In 2009, when Justin K. Broadrick released Opiate Sun, he'd originally planned it as a double EP using his live and studio bands to play alternately on its four tracks. He ended up recording it himself. Opiate Sun was different from Jesu's predecessors in that Broadrick let his vocals fall out in front of his thick, sludgy melodic wall of guitars, feedback, downtuned basslines, and keyboards. One could actually decipher his lyrics from the intoxicating swirl underneath. On 2011's Ascension, Broadrick, with former Swans drummer Ted Parsons, take those elements to the next level. The song forms are shorter, usually ranging between four and seven minutes, though there are exceptions on both sides of that line, and their melodies are more structured than ever before. On "Fools," the electric guitars and bass begin sparsely, without distortion. Broadrick sings in his barely tonal whine and Parsons' percussion is minimal. It does erupt into that trademark gorgeous wall of lyric shoegaze metal played at cough syrup pace for a minute or so in, and the overdriven, ultra-distorted bassline rides just above the vocal, but its nearly jangling guitars don't quite get buried in the mix. "Sedatives," despite its title, is actually an uptempo jam -- for Jesu anyway -- and sounds almost like early Ride on stun. "Black Lies" is the slowest thing here, and nearly reverts to the production on the earliest Jesu sides. Rumbling basslines, monolithic kit drums, and an army of guitars playing a three-chord vamp at a snail's pace, though near the middle an acoustic makes itself heard briefly. "Broken Home" is perhaps the finest example of shoegaze metal on record. It's lilting, minimal harmonic line is full of mournful, restrained emotion in the vocal, but the sheer heaviness in the processional instrumental mix betrays just how enormous it is. The keyboard lines in "King of Kings" help to offer the most varied song architecture on the album; the song's melody is informed by everything from late Joy Division to middle period Swervedriver, and it's a clear standout. Now that Broadrick has revived Godflesh and is planning more Final projects, it's anybody's guess as to how much longer he'll keep Jesu going, or indeed how far he can even go with its idea. It seems that no matter what he adds or subtracts, Jesu's recordings, have a defined feel that is, though lyrically and texturally beautiful, somewhat two-dimensional. That said, Ascension remains a deeply satisfying recording.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek