Up-and-coming hard rock band Junkowl has made quite the name for itself since its formation in 2017. Only two years after it got its start, the band won a competition earning itself a spot on the lineup for the 2019 Heavy Montreal Festival. The annual two-day festival is Canada’s most renowned heavy music events. This year, it was set to feature performances from the likes of Sepultura, Rammstein, and Deftones, just to name a few of the big names on the bill. Thanks to COVID-19 the festival was postponed until next summer. In past years, the festival has welcomed other major name acts, such as Slipknot, Overkill, and Rob Zombie. Getting back on the subject, that Junkowl has been invited to perform at the renowned festival speaks volumes about its own reputation and talent. Late last month, the band set out to keep its name growing when it released its debut album Making Out With My Death. The 10-song record is a strong debut for the band. That is due in part to its musical arrangements, which will be addressed shortly. The album’s lyrical content also plays into its presentation, and will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. When it is considered along with the album’s overall content, all three elements join to make the record a very powerful debut from Junkowl that hard rock and metal fans will agree is worth hearing at least once.
Junkow’s debut album Making Out With My Death is a powerful new offering from the independent hard rock band. That is due in part to the record’s musical arrangements. The album’s overall musical content exhibits a variety of influences throughout the course of its 34-minute run time. Right from the album’s outset, audiences get a hint of a Tool influence in ‘Snakecharmer.’ Roughly a minute into the song, that influence gives way to something much heavier yet still very melodic in its own right in the vein of Dry Kill Logic, 36 Crazyfists, and All Hail The Yeti. The fire in the song’s arrangement plays directly into the song’s lyrical arrangement, which is just as powerful in its own right and will be addressed a little later. Front man Jesse Frechette’s screams work with each of his band mates – Dom Labrie (drums), Marco Larosa (guitar), and Samuel Matte (bass) – to make this arrangement a massively impacting first impression from the band and an equally impacting way to introduce audiences to the band.
The album’s sound changes distinctly in its second offering, ‘Quarantine Us All.’ This song’s arrangement is sort of a hybrid metal/punk approach that while it exhibits the noted influences in its own right, it also presents a stylistic approach that can be compared somewhat to Motorhead and various sludge metal bands. That sounds like quite the odd combination of styles mixed into one, but the hybrid works surprisingly well here. It will keep listeners engaged just as much as the album’s opener. As the album makes its way into its third song, ‘Shake Me,’ it moves more into an aggro-rock style approach, showing once again, the variety of stylistic approaches taken in the album’s musical arrangements. The sludge metal sound is even more prominent in the album’s fourth song, ‘Dead Hooker,’ while the Tool influence returns in the album’s midpoint, ‘Little Scum.’ Larosa’s guitar line and Labrie’s work behind the kit is reminiscent of the arrangement at the center of Tool’s song ‘Lateralus.’ Now it should be stressed that even with the similarity there, Junkowl’s arrangement is not entirely identical. It holds its own identity. So the band is to be commended for that. What’s more, the Tool influence is only temporary once again in this case. It eventually gives way to something much heavier roughly a minute into the song. The duality of that approach, along with Frechette’s distinct vocal delivery style, makes this song just as unique as the rest of the album’s arrangements. It’s just one more way in which the album’s musical content proves so important.
As the album enters its second half, the band opts for a more Depeche Mode-influenced work in ‘Crawling Up My Feet.’ What’s interesting here is that the manner in which the arrangement builds up conjures thoughts more of Marilyn Manson’s take on the song than Depeche Mode’s original composition. The heaviness carries listeners on through the rest of the album from this point, letting up little if any, even in the album’s closer. By the time the record ends, listeners will know they have experienced a unique overall hard rock presentation that will leave them wholly fulfilled even though the record’s run time comes in at just over half an hour. It leaves listeners feeling like they have gotten the fullest offering from the band, at least musically speaking. To that end, there is no doubt as to the importance of this album’s musical content. The whole of the album’s musical content shows without doubt, its importance to the album’s overall presentation. It is just one reason that hard rock and metal fans will want to hear this album at least once. Its lyrical content plays its own part into its presentation, too.
