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Monday, August 30, 2010

Junius and Orbs Blast Out 'Emo-Metal', or Perhaps 'Progressive Space Rock', at Bottom of the Hill

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 8:43 AM

click to enlarge Junius - JULES POUGUINF
  • Jules Pouguinf
  • Junius
@ Bottom of the Hill 
August 29, 2010 

Better than: Amelodic seismic activity

I can't remember the last time I described anything as "mighty," but I also can't remember the last time anyone or anything earned it the way Junius does. The band is heavy-handed in the best way, from the pummeling drums to the industrial-strength guitar crunch all the way up to the Robert-Smith-as-a-zombie croon, to say nothing of the apocalyptico-prophetic sensibility. (Its latest album is called The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist.) Junius plays loud, of course, but no louder than, say, Boris; it's more that its sound is taut and austere and powerfully dense.

Calling Junius a metal band makes a lot of sense in light of the above, and last night's starkly lit, banter-free performance at the Bottom of the Hill wouldn't go very far to contradict that description -- the bearish, barefoot drummer; the singer with black hoodie in upright and locked position; the nigh-on-crabcore guitar lunges--but somehow that term feels incomplete. Calling Junius an emo band wouldn't do anyone any favors, meanwhile, but there's an emphasis on melody in its arrangements, plus this sort of epic frailty at the core of its thundering catharses, that makes you want to hug it out a little bit afterwards.

As if to split the difference with all possible equanimity, Junius began its set with a few cuts from Martyrdom before moving to the more delicately nuanced songs from its Blood Is Bright and Forcing Out The Silence EPs, released together as Junius in 2007. Predictably enough, some of the embroidery was amplified to oblivion -- the usually piercing "Hiding Knives" came off disappointingly monochromatic -- but the rumbling might of rhythm-intensive numbers like "Centurion," well, made right.

Touring with Junius is Orbs, a geographically rootless pseudo-supergroup featuring members of art-metal stalwarts Fear Before, Between the Buried and Me, and Cradle of Filth (!). The sticker adorning Orbs' debut album, Asleep Next To Science, released earlier this month, pegs what the band does as "progressive space rock," which is about as accurate as calling Junius emo-metal: its is an elaborate gothic ruckus, complete with metalcore spazzouts, soaring rock bridges, and the punishing Corganesque whine of Adam Fisher (who is perhaps the most facially expressive singer you will ever see -- dude waggles his eyebrows more than he works his jaw).

Orbs' songs are involved processes, each one a "Bohemian Rhapsody" unto itself, stitching together a generous handful of mostly related themes and unexpected cutaways. Its songs' driving rock structures often take the backseat to Fisher's yowls or to Ashley Ellyllon's twinkling keyboard parts, both of which often seem to be needlessly distracting moves lifted wholesale from Muse's playbook. At the most focused, Orbs resembles At the Drive-In with more beard and less afro. When it spaces out, though, one hears encouraging aspirations toward the same outer realms from which Junius gazes back down at the earth.

Critic's Notebook:

Overheard: "Everybody in this band is gonna have a beard."

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Daniel Levin Becker


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