JESU with ISIS and ZOZOBRA at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Tuesday (March 20), 8 pm. $15. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
If you feel like Toronto's tall grey buildings and sprawling, desolate, grease-stained factories lord it over you like oppressive monoliths, then Justin Broadrick, the man behind the brooding and hypnotic Jesu, may just become your new hero.
Broadrick is now fully devoted to country living, and consequently isn't that interested in spending any more time in the rotting city centres of his youth.
Taking my call from his home in the countryside near the sea in beautiful northern Wales, Broadrick doesn't really sound the way I'd expect him to. Judging by his past involvement with pioneering death metal band Napalm Death, Techno Animal and Birmingham-based industrial heroes Godflesh, I thought he'd be a morose or venomous guy with an "artistic temperament."
But what I get is a near jolly, articulate man whose upbeat charm seems the opposite of the unflinchingly melancholic music he makes. Maybe that's what the country air does to you.
"Here there's a sense of peace. I didn't see the attractive side of cities. Birmingham is very working-class, and it's dominated by an aggressive element - just concrete everywhere and an air of aggression."
His relationship to the natural world has influenced his band's latest trudging opus, Conqueror (Hydra Head), which blends slow, intense, pounding rhythms with hypnotic, bleak walls of melodic noise.
"I'm very close to isolation and wilderness. Within 10 minutes you can be surrounded by a lake. That for me is the ultimate conqueror. One-on-one with nature, nature is the ultimate conqueror. It'll be there long after we're gone. It's quite humbling."
The band relies heavily on electronic effects via a laptop, but Broadrick assures me that the three-piece, including drummer Ted Parsons and a fill-in bassist, "looks like a conventional rock band."
But don't expect the trio to move around acrobatically.
"We're not a rock band jumping up and down. It's a contradictory performance because we look sombre, but with a punishing volume. It should be emotionally consuming, but not a circus act."
It's that kind of attitude that's really defined Jesu as a project far different from Broadrick's past work in, say, Godflesh, which still has a relatively fanatical following.
"Jesu is beginning to actually alienate some of the old fanatics. I'm completely comfortable with that. Godflesh was always meant as a full-on attack, but it was as defensive as it was attacking. Jesu has gone past any need to attack."