a romantic songwriter. And that’s why I love Jesu; his albums are so boisterous and eardrum-splitting, it’s easy to forget that what Broadrick is really force-feeding us is his own vulnerability. Giving that complex songwriting some subtlety in the form of minor electronics may have upset early followers but it also balanced and progressed his sonic palette. Such studio frills are omitted and ultimately missed on Opiate Sun, replaced with a stubborn volume that negates Jesu’s understated third-dimension. These four songs properly house Broadrick’s comfort zone but, despite his effective songwriting, Opiate Sun feels like a retread of raw, less imaginative years.

Why Are We Not Perfect no doubt had its share of growing pains but its electronic veneer allowed clearer dynamics, better soundscapes and a wider horizon of Jesu possibilities. And although Broadrick’s latest offering manages a break from that trajectory, the most striking sneak-attack is that instead of appearing courtesy of Avalanche Recordings (his own imprint) or regular Broadrick label-of-choice Hydrahead, Opiate Sun arrives in stores thanks to Caldoverde – the home of Sun Kil Moon maestro Mark Kozelek. As random as it initially seems, considering the instrumental incongruities dividing folk from hard-rock, these two artists have much in common; both reside within the stretched-out purgatory of slowcore emoting, often muffling their vocals beneath modest compositions. In the end, Broadrick manages to withhold some unpredictability… partly because he rejected his own label in favour of someone else’s but mostly because Opiate Sun is homogenously fighting his greater strengths and, bizarrely enough, those that compliment the Caldoverde roster.