With just hours before taking an April 2002 flight from London to Los Angeles, where his band Godflesh were to begin a North American tour, singer and guitarist Justin Broadrick suffered a nervous breakdown.
He was broke, his girlfriend of 13 years had just left him and he was tired of playing in his pioneering industrial-metal band — but unsure how to cut the cord. "It was a real Brian Wilson moment," Broadrick recalled of the incident that paved the way for the emergence of his new band, Jesu. "I felt paralyzed by the stress, which had been building for several months, and I literally couldn't get out of bed. I was numb and couldn't move, so when the car came to pick me up to take me to the airport, I ran and hid at another friend's house in Birmingham [England]."
The incident had substantial consequences. Ex-Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven had been brought on for the two-month tour, as had ex-Swans drummer Ted Parsons. Bus companies had been hired, High on Fire and Halo had been booked to support. And everyone who lost money came after Broadrick.
"I was getting death threats from the bus company in L.A.," Broadrick said. "I lost close to $35,000, which I did not have at all. I was broke and had to sell my house and pay off all my debt on credit cards. I pretty much did nothing for four months besides drink heavily."
When he finally felt motivated to begin writing again, Broadrick cast his creative energies in an entirely new direction and expanded upon a batch of dense, billowing and intensely emotional songs he had been toying with over the previous couple of years. Rooted equally in post-rock, pop and metal, the music branched far beyond the self-imposed constraints of Godflesh and featured sedated vocals that sometimes barely registered above the droning rhythms.
"After the first two Godflesh albums, we became far too self-conscious about what we should and shouldn't be," Broadrick said. "So, for me, Jesu is all about losing that self-consciousness, letting melody come to the forefront and drop all the screaming and shouting. Physically and mentally, I didn't feel the need to do that anymore, and I didn't want to turn into the Rolling Stones or that sort of music."
Broadrick worked on the new songs in the studio with Parsons and bassist Diarmuid Dalton. In 2004, the band released the EP Heartache, and followed with their bleakly beautiful self-titled debut in 2005.
"After everything that had happened, doing Jesu was very cathartic," Broadrick said. "I didn't escape into making that album, I immersed myself in it. It was about as indulgent as you could be, and I reveled in the depression of it. I had to go that low to see the sun again. I had to take myself as far down as possible to actually feel I was alive again."
The band's new album, Conqueror — which follows their 2006 EP, Silver — is melancholy, but not as depressing as Jesu. Songs like "Old Year," "Transfigure" and "Medicine" are slow, textural and enveloping, sounding something like a far heavier version of Slowdive or Sigur Rós.
"I think the weight of the songs is probably even heavier than most of the Godflesh records, it's just in a different context," Broadrick said. "The bleakness is inherent, and I don't think it's something that can ever be removed from my music. No matter how much I explore melody, that's something I'll never shake off."
Neither, apparently, will Broadrick shake off bad luck. Jesu were scheduled to fly to the U.S. to begin a tour with Isis Thursday in San Diego, but because their work permits have not yet been cleared by U.S. Customs, the band will miss at least the first week of the tour. The news came just weeks after Jesu learned that Dalton wouldn't be allowed in the country because he was busted 20 years ago for drug possession. Dave Cochrane, who played with Broadrick previously in Ice, God and Head of David, will replace him for the tour. Also, Parsons is sitting out the tour to spend more time with his family, and Intronaut drummer Danny Walker will fill in. Until Jesu's paperwork is sorted out, Intronaut will replace them on the Isis tour.
The rest of the week's metal news:
So, that rumor about Lamb of God being on the bill for this summer's Family Values Tour? Not true, the band claims. A purported lineup hit the Internet this week, with Korn listed as the trek's headliners, along with Evanescence, Aiden and, oh yes, Lamb of God. But the band has not "committed to any summer tour." That settles that. ... Dates for Animosity's upcoming headlining run with As Blood Runs Black, the Faceless and Beneath the Massacre, have been revealed. The outing, called "Brutalitour," launches April 28 in Worcester, Massachusetts (at this year's New England Metal & Hardcore Festival), with gigs booked through May 26 in Berkeley, California. ...
Mastodon, Priestess and Mouth of the Architect have rolled out a bunch of live dates, including stops in San Antonio (March 19); Oklahoma City (March 20); Columbia, Missouri (March 21); Colorado Springs, Colorado (March 23); Salt Lake City (March 24); Seattle (March 26); Spokane, Washington (March 27); and Portland, Oregon (March 28). ... Arsis, Ion Dissonance and Beneath the Massacre will hit the road together in March and April. The first gig is set for March 21 in Buffalo, New York, with dates scheduled through April 14 in Lake Station, Indiana. ...
Obituary will return to the studio in March to begin recording their next studio effort. According to frontman John Tardy, the band is "still working on the new CD and are getting really excited about these new songs. This is some pretty sick sh--. I still do not know what we are going to do about a record label. We are still talking with a few labels and trying to work something out. Hopefully something gets done soon, so we can move forward and concentrate on future events." In the meantime, you can catch the band's live set starting March 24 in Hollywood at the Los Angeles Murderfest. ...
Circle of Dead Children have introduced Matt Francis as their newest drummer; he replaces Mike Bartek, who left the band in June. "At a point when we had all but thrown dirt over our own casket, life has once more been injected with the vacancy of the drum position being finally filled," frontman Joe Horvath said in a statement. "We plan to soon begin work on a yet-to-be-titled sixth release due out [this] summer. Matt's addition drives the band to its most caustic and explosive level to date." ... He Is Legend have added to the fold guitarist Mitchell Marlow, who was briefly a member of Glassjaw and did some time with Classic Case as well. The band is touring with Killswitch Engage, Chimaira and Dragonforce through April 8 in Chicago. ...
Inked in Blood guitarist Matt McDonnell had a recent brush with death but is recovering and doing fine. According to the band, McDonnell was found on the floor of his home February 11, "cold, sweating and barely able to breathe." He was taken to a nearby hospital, where, after being put into a drug-induced coma, he was diagnosed with acute pneumonia, pleurisy and a severe staph infection in his lungs. He was released Tuesday with strict orders to rest and recover for the next month and a half. McDonnell said the incident has given him "a new lease on life. I feel extremely lucky to have been given a second chance." The band will release its sophomore full-length LP this summer, and, once the guitarist is better, plan to tour in support of the outing. ... Children of Bodom mainman Alexi Laiho revealed at the Finnish Metal Expo in Helsinki last weekend that the band will begin working on material for its next album this week, with plans to begin recording the effort this fall. The LP could be out early next year, he said.