Boomkat Product Review:
Metal and shoegazing indie music, they're hardly the most obvious of bedfellows now are they? I remember well when the shoegazer scene was just bubbling out of the Thames Valley, and NME quickly saw a chance to label it as music for bed-wetters. Of course we at Boomkat renounce that statement with all the breath we have left in our bodies, and thankfully in the last few years bands like Slowdive, Ride and their soppy chums have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts. Shoegazer rock ran off to a Caribbean island and was married in secret with electronica, giving birth to Ulrich Schnauss and M83 among others, but this was hardly the biggest of surprises. These artists re-interpreted the sounds they had grown up with using a different, newer production method, and while it was hugely successful it wasn't pushing the sound into genuinely fresh places. This is where we come to Justin Broadrick, a man who had a hand in pioneering the sound we would come to know as grindcore with his stint in Napalm Death and under the Godflesh moniker. He's not someone you'd instantly imagine to be swayed by the melancholic sound of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, but under his Jesu guise he has slowly transformed his signature brand of post-industrial metal into something altogether more original. It was last year's 'Silver' EP that really began to whet our appetites, in just a handful of tracks he showed us how the sound of metal could actually sound melancholic and triumphant, and not in the same way as ISIS or Pelican. No, Broadrick was unashamed to wear his influences on his sleeve and unafraid to go deep into the shoegazer sound - powerful synthesizer leads, heartfelt vocals, crushing waves of guitar; and after all of this we were still left with a record that was intrinsically metal. 'Conqueror' is the full-length followup to 'Silver' and takes Broadrick's sound even further, framing it properly and giving it the grounding it needs to break through genre barriers. It's not often that an artist manages to carry on pushing the boundaries throughout his entire career, but Broadrick is indeed doing this with 'Conqueror', a record that could just as easily appeal to fans of Ulrich Schnauss as fans of Black Sabbath. Just skip to the album's ten minute centrepiece 'Weightless & Horizontal'; beginning with a gorgeous synthesizer drone we are carried into the body of the song with crushing distorted guitars before Broadrick's signature vocal - this could be My Bloody Valentine on half speed, and that's no bad thing. With links to the burgeoning doom/drone metal scene (especially in tempo) Broadrick manages somehow to sidestep the trappings of overplayed theatrics and faux-drama and keeps what is actually good about it, yet at the end we're left with a pop song. 'Conquerer' is in essence eight pop songs and while they don't adhere to pop rules, you'll find yourself playing them again and again, reciting the lyrics to yourself without realizing it and playing them to your friends, desperate for them to hear it like you hear it. This could be the best indie album of the year, and also the best metal album - so leave your pre-conceptions at the door and jump right in, you won't be disappointed.