Stereogum Does CMJ: Jesu/Torche @ Blender Theater at Gramercy, NYC 10/20/07

Since a superb self-titled 2005 debut, original Napalm Death guitarist/Godflesh founder Justin K. Broadrick has been refining Jesu’s increasingly honed catalog of “shoegaze metal” (even if he chaffs at the term), dispatching heavy fuzz with a fragile inseam. Dude’s recorded some of the most gorgeously crunchy albums of any given year — including 2007’s Conqueror and the airier just-released Lifeline EP — and he’s not afraid to be GBV productive: Between splits and comps and propers albums and EPs he’s managed five releases in 2007 alone.

All this to explain why Jesu’s less-than-excellent set at Gramercy was more than a bit confusing (especially because they killed at SXSW, etc.). Replacing his trusted drum machine with Black Noise Cannon’s Phil Petrocelli sounds great on paper … but, well, not so much on Saturday night’s stage. Actually, the drums started blending in more nicely a few songs into the set, but once those levels (and Petrocelli’s timing) were repaired, the vocals lost their bottom: Conqueror standout “Old Year” sounded nearly perfect until Broadrick started sighing a bit too thinly. He has the laptop and bassist churning-out layers beyond his own voice and guitar, but the overall mix often sounded too tiny. Between tracks someone yelled, “It’s too fucking quiet.” Agreed: As a friend pointed out, you could talk to your neighbor without raising your voice. Love the direction Jesu’s going on record — subtler and subtler gradations — but live it needed more torque (or, well, the dynamics of Torche).

Can’t blame the acoustics on the venue — before Jesu took the stage, Miami stoner quartet Torche absolutely slayed amid a rainbow of lights, Earth-sized heaves, crazy-ass drum signatures, and extended/indulgent breakdowns. It was pure doom-y eardrum (smashing) candy. But when Ozzy-enunciating vocalist Steve Brooks yowled “War is beautiful” during a blistering “Charge Of The Brown Recluse,” the sludge grew poignant in a way you rarely experience at levels of bonged Sleepiness. In fact, the guys were so much fun, we forgot to take pics. So, if you will, close your eyes — like Torche did for most of their set — and imagine it all instead. Sweet.

A little more Jesu after the jump.

Tags: CMJ, Jesu, Torche