Courtesy: Despotz Records
Sweden is one of the richest nations in the world in terms of its musical culture. Originally known for bringing ABBA to the world so many decades ago, a lot has changed for the northern European nation since then. Now it is known as one of the world’s major centers for “extreme metal.” Bands such as In Flames, Amon Amarth, Meshuggah, Soilwork, and others have and continue to call Sweden home. Dark prog-metal acts such as Leprous, Evergrey, and Opeth among others also call Sweden home. And of course there is also the far more extreme black metal bands such as Ghost, Marduk, Naglfar, etc. Considering the broad spectrum of metal that Sweden has to offer the world one would think that other than save for ABBA, metal seems to be the only music that Sweden has to offer. Enter Junkstars. The Stockholm , Sweden-based trio is one of a handful of acts that is trying to change the musical culture and reputation of its home state. With two albums already under its collective belt since 2012 the band has already made quite the impact on audiences; audiences not just in its home country but around the world. It added to that impact late in 2015 with the release of its third full-length studio recording This Means War. Considering the album’s overall sound and its lyrical themes one can only assume that the album’s title is a direct statement about its mission of change. It might not be. That is just this critic’s own take on the album’s title. Regardless of whether or not this was the aim with the album’s title, its overall presentation presents a band that (to this critic) has clearly declared war on that reputation established by all of those other Swedish bands. And if the band’s latest album is any indication Junkstars is definitely winning that war.
Junkstars’ new album This Means War is an explosive salvo from the Stockholm , Sweden-based punk rock trio. This is regardless of whether or not the title of the band’s new album is meant to be a statement about the band’s identity among all of Sweden ’s various metal acts. The album’s opener ‘’Kill the Ravens’ is just one song that exemplifies this argument. The song is a no-nonsense composition into which the band wastes no time launching with its pure punk rock sound. That sound in question is one that fans of Rancid, Social Distortion, The Distillers, and others of that ilk will appreciate. It is just part of what makes this song stand out in the bigger picture of the album’s presentation. The song’s lyrical content is just as important to note. The song’s lyrical content comes across as a social commentary of sorts. That can be inferred as front man Max Malmquist sings, “Raise your walls and seal your fate/Either way it’s all too late/You have it all/You have control/But deep inside/You’re weak and small/All alone within your gates/Filled by greed/And fed by hate/You have it all/You have control/You’ve isolated your on souls.” The song’s lead verse, it comes across as a damning indictment of the world’s elitists and their associated collective mindsets. The song’s second verse plays even more into that theme as Malmquist sings defiantly, “The time has come for you to pay/Cause we can’t stand it one more day/With strength in numbers we’ll prevail/We’re organized and we won’t fail/We’ll burst right through your city walls/And occupy your royal halls/You had it all/You had control/But now your empire shall fall.” One can almost see Malmquist and his band mates—Tobbe Ljungqvist (bass, vocals) and Mathias Wanneberg (drums)—pumping their fists along with their audiences as they sing these lines. It plays into the band’s statement about the aim of the songs to address the world’s ugliness. It also echoes just one of the familiar themes presented in so many classic punk anthems that have come before. Keeping all of this in mind it serves to show why ‘Kill The Ravens’ is just one example of what makes This Means War a standout pure punk album. ‘Snakebites’ is another example of what makes this record stand out in the punk rock field.
