Since this is my first review of any recordings from the music projects created by Justin Broadrick, I'll say that I think he's one of the most talented musicians in the last 25 years. The prime material from Godflesh is some of the best industrial metal I've ever heard, and I think Jesu is one of the better “shoegaze” metal acts out there.
The best way to categorize Jesu is ambient/industrial/post-rock, though with this EP, the industrial element is less present than the other elements (there's some industrial rhythm in the “Pale Sketches Remix” of the title track).
So with “Christmas,” you're getting a heavy yet ambient title track, and two lighter, more “chilled out” remixes of the title track.
While I normally spit on the idea of remixing songs, Justin Broadrick is one exception because I've listened to his remixes in the Godflesh years and he knows how to make really interesting re-interpretations of his own material. Thankfully, the remixes of the “Christmas” track stand up really well on their own, and I honestly wouldn't have been able to tell if they were remixes of one song had I not read the song titles.
“Christmas” is the title track, and it's a really strong slab of heavy, ambient music. This song meshes heavy guitar and bass tones with hypnotic drumming, church bells, and diverse vocal work. A heavy ambient slab of musical brilliance. The “Pale Sketches Remix” provides a rather interesting mixture of relaxed synthesizers and a steady, semi-industrial drum beat with acoustic riffing and tastefully-incorporated church bells. The “Final Remix” is a dynamic, 14 minute exercise of several layered synth lines and repeating acoustic riffs, droning background vocals, and feedback. Overall, the sound of the three tracks here gives it a strong, winter-like feel.
The sound quality behind this release is really good. Like many of Broadrick's other contributions, the vocals and lyrics have an esoteric feel through putting more emphasis on the instruments (though the vocals don't sound sloppily-buried, thankfully). I quite like this because it's almost like the instruments themselves “do the talking” and use the vocals/lyrics as supplemental rather than central material to evoke a certain feeling. The guitars and bass are tuned lowly to create that heavy feeling, though unlike the banal slop known as nu-metal, Broadrick and Diarmuid Dalton use their stringed instruments to craft strong, dynamic riffs. Ted Parsons' excellent drum work is also well-mixed in this EP. Other sonic elements like synthesizers and ringing church bells all come in clear without burying the three central instruments.
If you're in the market for some heavy, ambient, and creative music, then snag this gem of an EP as it's great music at a great price. Finally, even though Christmas is nine months away (as of writing this in March), play this EP when your friends and family are expecting to hear Alvin and the Chipmunks.