Jesu - Heart Ache / Dethroned (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Heart Ache / Dethroned (2010)

Hydra Head

With the Heart Ache/Dethroned re-release, fans get two possible paths for Jesu, a droning quasi-shoegaze act built around the machinations of Justin K. Broadrick (ex-Godflesh/Napalm Death). Heart Ache, originally released in 2004, shows where the band actually went, which is experimental ambient metal. Dethroned, a heretofore unreleased EP dating back to the same year, is more industrial-tinged. You could even call it sludge metal. Decide for yourself which sound is preferable.

Dethroned is more accessible, but Heart Ache is the better test. If you like the swirling, sludgy drone of the 20-minute title track ("Ruined," the only other song, is even longer), then you will enjoy the rest of the band's discography. Some of it's more ethereal (the EPs), some of it's more rocking (the full-lengths), but Heart Ache is both the origin story and fulcrum of Jesu. Everything better than Heart Ache is amazing; everything worse than it is pretty monotonous. This is the kind of recording that sounds good turned up, like a jet engine, or turned down to a whisper. Perhaps the nicest thing I could say is the songs are each 20 minutes long, but they feel like they're only 10.

Heart Ache takes longer to appreciate, but it's ultimately both the better half of this release and the right choice for introducing Jesu. Dethroned is still pretty good, though. This disc offers four tracks in 28 minutes. It's more accessible than Heart Ache, if you can call seven-minute songs with the vocals buried "accessible." A lot what Jesu does best is represented here: Slow dirges and otherworldly passages abound. But there are little differences. Sometimes it's as subtle as hearing an actual piano on "I Can Only Disappoint You." Or it's in the way opener "Dethroned" is so much more aggressive than what came later that it's sort of like a bridge between Godflesh and Jesu. It's easier to get into than Heart Ache, but that kind of makes it disappointing in a way. By being easier to digest, it's in turn easier to move on from.

That said, it's Jesu. Debate the details, but still listen to both discs.