‘Kill The Ravens’ is a key example of what makes Junkstars’ new album This Means War stand out among 2015’s vast sea of punk offerings. It is just one example of what makes the album stand out, too. ‘Snakebites’ is another of the album’s key compositions. The Rancid influence noted before is front and center in this song in regards to its musical arrangement. From the song’s driving tempo, established by Mathias Wannenberg to Malmquist’s equally up-tempo guitar line and Ljungqvist’s low end, the song’s musical arrangement will impress any punk purist. The same can be said of Malmquist’s own vocal delivery. His gravelly delivery is just as similar to that of Rancid’s own front man Tim Armstrong. That’s just half of what makes this song stand out in the grand scheme of the album’s musical picture. The seeming social commentary exhibited in the song’s lyrical content makes the song stand out even more. That can be argued as Malmquist sings here, “A thousand years of ignorance/A lifetime of decay/Despite a million warnings/We face ourselves today/Bring your friends/Listen up/It’s already too late/Gather a militia and resurrect our fate/Our actions led to this/Therefore stand your ground today/Get it straight/Gear up/Don’t look the other way.” Malmquist comes across here as saying that mankind has put itself in its current position “despite a million warnings.” And because of what mankind has done throughout the eons there’s no turning back. Man must stand up and take the chance to make things right. That can be argued even more as he sings in the song’s chorus with his band mates, “Snakebites (snakebites) coming our way/Blood stains (and shattered brains) all over the place/We won’t (no, we won’t) become their prey/Snakebites (snakebites)/It’s Judgment Day.” It’s a straight forward message. And the fact that it is delivered so clearly in such a small space of time (the song’s run time comes in just under three minutes) is even more impressive. Malmquist didn’t try to get verbacious with the message. He got right to the point and made it relatively accessible for listeners. The song’s driving musical arrangement added to that, the whole of the song shows why it is another key addition to the album. It is still not the last of the album’s prime compositions, either. ‘Old Man’s Dead House’ is one more of the album’s key moments.
‘Kill The Ravens’ and ‘Snakebites’ are both key examples of what makes Junkstars’ new album This Means War stand out in the punk rock community. That is thanks to both their musical arrangements and lyrical themes. The same applies to ‘Old Man’s Dead House.’ This song, seemingly about youthful rebellion, is another of the album’s key compositions. Listening to this song, audiences will again note its musical arrangement. That arrangement borders on pop punk. But still maintains its pure punk identity even with its catchy, radio ready sound. That balance of pure punk and radio friendly rock is just one portion of what makes this song stand out. The song’s anecdote about an old man’s house (the forbidden zone so to speak) and the urge to defy that authority is just as important to the song as its musical foundation. Malmquist sings in this song, “In the town where I was born/Was a house that nobody wants to be in/It was dark/It was cold/And we couldn’t stand the feeling/To get in and explore/To see what’s going on/What’s behind of the door/Let’s take it to the floor/They all told us not to go/And we didn’t have the rights to/But who cares what you get told/When you’re young and want that feeling.” That is as clear as a song can get in its message. It isn’t so much about the house as it is about that coming of age through which everyone goes. In this case that coming of age was attributed at least in part to exploring a creepy old house that was off limits. Part of growing up for anyone is testing one’s boundaries and defying authority at least to a point. That Malmquist and company would base that coming of age story in such fashion makes that coming of age message all the more entertaining. The combination of the wonderfully told tale and the song’s equally infectious musical foundation makes even clearer why this song is another of This Means War’s key compositions. Together with the other noted songs and those not noted here, all nine songs join together to make This Is War an album that is winning the war against the watered down, radio ready, bubble gum pop punk that is currently polluting the world’s airwaves.
Junkstars’ new album This Means War is a win in the musical war against all of the watered down, radio ready, bubble gum pop punk that is currently polluting the world’s airwaves. This is clear from the album’s beginning to its end. From the seemingly damning indictment of the world’s elitists in the album’s opener ‘Kill The Ravens’ to the alleged social commentary of ‘Snakebites’ to the catchy coming of age story within ‘Old Man’s Dead House’ this record presents plenty for punk purists to appreciate. That includes not just those songs but the rest of the compositions not noted here. All things considered This Is War shows in the long run to be another win in the musical war against all of the watered down, radio ready, bubble gum pop punk that is currently polluting the world’s airwaves. It is a record that every punk purist will want to hear and should hear at least once if not more. It can be ordered now in a variety of bundle packs via Junkstars’ online store at http://despotz.bigcartel.com/artist/junkstars. More information on the band’s album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.