Yussuf Jerusalem
A Heart Full of Sorrow
by Kevin J. Elliott

First impressions might turn some away from the anonymous character known as Yussuf Jerusalem. Heading to his MySpace page we can gather these facts: he’s from somewhere in France; he claims influence from Roky Erickson and Burzum in the same breath and has associations with Bathory and Conan the Barbarian. Unless you make it past the first song of this debut, “Gilles de Rais,” a blistering pummeling of brutal histrionics and deafening shrills, you’re going to file this under black metal; the wood-cut white print on black, the gothic fonts and witch-burning imagery make it hard to separate from his supposed link to the satanic underworld. Beyond that point, though, a cloak of darkness and a general unease permeates the songs. Yussuf appears to be a massively talented writer, battling between infectiously simple garage rock and tortured loner folk, all warped by an overwhelming doom.

Soon after the rage dissipates, Jerusalem is warbling on about his cold, black heart in the title track. This is where the Erickson influence is apparent, with maybe even a blurt of Skip Spence’s tragic Oar thrown in. There’s a death rattle right around the corner, shuffling in the background like the smoke monster from Lost. The real gems of this collection, though, are the near power-pop moments found in “We Ain’t Coming Back” and “Greeting from Novi Sad”—I’m imaging the Knack getting a bit sticky with the knives in the basement. Everything here is so neat and organized, one has to wonder how the little coiled turns at evil abstraction like “Jihad” and “Multicolor” end up between the brazen psychedelia on this record. Paranoia and despair encircles the lot, giving Jerusalem more weight when he wheels in the sunshine.