Death: the ultimate glare into the eternal black abyss, the absolute disconnect from the divine in passing from these mortal realms. This is what Junius dealt with on Reports from the Threshold of Death; their new record Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light (try saying that three times fast!) is about what might come afterwards. Reduced to the duo of Joseph E. Martinez and Dana Filoon after internal struggles, the band has never sounded heavier or more progressive than on the new record.
Rebirth In Progression
By now, everybody who’s not living under the proverbial rock should be somewhat familiar with the concept of saṃsāra, the Hinduist/Buddhist/Jainist principle of cyclical life, death and rebirth. I’ll spare you the more detailed lecture here; this is a music blog after all, not a platform for religious discourse or guidance. The fittingly titled “March of the Samsara” opens the record by condensing all of Junius’ trademarks into a bold proclamation; exotic motifs, dramatic synths, Deftones-esque guitars and post-metal structures make up the foundation upon which Martinez’ sultry voice so sublimely rests.
Just a few words about ERftAoL’s sound; and I say ‘a few’ because there’s really nothing to complain about. Everything from the gritty, cutting guitars over the positively huge drums to the crystal clear vocals and synthesizers/keyboards is perfectly audible and sits comfortably in the mix. Even the oft-neglected bass has a central role in the shaping of this record’s overall sonic aesthetic.
Beyond The Thin Veils Of Perception
A tremolo-picked melody and ethereal keyboards open “Beyond the Pale Society”, which directly follows “March of the Samsara”. Equipped with an epic chorus and a hooky bridge (the repetition of ‘I am/I/I am’ will be stuck in your head for days), the song’s structure is otherwise very non-linear, veering off into different parts and patterns over the course of its runtime. The acoustic track “Masquerade in Veils”, on the other hand, is a more straightforward but no less intriguing affair. Oriental percussion and guitar motifs give it a distinctly exotic touch, while the ever-present keyboards create an expansive atmosphere in the background. Ranging from highly emotive to lofty and solemn, ERftAoL covers a lot of dramaturgical ground through its individual songs.
“Black Sarcophagus”, the final song on ERftAoL, is introduced by gentle guitar strumming and a restrained vocal performance, hiding the brooding, somber atmosphere that lies below. Marching drums join the elegiac procession, ever pushing forward to the end of both the album and the lyrical I’s very existence. And then, triumphantly, the guitars rise in intensity and the keyboard unleashes the Elysian choirs to soothe the soul of the departing. Martinez joins them for a few bars, before “Black Sarcophagus” ends abruptly.
Death Is Just Another Journey
Free from Velikovskyan catastrophism and the oppressive thought of one’s own inevitable demise looming over them, Martinez’ lyrics have become even more spiritual and, if I dare say it, a tad more positive on ERftAoL than they’ve been on Junius’ previous outings. That’s how I perceive them at least; lyrics are always notoriously free to interpretation. Lines like ‘Send me up now/I’m ready for time to die’ from the aforementioned “Black Sarcophagus” paint the picture of a being content with leaving this world to begin a new journey in the great beyond, and if such courage in the face of mortality is not positive, I don’t know what is.
I’m quite unsure how to conclude this review; after all, everything that could have been said about Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light’s musical, lyrical and historical content has already been said here or elsewhere, and everything I could possibly add would come across as either superfluous or fawning. So I’ll leave you with this: if this album was what a conceivable reality of rebirth and life after death sounded like, I don’t think any of us mere mortals should have to fear death anymore. Martinez and Filoon have, even under trying circumstances, created a monumental record, and I hope that Junius will finally get the recognition they so richly deserve.
Notable Tracks: Basically every single song!
FFO: Deftones, Cult of Luna, Failure