After Justin K. Broadrick returned his attention to Godflesh in 2013, his other major project Jesu seemed to take a backseat; several reissues, singles, and EPs would surface since then, but Terminus marks the first full album of new material since Everyday I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came. With the project’s focus on the more melodic and ambient side of Broadrick’s musical personality, Terminus seems at first listen to be like any of Jesu’s back catalog; the tempos are languid, the atmospheres meditative, the lyrics sparse but introspective, with Broadrick’s emotions laid bare in ever aspect of his performance.
For example, on the title track with Ted Parson’s leisurely touch on the drums, the passages of distorted bass and resonant guitars ring seemingly into infinity as Broadrick sings with a restrained vulnerability, his voice occasionally unable to hit or hold the notes unless he absolutely must when he adds a layered harmony to signal the song’s shift into its instrumental second half. This is also most notable on the opening “When I Was Small,” the repetition of the distorted guitar arpeggios and lyrics that seem to bemoan the innocence of youth, the aching desire to fit in, being especially poignant. There is a decidedly imperfect and primal quality to all of Broadrick’s musical output, and Jesu is no different as there are moments on Terminus where the instruments are just slightly out of sync, accentuating its organic and ritualistic vibe; examples of this include the dreamy “Sleeping In,” the chimes of synth feedback bouncing against a miasma of droning guitars and sluggish reverberating drumbeats, and “Don’t Wake Me Up,” the echo of bass and guitar arpeggios sounding just slightly out of step with Parsons’ drums as Broadrick’s voice wavers barely on key. The same can be said of “Disintegrating Wings” as the dramatic sustain of the guitar, bass, keys, and vocals seem to blur the sonic spaces between them, making such imperfections a moot point, while other tracks like “Consciousness” and “Give Up” are exemplary of Jesu’s more electronic predilections, the programmed beats baring a quality not dissimilar to trip-hop while the harmonious if saccharine vocoder and spectral waves of pads and synthesized bass drones create an eerie tranquility that is almost unsettling.
Yes, in many respects, Terminus does little to deviate from the established parameters of Jesu’s sound, with even the washed out cover artwork presenting the stark minimalism that defines the band’s sound. And yet, at its hypnotic core is Broadrick’s wistful songwriting, drawing the listener in with each pensive step, and making Terminus another excellent entry in his already impressive output.