The darkest Xmas song ever? Jesu review – by Rob Haynes

False bonhomie is the curse of Christmas. That’s why there is nothing more invigorating than a walk on the dark side. Rob Haynes recommends Jesu for all your black Christmas needs…

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Jesu

Christmas

(Avalanche recordings)

 

What sort of Christmas is evoked by the man who once brought us industrial grindcore classics like Circle of Shit and Locust Furnace? Things have moved on for Justin Broadrick since he fronted Godflesh, but even those accustomed to the dense melodiousness of Jesu must be slightly taken aback at the appearance of a Christmas single (or at least, a single titled Christmas), even if traditional festive elements are predictably absent. If you wanted a precedent for this version of the festive season it would of course be closer to the seasonal offerings of Minnesotan slowcore legends Low than Slade.

 

Santa references duly excised, instead we have what by now is characteristic Jesu fare – guitars descend like a slow-motion avalanche of all the snow that has ever fallen in history, and with a similar sense of awe, beauty and a hovering, oppressive threat. Broadrick’s vocals rise out like the voice of someone distractedly humming a tune to themselves in an underground tunnel. What are the sentiments he is expressing? The words as ever are less important than feel of their delivery, with woe and elation strangely mingled.

 

Two remixes follow, each from one of Broadrick’s many musical alter-egos. Pale Sketcher is an exercise in spidery electronica, picking apart the fragile melodies in the manner of a loving autopsy. The Final remix sounds like a doleful fire-alarm in one of the more desolate circles of Hell, splinters of acoustic guitar adding the merest remnant of humanity.

 

With firm no, no, no to ho, ho, ho, this is as bleak and melancholy as, well, the Christmas period itself, and we should expect nothing less from Broadrick.  

 

Rob Haynes

 

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