If observing Justin Broadrick's recorded history is any indication of being to predict his musical future, this fifth release -- four EPs and a full-length -- by his Jesu project may be rounding the bend toward something else; then again, he's never been entirely predictable. One of the great hilarities of this four-song, 23-minute slab is its great irony. Broadrick takes credit for playing all the instruments, doing all the programming, and singing all the vocals here. But then he lists in his credits that on the set's best cut, "Storm Comin' Out," that Ted Parsons played drums, Jarboe sang, and the bowed bass was played by Diarmuid Dalton. What's more, this cut is easily the one cut in the Jesu discography that's different from all the rest. Jarboe has never been so seductive, sweet, or dangerous as she is here. Broadrick's lilting melodies, comprised of two of three chords, seem to bring something out of her that drips with a wider, softer emotional palette than she's shown for quite some time. But appearances can be deceiving. The truth is it's always been there, but Jarboe has been so focused on letting certain emotions and aesthetic concerns out on her own records that here her gorgeous lyrics and the relative restraint of her astonishing vocal range actually lend themselves to the tremendous emotional depth on this track. Rather than being lulled into a baseline melancholy by the Jesu-proper cuts, there is real drama here: the romance of reverie, warning about the self-deception involved, and the most maternal loving concern and compassion offered by the singer. Broadrick's guitars get positively crunchy, Parsons' drums are resoundingly clear, and the bowed bass by Dalton is the true extension of the Jesu trademark texture -- besides that melody, of course. That said, there isn't a thing lacking in any of these cuts. The title cut and "You Wear Their Masks" are both drenched in that washed-out, speaker-phrasing trademark that has graced all of the Jesu's releases thus far. Broadrick's concentration and self-limiting exercise in melodic restraint offers these beautifully full-sounding contradictions in rock real power. But even here, there are shades of difference: on the opener, Broadrick's vocals are almost completely discernible, and on the latter, there are these brief transitions laced in with real bludgeoning power chords amid all the gauze. On the set's final cut, "End of the Road," an organ introduces a down-tuned open-key guitar chord laying its slow plodding metal dirge theme. Once again, though, the thin drums and sweet-from-the-megaphone vocals interspersed with that keyboard make it almost delicate (in almost an Eyeless in Gaza manner) despite the sheer heaviness of the thing. Here again, the vocals are nearly clear and would be completely distinct from the mix were it not for that megaphone effect. So there's something afoot and Lifeline is a welcome extension of the Jesu aesthetic.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek