Tracklist1. Betray the Grave
2. All Shall Float
3. Dance on Blood
4. A Universe Without Stars
5. Haunts for Love
6. The Meeting of Pasts
7. (Spirit Guidance)
8. Transcend the Ghost
9. Eidolon & Perispirit
10. A Reflection on Fire
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With the rise of downloadable media, the way in which an album is packaged is starting to take a bit of a backseat. If listeners’ chief goal is to listen to music, then they will do so at a lesser cost by simply purchasing the MP3 version of an album instead of buying a physical CD or vinyl pressing. There are times when ignoring the artwork hinders the full extent of the joy that buying an album can give a listener. Take, for example, the new album by “indie dark wave” band Junius. Initially the album cover appears to be a fireball amidst blackness, but in reality (like the album itself), the artwork has a much deeper meaning that needs to be appreciated. The artwork for Reports from the Threshold of Death features a paradox that embraces the mood and atmosphere of the sound of the album: beautiful in the face of the bleak surroundings; dark and dreary yet elegant. The picture seems to show a star swallowing flowers in space. The image is a stunning portrait of the silver lining in the face of darkness.
Writing an entire album on near-death experiences presents a significant challenge for any band. Junius averts disaster by combining the light and dark aspects of the topic to create a cathartic album. Lyrically, the band is downright optimistic at times, channeling the literal light at the end of the tunnel. Opener “Betray the Grave” features the line, “Never fear for your life; we are drawn out by the light,” which is more than slightly jarring in comparison to the gloomy nature of the music. Another example is in the highlight track “Dance on Blood,” in which the music reaches its peak with the lyrics, “We have arisen; we have a reason.” Throughout the album the lyrics showcase the notion that Junius has more on their minds than simply serving as oppressive and depressive theme music; instead, the band wishes to paint a picture of the dichotomy presented by the subject matter.
Much like the artwork, the musical output of Junius is multi-faceted. Featuring a sound that is familiar yet difficult to classify, the easiest way to describe the band is by imagining a mixture of dredg, Deftones and The Smiths. There are elements of indie rock, doom metal, progressive rock, and post-rock. A combination of those sonic elements ensures that there will be a great emphasis on mood and atmosphere. Like the artwork, the music is beautiful yet dreary. Junius allows the ebb and flow of their music to help dictate the mood of the moment. “Dance on Blood” is one of the heavier tracks on the album, but the melancholy nature of the slow-build helps make the crashing crescendo payoff that much more enjoyable in the end. Vocalist Joseph Martinez’s croon falls somewhere between Chino Moreno of Deftones and Robert Smith of The Cure. His vocals are the perfect counterpart to the instruments, offering a voice full of dynamic and emotional power.
The production further sets this album apart. Every instrument is heard with clarity and punch. While Junius does not go full throttle very often, the beefy tone of the guitars allows for a fuller, heavier sound throughout the album. The pulsing bass is thick yet clear, and the drums hit hard. Even though all of the instruments sounds great, the icing on the cake is that the album has a sort of “hazy” sound to it, as if it is the actual soundtrack for the experiences that would make up reports from the threshold of death, which fits perfectly within the title of the album. When there is an album where the production and art direction merge to create such a uniquely intriguing experience, there is something truly special going on. Reports from the Threshold of Death is an album with much to appreciate, plenty to take in and enough to keep the listener wanting to come back for more. This album about near-death experiences should trigger new life for Junius.