Monday, December 7, 2009
The sonic envelope of rock music today is ever expanding, and generally for the better. The Mylene Sheath Records has recognized the possibilities of greatness within the post-rock subgenre, and after releasing the incredible new album from Constants earlier in the year, the label is back with another triumphant slab of assaulting beauty in the form of Junius’ sophomore full length The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist. Since 2004, the Boston natives have been perfecting their craft, releasing several EPs and their debut, while constantly touring and amazing fans worldwide. Their massive touring schedule has paid off, with the band emerging tighter and more focused than ever on The Martyrdom. Based around the views of Immanuel Velikovsky, a Russian born American psychiatrist originally focused on psychotherapy, before switching to the exceedingly controversial cosmology, and his ever growing fascination with the stars and planetary interaction. Such an intellectually themed album deserves music that matches its grandiose nature, and Junius deliver on all counts. Shimmering layers of seemingly endless guitar waves, deep booming rhythms, and gorgeous vocals swirl around with cosmic energy creating an expertly crafted blend of post-rock and dark new-wave influences. The constant highly orchestrated evolution of sound progresses through pulsating tempos, dynamics, and subtle intricacies keeping the album infinitely interesting and ultimately memorable. While the songs may not be “catchy” or filled with pop-styled hooks, the sheer battle between heavy dissonance and hypnotic beauty is more than enough to draw listeners back for the multiple spins required to fully embrace the ambitious sonic magnitude that Junius conjure up.
“Birth Rights By Torchlight” opens with a recorded passage of Velikovsky defending his research, “And if I transgressed, and went into many fields of science and humanities, it was not because I was born a rebel. I was coerced to trespass…” A loaded statement, followed further with criticism for planetary theory taught in textbooks set the tone for the record, as Junius come crashing in amidst their own ambient backdrop, with a singular blast of power and staggering rhythms that builds with each enormous push. Joseph E. Martinez’ vocals, perhaps what truly set the band apart from the pack, emerge with their own commanding wail. Vibrant tempo changes abound as the song slows to a single bouncing guitar only to lift and regresses with sweeping quiet/loud dynamics that cement Junius in the top tier of post-rock bands. A choir of mysterious chanting begins “The Antediluvian Fire,” accompanied by stirring echo heavy guitars as the band begins their ever building descent into the emotional depths and haunting vivid imagery. Clearly enunciated vocals make certain every word is understood, with a vibe similar to the strength of Joy Division and new wave’s finest. Careful construction of melody, harmonics, and structure are obvious throughout as the breaks hurtle with gorgeous power and control. After another thought provoking excerpt from Velikovsky, Junius casually launches into “The Dramatist Plays Catastrophist” with an understated piano and vocal intro. Dense time-melting drum structures combat for your attention against the contrasting vocal melody in a stunning push-and-pull where nothing suffers only thrives as the dust settles. Stellar orchestration swirls with textural mastery as lyrics of rebirth and revolution cleanly ring out.
“Ten Year Librarian” is a brooding display of gradually increasing intensity, with numerous layers slowly dripping into the mix, including mesmerizing bass, double tracked vocals, and the eventual symphony of angular washes of guitar. Just as the storm threatens to overtake control, layers are peeled back with fresh ambient breaths of air before the claustrophobic darkness creeps back into focus. Martinez sings “It’s closing in… my battle begins! And now it’s my time to show all the true wrath of God, the past we forgot,” referencing Velikovsky’s theory of past interplanetary struggle within our universe. The two years spent making this album were well spent, as the record pushes epic to another level, taking enormous compositions and stretching them into colossal landscapes. The second half of the album finds Junius even stronger, as evident on “Stargazers and Gravediggers”. Delayed guitars roar and swarm over the pounding rhythms, with well-built vocal melodies rallying just on top of the mix. “Elishiva, I Love You” perhaps evokes the most obvious new-wave passion, with low verses and a soaring chorus. While the music permeates with liquid fluidity, deep tribal drums pummel against the pop inspired melody.
“Letters to Saint Angelina” is the crowning achievement of the album, from the overall textural beauty to the gorgeously crashing cymbals leading into a legit hook that forges into the next stratosphere. The guitars contrast the drums, feeding off each other as they exchange leading roles in gripping your attention. “The Mourning Eulogy” delivers an ominous funeral procession vibe with marching snares rolls, choir accompaniment, and of course the ever billowing crescendos. It’s clear that Junius took their time creating this record for a reason. Every last note, rhythmic shift, vocal melody, and electronic nuance is carefully placed and never over done. Junius leave their unfathomable artistic mark on the post-rock genre with what may very well be considered their true masterpiece. Be sure to check out a physical copy of the album with stellar artwork from Drew Speziale and Matt Gauck.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 8:33 PM