Loveless would be a Taliban-rivaling FBI Most Wanted chart-topper if a half-decent album could be summoned before a tribunal and tried for crimes committed by bands that followed in its wake. (“I present the court exhibits A through C: Lilys, Giant Drag, and Ambulance LTD.”) Probably the most aped timbre since Johnny Ramone’s chainsaw mass-a-cree, My Bloody Valentine’s wall-o’-squall has produced little more in the last 15 years besides limp whatevergazing tribute acts and gushy, overhyped Shieldstronica like M83 (who is a lot less fun than, say, Dykehouse).
Jesu’s Justin Broadrick was making his guitars equally expansive and mushy way back in industrial-metal hug-thugs Godflesh—he even blessed the first track on Napalm Death’s Scum with an acidic drop of pre-MBV monolithic heartburn—but Jesu’s debut LP is full-on dreampop metal, guitars slowly whacked like open-tuned gongs, distortion enveloping every atom of the mix. Broadrick meticulously knits melodies with feedback like Earth on a Slowdive kick, layering the trademark squeal of a Gibson leaning against a Sunn amp (or a synth replicating it) until it morphs into neck-hair-raising church organs, squishy amplifier orgies, pink noise, and wet tangerine dreams. Jesu is an ex-God godsend for agoraphobic metalheads who described the last Isis record as “pretty” (remember the agoraphobic indie-rock types that described MBV as “noisy”?), matching nine-minute sludge fuck-sessions with gorgeous, overly reverbed vocal harmonies. Damn, and just when Low were starting to rock.
Since Jesu’s lethargic tempos and muffled gutterals leave little room for tunes and intelligible lyrics, Jesu‘s true feat is building a narrative for Broadrick’s personal heartache yarns by using little more than texture and repetition. Same can be said for New Jersey hip-hop noise-bringers Dälek, whose third album, Absence, features monotonic, serious-as-cancer sermonizing that’s indecipherable under all those blankets of shimmering scuzz—but the twurked drillgrind and Einstürzende B-boybaten boom-bap unleash a vivid terrordome where Molotovs burst against the doors of the WTO, angry black men burn white churches, and commercial hip-hop is held at gunpoint—all while DJ Still screams phoenix into the stylus of his turntable. After two albums that rocked bells and throbbed gristle in a way that felt more like science experiment than dropping science, Dälek has harnessed their acid bath (which sounds like such Broadrick noise-dub projects as Ice and Techno Animal, actually) and can now make it do their unholy bidding—consonant harmonies, screeching hum-alongs, warm fuzzies, muddy valentines.