The lyrical content that is featured throughout Making Out With My Death is just as heavy as its musical counterpart. The album’s overall lyrical content is so heavy because it delves into some topics and possible topics that many acts (regardless of genre) are afraid to touch. Case in point is the content featured in ‘Relapse.’ The song seemingly addresses someone trying to get over drug addiction, and does so in a very unafraid fashion. This is inferred as Frechette screams in the song’s lead verse, I can’t come down/No, I can’t come down/I can’t come down/No, I can’t come down/*** damn, I’m finally free/Not too much left in me/Scrap of integrity/Too blurry, I can’t see/Breathe still, let go/Broken, I know/Think I might last/Hold tight, relapse/The bottle hits my lip/How easy I forget/Cocaine and cigarettes/Making out with my death.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “No, I can’t come down/Aching to break away/Oh, I am nothing but a stain/A lump of coal in your veins/I’ll only bring you pain/Breathe still, let go/Broken, I know/Think I might last Hold tight, relapse.” The song’s chorus finds its subject screaming, almost painfully, “I can’t seem to come down.” The pain that the subject is dealing with emotionally and physically is translated so well through this simple statement and its pairing with the song’s musical arrangement. All thing considered here, no doubt is left as to the song’s lyrical topic. What’s more the way in which the topic was approached adds to its strength. It is just one way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important to the record’s overall presentation. The lyrical content (and its presentation) in the album’s opener, ‘ Snakecharmer’ is another key example of what makes the album’s lyrical content stand out.
‘Snakecharmer’ comes across as a song that addresses a situation involving domestic abuse and possibly that as a result of some mental disease that ends very badly. The song opens with the subject stating, ‘Yeah/She’s sleeping in my bed/She knows every word that I’ve ever said/I breathe her in/She spits me out/Death echoes silent inside her mouth/Tell me this/Is your love worth bleeding, darling?/Or are you just another succubus?/Either way, I’m not sorry.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “I swear I tried one thousand times to rip this demon from my mind/No matter how hard I scream/I still see her in my dreams/Tell me this, Is your love worth bleeding, darling?/Or are you just another succubus?/Either way, I’m not sorry/Kill, Fuck Blow your brains out/ Blow my brains out.” As already noted, this story does not have a happy ending. That mention of “I tried one thousand times to rip this demon from my mind” could allude to the subject dealing with the issue of fighting his own inner concerns, whether brought on by drugs or just mental instability. That battle ultimately did not end well, as the song hints. Again, this is a very difficult issue that while more acts are tackling, few are handling it in the fashion in which Junkowl did. Keeping that in mind, it is another key point in addressing the album’s lyrical content, and not the last of the album’s most notable lyrical entries, too. ‘Sickness Lives’ is another notable lyrical presentation to address.
‘Sickness Lives’ stands out lyrically because it, too, seems to take on the issue of addiction and dependency, too. This is inferred as Frechette notes in the song’s lead verse, ““I’m sick of living dead in this prison/Wake up, fuck the system/Laughing alone in madness/Drinking away the sadness/Living dead in this prison/Wake up, fuck the system/Strung out on medication/What an abomination/I feel it growing inside/Petrified, paralyzed/It’s eating me alive.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “I don’t want to be sober/Every day I’m growing colder/My heart’s become so heavy/Where is the end? Will someone tell me?/Screaming to block out the sound/This place is a fucking letdown/If I die before I wake, I pray with me this world I’ll take/I feel it growing inside Petrified, paralyzed/It’s eating me alive, down to the bone.” Once again, here audiences are presented with what come across as a song that has to do with addiction. The very mention of “Strung out on medication/What an abomination/I feel it growing inside” points to someone dealing with perhaps becoming addicted to certain medications, and the result thereof. It is a powerful line that along with the rest of the song’s content, makes for its own very heavy statement that is sure to leave a lasting impact on listeners. Keeping that in mind along with the other noted lyrical content and that lyrical content not noted (and the impact of each song), the whole leaves no doubt that this record’s lyrical content is just as powerful as its musical arrangements. While the album’s overall content does a lot to make it appealing to audiences, it is just a portion of what makes the album worth hearing. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
The sequencing used in the presentation of Making Out With My Death is just as important as its content to examine in looking at the album in whole. The record’s sequencing keeps its energy stable and solid from start to end. It has already been pointed out that the album opens with a very foreboding, Tool-esque sound that quickly gives way to something completely different and fiery. As the album progresses, that fire never burns out, either. It smolders at some points, but wastes little time burning bright again, keeping the album’s intensity at its height throughout. By the time the record ends, listeners will know they have experienced something that is one of the most unique hard rock and metal (and independent) albums of the year.
Junkowl’s debut album Making Out With My Death is a powerful first offering from the independent hard rock band. Its musical arrangements join influences from a variety of bands that make the songs in themselves and from one to the next, powerful just from this aspect. The record’s lyrical themes are just as heavy as its musical content, as noted. Its sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation. Each noted item is important in its own way. All things considered, they make the album a work that bodes well for Junkowl’s future. Making Out With My Death is available now.
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