Junius are not a conventional hard rock/metal band. Their first album, 2009′s The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist, took three years to write. That album was inspired by theorist Immanuel Velikovsky, a fact that suggested Junius were not a run of the mill metal act that could be found on an Ozzfest lineup. Their sophomore effort, Reports from the Threshold of Death, retains that same gung-ho ambition as a concept album exploring a soul’s journey after death. It’s a heavy theme, for sure, but Junius tackles it with surprising optimism.
Threshold is supposedly inspired by stories of near death experiences. Many of the songs do focus on light, judgement, floating, and ascension. Nothing is really dark. Junius’ brightened demeanor could also explain why they chose to record this album at Will Benoit’s Radar Studios, powered entirely by solar energy. This album wouldn’t exist without the presence of light.
Without knowing the background of the band, I would almost guess that they’re in the Christian rock genre. Much of the album’s songs seem based on Christian theology. The music is never too aggressive, and singer Joseph Martinez chooses melody over gruff vocals. Everything feels empowered with a sense that a better life lies beyond our mortal existence.
However, there isn’t anything deep or emotionally connective to the music or the lyrics. The band chooses a firm belief in an afterlife rather than questioning if one exists. Injecting some moments of doubt could have upped the impact of the band’s choice to believe. It severely limits the album’s concept and the different directions where the music can go. Junius’ crunching guitars and moody synthesizers suggest otherwise, but the lyrical content reduces them to emo band fare that shoppers of Hot Topic will enjoy.
Listeners covered in black mascara and nail polish may use it as the soundtrack to their candlelit brooding, but diehard metal fans likely won’t be impressed.