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Reviews

Jesus Piece, Only Self (Southern Lord, 2018)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been waiting for a Jesus Piece full-length for quite some time. With three excellent but short releases under their belt, I was very curious to see where the band would go on their first full-length release; The answer I got was surprising but ultimately quite satisfying.

On Only Self, Jesus Piece expands their sonic palette, incorporating drone and sludge influences in a way only hinted at previously by the “Mantra” interlude on their 2016 promo tape. The band stays true to their foundations as purveyors of violently heavy riffs while showing that they still have new tricks up their sleeve.

The opener “Lucid” bludgeons you straight out of the gate, then goes into an ambient interlude towards the end of the song. But just when you think it’s going to fade out, it explodes back into a breakdown that hits twice as hard due to the tension built by the previous section.

The following tracks continue along these lines, pummeling you into submission until we arrive at “In the Silence,” which is where the band takes a few sharp turns away from their usual playbook. The first minute of the song rides entirely on eerie clean guitars over grooving drums, but even when the distortion and chugging return the echo-laden clean guitars punctuate each measure. The song progresses into a build-up that would have been perfect for a breakdown, but instead the band goes into a sludgy closing section that, while no less heavy than anything else they’ve done, fell outside of my expectations in a way that was ultimately more satisfying than if they had gone the conventional route. 

Photo: Amy Ha

They seem to have saved the breakdowns for the track immediately after, “Adamant,” which is a strong contender for the heaviest thing they’ve written, just two straight minutes of hard-hitting grooves. “Neuroprison” aims to match that intensity with some well-placed blast beats and, of course, the pre-breakdown call to “tear down the walls of the neuroprison,” which I am sure is going to go over gangbusters live.

The ending to “Dog No Longer” is where the record begins to wind down and fall squarely into drone territory. The last minute or so of the song sees the closing riff become more and more distorted and faded out until it transitions into the closing tracks “I” and “II." “I” keeps things ambient, with some light piano and reverberated guitar accenting the droning chord progression that drives it. “II” on the other hand sounds straight out of the catalog of a band like Amenra and closes out the album triumphantly in a wave of pure sludge.

Jesus Piece at RBC, Dallas, TX, 2018. (Photo: Gray Muncy)

Overall, Only Self will both deliver for fans of the band’s earlier material as well as possibly make new converts. This is the sound of a band that has sharpened their skills through their years of touring and they have delivered something that was worth waiting for.

Tracks like “In the Silence” and “II” have created an appetite to hear more material in that vein from Jesus Piece that I could not have previously fathomed, so it will be interesting to see what they do next. I would welcome an EP or even a full-length of more sludge-inspired material, and if the band continues to blend these influences with a hardcore framework, the sky’s truly the limit.

***

Only Self will hit stores on Aug. 24 via Southern Lord. 

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