Reviewing reissues can be a tedious exercise for the modern day scribe faced with what seems like 20 new albums a week, but the task at hand here is an essential one for yours truly. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve never heard Godflesh’s 2001 swansong until now. I realize that’s pretty pathetic, but in my defense, I’m more of an ‘88 - ‘92 Godflesh guy, and hindsight reveals I simply lost touch sometime after 1996’s so-so Songs of Love and Hate. However, as a hopeless Jesu addict 8 years strong, I’m kicking myself in the teeth right now for passing on Hymns all these years. First off, I’ve been pronouncing Jesu incorrectly this whole time. Turns out it’s “hay-sue,” not “jay-sue,” as the closer of this album clearly indicates. Duh! More importantly, I’ve been missing out on the very origins of Jesu. Hymns was unmistakably a transitive stage in the life and songwriting of Justin Broadrick. Of course, I’m not referring to the lumbering Industrial sludgefests that comprise the majority of Hymns. Which isn’t to say tracks like “Defeated,” “Paralyzed,” and “Voidhead” are bad by any stretch —JKB and future Jesu drummer Ted Parsons (ex-Prong, ex-Swans) really began to gel here, breathing a human air into these mechanical compositions— but Broadrick’s constipated-lumberjack vocals are in particularly grating form compared to past efforts. Alas, it’s beautiful gems like “Anthem,” “White Flag,” “Regal,” and the hidden bonus track that I’ve deprived myself of. The same brooding, sorrowful, clean-vocal hypnosis that would eventually embody the Jesu formula. It’s like finding an unopened present someone gave you 12 years ago that turns out to be something you want just as much now. It’s no coincidence that the robotic “Jesu” is easily the best of the heavier cuts. The man knew he was moving on to an arguably better place. This reissue’s bonus disc of 2012 demo remasters —featuring an unreleased song from the Hymns sessions (“If I Could Only Be What You Want”)— is, quite frankly, take it or leave it. It’s the main course, imperfections included, that’s essential here.
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