Junius, Reports From the Threshold of Death
With Reports From the Threshold of Death, Junius prove themselves to be quite a strange, intriguing beast of a band. Right from the pseudo-Gregorian chanting at the start of “Betray The Grave,” which rapidly shifts over into thundering guitars and distant, echoey vocals, it’s obvious these guys aren’t really interested in being boxed into any particular genre, including the metal field they ostensibly belong to.
Sure, they’ve got the crunching, heavy-as-hell guitars, but this is less Mastodon or Lamb of God than it is, well, something else entirely. The band grabs hold of elements of spacerock, doom, psych, stoner-metal, and post-metal and craft it into a sound that’s all their own. The guitars are loud, yes, but they’re meant less to pummel you down than to raise you up, like some kind of fast-moving tectonic uplift. On tracks like “Transcend the Ghost” and, appropriately, “All Shall Float,” Junius surge and roll like a titanic wave out in the center of the ocean, unseen and massive and utterly destructive to anything in its path.
There’s a strong resemblance here to Neurosis and ISIS, naturally, although singer/guitarist Joseph E. Martinez’s vocals that sets it apart from all those bands; he sings in a clean, almost serenely detached voice, floating high above the turbid waters roiling below; think the Deftones’ “Minerva,” in all its heavy-yet-melodic glory, and you’ll get the idea (listen to “The Meeting of Pasts” for proof). Martinez’s singing reminds me interestingly of Athlete’s Joel Pott, as well, particularly in terms of the delivery (and especially on “Haunts for Love”), with a similar resemblance to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis.
The combination of those vocals and the gorgeous, jaw-dropping roar beneath creates a stunning, fairly unique kind of spacerock, one that’s aimed skyward but isn’t necessarily interested in the stars themselves. Apparently the whole thing’s a continuation of Junius’s previous meditation on the works of Immanuel Velikovsky, which they’d explored on 2009’s The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist, except that now they’re looking beyond death to chart the soul’s journey onward to…what?
Not a clue, but going by the lyrics, the band definitely believes there’s something after this, and the lyrics to “Betray The Grave” and “Eidolon & Perspirit,” in particular, seem hopeful for some kind of rebirth. The same goes for album high point “A Universe Without Stars,” which cranks up the volume and brings the aforementioned oceanic surge in to shore to lay waste — it’s absolutely the best, most interesting spacerock track I’ve heard in at least the last year.
Unfortunately, the pseudo-philosophical lyrics are also the one flaw in Reports, sometimes coming off as clunky or clichéd when you listen close and undermining the awe-inspiring, blissed-out roar of the actual music. If you’re able to get past them, though, it’s well worth the effort.
(Feature photo by Bryan J. Sutter.)