Junius - Light Is the New Day
By: David E. Gehlke
Typical of any worthy atmospheric and/or post-metal band, Junius comes across as understated and cerebral. That's pretty much what they are (at least by our accounts), and it's part of the reason of why their new Reports From the Threshold of Death (Prosthetic) is a gem, and a novel alternative to the Isis-growl-and-go-really-slow mode of their contemporaries. The soft, yet churning ebb and flow of songs such as "Dance On Blood," "A Reflection of Fire," and "Transcend the Ghost" are flanked by the album's concept detailing the afterlife through the lens of noted philosopher and catastrophist Immanuel Velikovsky. Better yet, the portrayal of each song is heightened by the cleanly-sung vocal approach of Joseph Martinez, meaning for once, the concept can be fully understood. Can't go wrong with clarity.
With tours and promotion galore, the back-half of 2011 has been action-packed for the Boston-based four piece, making it necessary for us track down Martinez and guitarist Michael Repasch-Nieves to elaborate upon the aforementioned Reports, its predecessor 2009ís The Martyrdom of A Catastrophist and much more, including how their husky beards will come in handy once winter hits. Read on and (hopefully) get enlightened...
Blistering.com: Aside from the release of Reports, the band has jumped on several tours recently. Have you had a chance to take a step back and take stock in what's actually going on?
Joseph Martinez: Sure... but I don't feel anything is really going on yet. We've been touring pretty nonstop for the last six years, that nothing really fazes us anymore. The Enslaved tour was great, but that was just one "big" tour. Ask that question again if you see us on tour with Radiohead or Slipknot.
Blistering.com: How do you think you fared on the Enslaved/Alcest tour? Stylistically, you fell right in line with both bands, so it seemed like a good fit.
Martinez: Better than expected, I thought we were going to get beaten up after every show, but once I heard Alcest, I was at ease. I feel there was a common musical thread between all three bands especially if you take out the drums.... I feel like all three bands could have been on that first The Crow soundtrack.
Blistering.com: Do you find it easier to appeal to metal audiences as opposed to indie rock or post-rock audiences?
Martinez: Definitely. Metal dudes are pretty knowledgeable about music and they definitely just feel the music more. Indie and post-rockers have more of a tendency to look around and see if anyone else likes what's going on before they can let go and rock out.
Blistering.com: To the casual observer, Junius is a new band, but you've been around since 2003. Upon your formation, did you think it would be such a slow, steady climb to reach this point?
Martinez: Not really, I thought we were going to be at this level in 2009 when Martyrdom came out, but that album took so long to write and record that I feel we missed the boat a little bit.
Blistering.com: You're clearly not a straight-metal band, but you're on a metal label (Prosthetic). What type of advantages do you see being on a label like this?
Martinez: Hopefully since we're so different, we'll stand out more. In a good way.
Blistering.com: As for the new album, you're continuing with the topic of Immanuel Velikovsky, this time focusing on the afterlife. What does the band find so intriguing about him?
Martinez: The Martyrdom was just a jumping off point for this concept. So this album is not about Immanuel, but I do find Velikovsky's personal life and scientific life to be completely fascinating. Read Worlds in Collision then Stargazers and Gravediggers and you'll see why.
Blistering.com: More often than not, we're treated (as in, the metal scene) to bands with little or nothing interesting to say lyrically. How much work goes into developing a concept like the one on Reports?
Martinez: The concept for this album came first and then the music and lyrics were built around the concept. I template the story out and then divide it up by the major steps/events and then I start filling in the story with music and words.
Blistering.com: With a set concept in mind, is it easier to write for an album like this?
Martinez: Limitations are necessary for me. I'm a bit too scatter-brained to just write random songs. They'll end up being 10 minutes long and every song will sound completely different from the next. I like the flow of a completely thought-out album.
Blistering.com: Judging by the album's credits, you worked with a lot of people you are familiar and/or comfortable with. How did that help with the creation of the album?
Martinez: Working with people who know your sound so well makes it infinitely easier to record an album. We don't have to do too much explaining or guiding to get the sound we want. We had a great time recording with our friends.
Blistering.com: Most bands of your ilk tend to drift toward more growled and indiscernible vocals, yet Joseph has such a soft and clean voice that it really does wonders for your sound. Do you think his vocals will give the band a chance to reach a broader audience?
Michael Repasch-Nieves: Guess I should hop in and field this one. Some people like growling and others like singing. I think there are large audiences in both camps that we haven't reached yet. To some, Joseph's vocals might be a turn-off, to others it might be what grabs them. I know I've always gravitated toward melodies over screamed/growled vocals, which is something Joseph and the rest of us in Junius have in common. Any asshole can growl, but good melodies aren't easy to write or to sing.
Blistering.com: Have you started thinking about a follow-up to Reports yet?
Martinez: Yep... still in the conceptual stages right now though. Still trying to visualize everything.
Blistering.com: On a totally unrelated note, everyone in the band is sporting a beard. How handy does it come when facing brutal Northeast winters?
Martinez: Ha! Very handy.
Blistering.com: Finally, what's on the agenda for the rest of 2011, going into 2012?
Repasch-Nieves: More touring in 2012! We can't wait to get back on the road.